Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are reviewing the procedures they will use on their way to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station early next week. In the midst of the departure preparations, the six orbital residents also had time set aside for biomedical science and physics research aboard the orbiting lab.
Commander Oleg Kononenko will lead astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques back to Earth on Monday inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft after 204 days in space. The trio spent the afternoon practicing their Soyuz undocking, atmosphere reentry and landing procedures. The homebound crew also familiarized themselves with the g-forces and the physical sensations they will experience when they penetrate Earth’s atmosphere 100 kilometers above Earth’s surface.
McClain continued more biomedical tests Thursday as she submitted breath samples for the Marrow fat and blood cell study. Saint-Jacques injected control samples inside the new Bio-Analyzer to demonstrate the rapid analysis of blood, urine and saliva samples in microgravity.
Flight Engineer Christina Koch is in the midst of a ten-and-a-half month mission on the station, conducting scientific research and station maintenance. Today, she explored the possibility of producing high-grade fiber optic cables made possible only in microgravity. Fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who is staying in space until October, nourished and collected samples of microalgae grown inside the Photobioreactor. The study is demonstrating biological processes that may support hybrid life support systems in space.
Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin will lead Expedition 60 after the Expedition 59 trio departs Monday. He and Kononenko continued training to use a specialized Russian suit that counteracts the upward fluid shifts in the human body caused by microgravity. Ovchinin also checked inventory and configured hardware aboard Russia’s Progress 72 resupply ship.