Expedition 61 Crew Enters Soyuz Crew Ship, Says Farewell Before Homecoming

At 9:34 p.m. EST, the hatch closed between the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking. NASA astronaut Christina Koch, Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) are scheduled to undock their Soyuz at 12:50 a.m.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the undocking beginning at 12:15 a.m.; their landing in Kazakhstan is targeted for approximately 4:12 a.m.

The Expedition 61 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, including improvements to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in an effort to extend its life and support its mission of looking for evidence of dark matter and testing 3D biological printers to print organ-like tissues in microgravity.

Koch shared her most memorable moments, from her arrival to the space station on March 14, 2019, to her first glimpse of her hometown on Earth from space, to her first spacewalk.

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

NASA TV is Live as Expedition 61 Crew Prepares to Depart Station

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit that Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) wore during a spacewalk on Dec. 2, 2019.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are now broadcasting live coverage of the International Space Station’s Expedition 61 crew as they are preparing for their return to Earth.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch, Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) are saying their farewells to NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos before their board their Soyuz spacecraft and close the hatches between them and the space station. Hatches are expected to close at about 9:25 p.m. EST for a series of leak checks before the Soyuz undocks and returns to Earth early Thursday morning.

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

NASA TV Broadcasts Return of Christina Koch and Expedition 61 Crewmates

Luca Parmitano hands over station control to Oleg Skripochka
Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano (front left) handed over control of the station today to Oleg Skripochka (front right). In the back row (from left) are Flight Engineers Christina Koch, Alexander Skvortsov, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.

Record-setting astronaut Christina Koch, along with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) are preparing to depart the International Space Station just after midnight for their return to Earth early Thursday morning. Earlier today Expedition 61 Commander Parmitano passed control of the station to Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos.

Tune in to NASA Television and the agency’s website tonight at 9 p.m. EST as Koch, Skvortsov, and Parmitano say farewell and board their Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft in preparation for their undocking and return to Earth.

Koch was a crew member for Expeditions 59, 60 and 61, spending 328 days living and working aboard the International Space Station.

During Koch’s 11-month mission, she participated in more than 210 investigations, helping advance NASA’s goals to return to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars. Koch participated in a number of studies to support those future exploration missions, including research into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight.

Learn more in Koch’s space station science scrapbook and her station science video.

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

Station Crew Splits Up Thursday before Next Cargo Mission

Expedition 61 astronauts
Clockwise from left are, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano is the Expedition 61 Commander leading Flight Engineers Koch, Morgan and Meir aboard the International Space Station.

The crew aboard the International Space Station is preparing to split up while also getting ready for a U.S. space delivery.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is packing up and cleaning her crew quarters today ahead of her return to Earth early Thursday. She will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Wednesday about 9:30 p.m. EST with crewmates Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).

The trio will undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:12 a.m. (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 9 p.m. when the departing crew says farewell to their station counterparts and closes the Soyuz hatch.

This will cap a 328-day-long mission for Koch that began on March 14. She is now in second place for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut surpassed only by former astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days during his final station mission.

Expedition 62 will officially begin when Koch and her Expedition 61 crewmates undock from the Poisk module. Continuing their stay in space will be Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan. They will end their stay aboard the orbiting lab and return to Earth in April.

Meir and Morgan are getting ready for another mission that begins Sunday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft lifts off at 5:39 p.m. It will rendezvous with the station Tuesday where the duo will be in the cupola to capture Cygnus at 3:30 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Ground controllers will then remotely command the Canadarm2 to install Cygnus to the Unity module where it will stay for 90 days. Cygnus will be delivering over 8,000 pounds of new research gear and crew supplies.

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.