Touchdown! Three Expedition 54 Crewmates Back on Earth

Expedition 54 Soyuz MS-06 Landing
Expedition 54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei are wrapped in blankets after exiting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that landed in wintry conditions in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Three members of the Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), including NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, have returned to Earth after months of performing research and spacewalks in low-Earth orbit.

Vande Hei, Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 9:31 p.m. EST (8:31 a.m. Feb. 28 in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.

The crew also welcomed four cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the station in November on the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission, followed in December by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the company’s thirteenth resupply mission. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo craft arrived at the station in October and February.

Vande Hei logged 168 days in space on this, his first, mission. He ventured outside the space station on four spacewalks to perform work that included replacing and lubricating the Latching End Effectors on both ends of the Canadarm2. Acaba completed one spacewalk to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss. He now has accrued 306 days in space on three flights. Acaba and Vande Hei also participated in dozens of educational events while in space as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station.

Misurkin conducted one record-setting spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to replace an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module in February. The spacewalk timed out at 8 hours and 13 minutes, the longest in Russian space program history. Misurkin now has spent 334 days in space on two flights.

Now operating the station are Expedition 55 crew members Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA, and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch March 21 and arrive at the space station two days later, returning the crew size to six.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Cosmonauts Swap Command Today Before Trio Comes Home

Expedition 54 Crew Members
Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin (far left) hands over command of the station to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (far right). In the background (from left) are astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin handed over control of the orbital laboratory today to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov during a traditional Change of Command ceremony. Misurkin is returning to Earth tomorrow with NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei after 168 days in space.

Landing day begins Tuesday when Misurkin, Acaba and Vande Hei say farewell, enter their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and close the hatches at 2:50 p.m. They will don their Sokol launch and entry suits, check for air and pressure leaks and undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. The Expedition 54 trio will then parachute to a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST (Wednesday at 8:31 a.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV will broadcast all the landing activities live starting at 2:15 p.m.

Expedition 55 officially begins when Misurkin and his crewmates undock. Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is staying behind as commander until June 3 with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

A new crew training in Russia is getting ready to replace the Earth-bound station residents in late March. Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are preparing for their March 21 launch to the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will greet their new crewmates March 23 after docking to the vacated Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Astronauts Open BEAM and Prepare for Crew Departure

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei pose for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew members continued preparing for their return to Earth next week. A pair of astronauts also opened up BEAM today to stow a robotic hand and to check for contaminants.

Commander Alexander Misurkin joined his Soyuz MS-06 crewmates Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and reviewed their procedures for next week’s descent into Earth’s atmosphere. The trio also familiarized themselves with the sensations they will experience flying through the atmosphere and feeling gravity for the first time after 168 days in space.

Misurkin will hand over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on Monday at 2:40 p.m. EST. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will then close the hatch to their Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. and undock from the Poisk module 6:08 p.m. The trio will then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:32 p.m. NASA TV will cover all the landing activities live.

Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai will stay behind on the station with Shkaplerov as commander officially becoming the Expedition 55 crew when their crew mates undock next week. They will be joined March 23 by new Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. The trio will launch March 21 and were in Red Square in Moscow today for traditional ceremonial activities.

Today, Tingle and Kanai opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and stowed a degraded robotic hand, or Latching End Effector (LEE), that was attached to the Canadarm2. The LEE was returned inside the station after last week’s robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo also sampled BEAM’s air and surfaces for microbes.

Station Gets Ready for Crew Swap During Ongoing Human Research

Progress resupply ship and Earth's limb
A docked Russian Progress resupply ship dominates the foreground as Earth’s limb is illuminated during an orbital night pass.

As one crew is packing up for its return back to Earth another crew is training for its launch to the International Space Station. During the month long crew swap activities, human research is still ongoing aboard the orbital laboratory today.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin is getting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft ready for its undocking Feb. 27. He and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei will then take a three-and-a-half-hour ride back to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space.

They will be replaced by three new Expedition 55 station residents who are in Star City, Russia taking final crew qualification exams today. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will command the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft that will launch March 21 carrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the space station two days later.

Today’s research onboard the station is exploring the physiological changes that take place inside the human body while living and working in space. Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai collected blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis as part of the Biochemical Profile and Repository studies. Kanai later checked and tested gear that will measure blood flow in the brain for the new Cerebral Autoregulation experiment.

Station Trio Preps for Homecoming as Life Science Continues

Expedition 54 Crew Members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba
Expedition 54 crew members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba work with combustion science gear inside the space station’s Destiny laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew mates are in the final week of their mission and are packing up for a return to Earth. They and the rest of the crew also researched botany and biomedical science to support future crews on longer missions further into space.

