Station Preps for Crew Departure and New U.S. Cargo Ship

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Cold Atom Lab
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Cold Atom Lab that enables research into the quantum effects of gases chilled lower than the average temperature of the universe.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch and two fellow Expedition 61 crewmembers are in their final week aboard the International Space Station. The other three lab residents are gearing up for next week’s arrival of a U.S. space freighter.

Koch will wrap up a 328-day mission aboard the orbiting lab on Thursday. Koch blasted off to join the station crew on March 14 with Expedition 59-60 crewmates Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin. Hague and Ovchinin have since returned home on Oct. 3.

Koch will land in Kazakhstan Thursday at 4:12 a.m. EST (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time) aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). Skvortsov and Parmitano began their mission with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan on July 20. Morgan is due to return to Earth in April.

When Koch lands, her mission-stay will be second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly. He lived aboard the station for 340 continuous days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

She and her two homebound crewmates prepared today for the flight back to Earth. The trio familiarized themselves with the return procedures and the gravity loads they will experience upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

Expedition 62 officially begins when Koch and her crewmates undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. Morgan and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will continue their stay in space with Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos.

Meir and Morgan are getting ready for the next Cygnus space freighter and its cargo of several tons of science experiments and crew supplies. Cygnus will launch Sunday at 5:39 p.m. and rendezvous with the station two days later for a robotic capture at 4:30 a.m.

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