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.
The deborbit burn is targeted for 8:38 p.m., and will lead to a landing at 9:31 p.m. NASA Television coverage of deorbit and landing begins at 8 p.m. Watch their return to Earth online at: www.nasa.gov/live
Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three people to four, 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.
This mission was the first spaceflight for Vande Hei, the second for Misurkin, and the third for Acaba. Their cumulative time in space, respectively, is 168 days, 334 days, and 306 days.
With the undocking, Expedition 55 has now begun aboard the station with Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos as the Commander and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Three additional crew members arrive on March 23. Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21 for a two-day journey to join Expedition 55 on station.
At 2:58 p.m. EST, the hatch closed between the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking. Expedition 54 crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos are scheduled to undock their Soyuz at 6:08 p.m. NASA Television will air live coverage of undocking beginning at 5:45 p.m.
Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crew members, at: www.nasa.gov/station
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.
Three Expedition 54 crew members are going into the weekend packing up and preparing to return to Earth on Tuesday. Commander Alexander Misurkin will lead fellow crew members Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei back to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft Tuesday for a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST.
NASA TV will broadcast live all of the departure activities on Monday and Tuesday. The Change of Command Ceremony begins Monday at 2:40 p.m. when Misurkin hands over station control to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. The new commander will stay behind with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and become Expedition 55 when their crewmates undock the next day.
The departing trio will say farewell Tuesday and close the Soyuz hatch at 2:15 p.m. They will undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. signifying the start of Expedition 55 and the end of Expedition 54. Next, the Soyuz engines will fire one last time at 8:38 p.m. sending the crew back into Earth’s atmosphere for a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m.
The trio will have spent 168 days in space, orbiting Earth 2,688 times, conducted dozens of science experiments and seen the departure and arrival of eight different space ships. The departing crew members will also go home as experienced spacewalkers. Misurkin and Acaba each conducted one spacewalk and Vande Hei conducted four spacewalks during their five-and-half month stay in space.
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.
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.
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.
Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have completed a spacewalk lasting 5 hours and 57 minutes.
The two astronauts concluded their spacewalk at 12:57 p.m. EST with the repressurization of the Quest airlock.
The spacewalkers moved two Latching End Effector (LEE), or hands, for the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2. They moved one to a long-term storage location for future use as a spare part and brought the other inside the space station to be returned to Earth. It will be refurbished and later relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.
Running well ahead of the timeline, the two spacewalkers also conducted a number of get ahead tasks, including the lubrication of the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk. They also positioned an interface tool for the Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman Dextre, installed a grounding strap on a component of the LEE positioned on one end of the robotic arm, and adjusted a strut on a component on one of the station’s spare parts platforms. That component is a flex hose rotary coupler that transfers liquid ammonia across a connecting point on the station’s backbone to provide cooling for its systems.
It was the 208th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Vande Hei’s career, and the first for Kanai, who became the fourth Japanese astronaut to walk in space.
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.