Commander Alexander Misurkin is readying the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that will return him and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba back to Earth Feb. 27 after 168 days in space. He and Vande Hei trained for next week’s descent using a station simulator and reviewed potential return hazards.

Acaba spent his morning stowing botany samples in a science freezer for the Plant Gravity Perception study. That experiment is observing how plants detect gravity and light in the early stages of growth. The home-bound astronaut then spent the afternoon packing personal gear inside the Soyuz MS-06 space ship.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai attached electrodes to his chest area, wore a leg cuff and performed an ultrasound scan today. He worked in conjunction with doctors on the ground for the Vascular Echo study that looks at blood vessels and the human heart and how they change in space and on Earth.

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov continues to unload cargo today from the new Progress 69 resupply ship that arrived last week. NASA astronaut Scott Tingle stowed rodent habitats and worked on combustion science gear.

Spacewalkers Making Quick Work of Major Tasks

Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai
Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei (attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm) and Norishige Kanai are working ahead of today’s spacewalk timeline.

Approximately two and a half hours into today’s spacewalk, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai completed the second major task of today’s spacewalk. They moved an aging, but functional, Latching End Effector (LEE) from its temporary storage outside the Quest airlock to a long-term storage location on the Mobile Base System, which is used to move the arm and astronauts along the station’s truss structure.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are providing live coverage of the spacewalk.

The spacewalkers are now more than an hour ahead of the timeline and moving on to work through some extra tasks. Vande Hei will begin a regular maintenance task to grease the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk.

Vande Hei is wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Kanai’s suit has no stripes. Views from a camera on Vande Hei’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Kanai’s is labeled with the number 17.

Station Prepping for Spacewalk After New Cargo Ship Arrives

Spacewalker Mark Vande Hei
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured during a spacewalk that took place Jan. 23, 2018, to begin maintenance work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The Expedition 54 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk Friday morning and beginning the work to unload a newly-arrived cargo delivery.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are completing their spacewalk reviews and readying their spacesuits and tools ahead of Friday morning’s excursion. The duo is scheduled to turn their spacesuits batteries on to internal power at 7:10 a.m. EST signifying the start of a planned six and a half hour spacewalk.

The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov opened the hatch to a new Progress cargo craft that arrived today at 5:38 a.m. The duo will start the work to offload a little over three tons of food, fuel and supplies from the resupply ship that will stay docked to the Zvezda service module until March.

Russian Resupply Ship Delivers Three Tons of Cargo

Progress 69 Resupply Ship
The Progress 69 resupply ship is pictured just moments from docking to the space station.

Traveling about 250 miles over the east of the Philippines, the Progress 69 Russian cargo spacecraft docked to the aft end of the service module of the International Space Station at 5:38 a.m. EST.

For more information about the space station and its crew, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/station.

Crew Waits for Russian Delivery Day Before U.S. Spacewalk

Soyuz and Progress spaceships
Russia’s Soyuz MS-07 crew ship (foreground) and Progress 68 cargo craft are seen docked to the Earth-facing ports of the International Space Station’s Russian segment. The Soyuz is docked to the Rassvet module and the Progress is attached to the Pirs docking compartment.

A Russian cargo craft is on its way to the International Space Station early Thursday as two astronauts get ready for a spacewalk on Friday.

The Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft is orbiting Earth today carrying three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 54 crew. The 69P is due to complete its delivery when it docks Thursday at 5:43 a.m. EST to the Zvezda service module’s rear port. NASA TV will broadcast the rendezvous and docking live starting at 5 a.m.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov will be inside Zvezda monitoring tomorrow morning’s automated docking of the 69P. The cosmonauts are brushing up on their robotics skills today in the unlikely event they would need to use the station’s telerobotically operated rendezvous unit to manually dock the resupply ship.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are checking their tools and procedures they will use Friday morning during a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system.

Vande Hei and Kanai are scheduled to set their spacesuit batteries to internal power at 7:10 a.m. signifying the official start of the U.S. spacewalk. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

Progress Cargo Craft Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

Progress 69 Launch
The Progress 69 resupply rocket lifts off in below freezing weather from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Carrying more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the International Space Station Expedition 54 crew, the Progress 69 cargo spacecraft launched at 3:13 a.m. EST (2:13 p.m. local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying over the south Atlantic north of the Falkland Islands at an altitude of 252 miles. Less than 10 minutes after launch, the resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned.

The Progress 69 cargo vehicle will dock automatically to the aft port of the Zvezda service module of the station at 5:43 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. Watch live coverage beginning at 5 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website: www.nasa.gov/live

The new Progress spacecraft will remain at the orbiting laboratory until late August.

To join the online conversation about the International Space Station and Progress 69, follow @Space_Station. To learn more about the space station and its crew, visit https://www.nasa.gov/station.