New Crew Launching Early Friday as Science Continues on Station

(From left) A Russian crew ship and a Russian cargo craft are pictured docked to the station as it orbited into a sunrise above the South Pacific.
(From left) A Russian crew ship and a Russian cargo craft are pictured docked to the station as it orbited into a sunrise above the South Pacific.

It is the day before three new Expedition 65 crew members launch and dock to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, three orbital lab residents are preparing to return to Earth while the rest of the crew studies space science and keeps the station in tip-top shape.

The Soyuz MS-18 rocket that will liftoff Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT with one NASA astronaut and two Roscosmos cosmonauts was blessed on Thursday by a Russian Orthodox priest. The traditional ceremony takes place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad before each Soyuz crew mission.

Two veteran station residents, Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, will take a ride to the station with first time space-flyer Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. Novitskiy will lead the short space flight to the station’s Rassvet module where the Soyuz crew ship will dock at 7:07 a.m. The hatches will open about two hours later and the trio will join seven new crewmates for a welcoming ceremony with officials on the ground. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities beginning at 2:45 a.m.

Little more than a week after the new crew’s arrival, three Expedition 64 residents will end their stay in space and land on Earth inside the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, alongside Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, will undock from the Poisk module officially ending their mission on April 16 at 9:33 p.m. They will parachute to a landing inside their Soyuz crew ship less than three-and-a-half hours later in Kazakhstan.

Science is keeping pace aboard the space station as the crew explored biotechnology and fluid physics today. The astronauts also worked on life support systems and U.S. spacesuit components.

NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins observed protein crystal samples in a microscope for a study exploring the production of advanced medicines in space. Flight Engineer Victor Glover of NASA observed how fluids behave in microgravity to help engineers design optimal fuel tanks for satellites and spaceships.

Hopkins also serviced nitrogen and oxygen transfer gear inside the station’s Atmospheric Control System. Glover assisted NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker as she swapped parts on U.S. spacesuits. Finally, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi installed a materials exposure study in the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock where it will soon be placed into the harsh space environment for observation.

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