New Crew Prepares for Launch as Japanese Cargo Heads to Station

Station crewmates pose for a portrait
(From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Jessica Meir of NASA pose for a photograph at the conclusion of a press conference.

Japan’s cargo craft is on its way to resupply the International Space Station as a Russian crew ship counts down to launch Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the six Expedition 60 crewmembers orbiting Earth today continued their lab maintenance and space research to benefit humanity.

The HTV-8 space freighter lifted off Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan packed with over four tons of station hardware, science experiments and crew supplies. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will welcome the HTV-8 when they capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Saturday at about 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, three new station crewmates are in final preparations ahead of their liftoff Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates will ride to space with Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka. Less than six hours after launch they will dock to the rear port of the Zvezda service module.

Microgravity science kept the station inhabitants busy today as they wait for their new crewmates and cargo delivery. Flight Engineer Nick Hague strapped himself into an exercise bike and measured his aerobic capacity while attached to a variety of sensors. Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how living in space affects time perception before processing microbe samples for analysis.

While Koch and Morgan get ready for Saturday’s cargo delivery, the astronauts are also maintaining spacesuits and science hardware. Koch was cleaning cooling loops in U.S. spacesuits ahead of upcoming spacewalks planned in October. Morgan was servicing an advanced research furnace before wrapping up rodent research operations in the Life Sciences Glovebox.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Hague are still getting ready for their return to Earth next week. The duo reviewed descent maneuvers they will use when they undock from the Rassvet module on Oct. 3 inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

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