The International Space Station expanded its research capabilities overnight after robotics controllers installed a new external science platform. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew is packing cargo for return to Earth while getting ready for its own departure.
Europe’s latest contribution to the orbiting lab, Bartolomeo, was attached to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module early Thursday morning. Robotic engineers remotely commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Dextre robotic hand and completed the fine-tuned installation work over two days. Bartolomeo, delivered last month aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, gives private and institutional researchers the ability to command and control science payloads outside the space station.
Commander Oleg Skripochka with NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are preparing to end their mission in space on April 17. They checked their Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they parachute to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship for leaks today. The crew is also gathering personal items for stowage inside the Soyuz spaceship.
Before they leave, the SpaceX Dragon space freighter will return to Earth after being released from the Canadarm2 on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT. Meir and Morgan will finish loading over 4,000 pounds of station hardware and research samples, including live mice and plant cells, late Sunday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of Dragon’s departure on Monday at 9:30 a.m.
The station boosted its orbit again today raising it to the correct altitude enabling the new Expedition 63 crew to launch and dock on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will take a six-hour ride to their new home in space and begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.