The first of two crews launching to the International Space Station in April will blast off from Kazakhstan on Friday. The Soyuz MS-18 rocket rolled out to its launch pad this morning as three new Expedition 65 crew members get ready for their long-term space research mission.
NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy inside the new Soyuz crew ship. They will lift off Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and take a near three-and-a-half hour ride to the station, orbiting Earth twice.
After the new crew docks to the Rassvet module and opens the hatches, there will be 10 people occupying the orbiting lab until the crew they are replacing, the Expedition 64 trio, returns to Earth a week later. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will complete her mission on April 16 with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov. They will undock from the station’s Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship completing a 185-day mission and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan.
Onboard the station, the current seven-member crew is busy conducting advanced space science benefitting humans on and off the Earth. The orbital septet is also gearing up to accommodate the two April crew swaps when there will be as many as eleven people occupying the space station.
NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover were back inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module exploring how microgravity affects the human nervous system. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on biology hardware servicing components inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and the Confocal Space Microscope.
Noguchi also joined Rubins during the afternoon and set up extra sleep accommodations inside the Columbus lab. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker routed cables that charge U.S. spacesuit batteries inside the Quest airlock.