NASA TV Broadcasts Crew Farewell and Spacecraft Hatch Closure

The homecoming crew
The homecoming crew with (from left) NASA astronaut Nick Hague, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emriates.

NASA is providing live coverage on NASA TV and the agency’s website as three people aboard the International Space Station prepare to close the hatches between the station and their spacecraft in preparation for their return to Earth from space. Hatch closure is expected at 12:15 a.m. EDT.

After closing the hatch to their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft, NASA astronaut and Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Nick Hague, Expedition 60 and Soyuz commander Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates will prepare to undock from the station’s Rassvet module at 3:37 a.m. for their landing in Kazakhstan at 7 a.m.

Hague and Ovchinin, along with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch, launched and arrived at the space station on March 14 to begin their 203-day mission. The Expedition 60 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, including investigations into devices that mimic the structure and function of human organs, free-flying robots, and an instrument to measure Earth’s distribution of carbon dioxide.

Almansoori, the first astronaut from the UAE, is concluding an eight-day stay on board the station since launching Sept. 25 with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos.

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

Station Swaps Commanders Before Crew Departure and Spacewalks

The nine International Space Station residents pose for a portrait
The nine International Space Station residents pose for a portrait inside the Zvezda service module. At the bottom row from left are, station cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, astronauts Luca Parmitano and Nick Hague, visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates, astronaut Jessica Meir and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. At the top are, astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan with cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.

Two Expedition 60 crewmates and a visiting astronaut are returning to Earth on Thursday. The orbiting Expedition 61 residents staying on the International Space Station will then turn their attention to a series of spacewalks set to begin this weekend.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin handed over control of the orbiting complex today to astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) during the change of command ceremony. The Expedition 61 mission will officially begin when the three Expedition 60 crewmates depart the station.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague is returning to Earth with Ovchinin and visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates. The trio will board the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and undock from the station’s Rassvet module on Thursday at 3:36 a.m. EDT. They will parachute to landing in Kazakhstan at 7 a.m. (5 p.m. Kazakh time).

There was still time for research today as NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan took turns with Parmitano exploring cognition and motion in space. Morgan also installed the Small Optical Communication System, or SOLISS, that is testing the real-time downlink of large amounts of data from the station.

The first of five spacewalks to upgrade power systems on the orbital complex starts Sunday at 7:50 a.m. NASA astronaut Christina Koch will join Morgan and exit the station’s Quest airlock in their U.S. spacesuits to begin installing new lithium-ion batteries on the Port-6 truss structure. The duo will work outside in the vacuum of space for about six hours and 30 minutes.

Station Gears Up for Spacewalks as Christina Koch Hits 200 Days

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA works on a U.S. spacesuit in the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged aboard the International Space Station.

The International Space Station is gearing up for a record pace of spacewalks this year. The Expedition 61 spacewalkers will upgrade the orbiting lab’s power systems and repair a cosmic particles detector. NASA TV will preview the upcoming spacewalks during a live briefing on Friday at 2 p.m. EDT.

The first spacewalk is set for Sunday, Oct. 6, with NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan. The duo will begin installing new lithium-ion batteries delivered last week aboard Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft. There will be four more spacewalks in October to continue the activation of the new batteries on the station’s Port-6 truss structure.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits as well as guide them during their spacewalk. He and Flight Engineer Jessica Meir joined Koch and Morgan on Tuesday for a procedures review and conference with specialists on the ground.

Another set of spacewalks will see the installation of an upgraded thermal control system on the Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) that has been in service since May 2011. The automobile-sized astrophysics device, attached to the Starboard-3 truss structure, is seeking evidence of antimatter and dark matter. The AMS uses a magnetic field to detect and identify the sign of electrically charged cosmic ray particles.

Koch has reached the 200-day milestone today in her extended mission aboard the space station. She will stay in space for more than 300 days and set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, eclipsing the record of 289 days set by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2016-17.