Ten people occupy the International Space Station today but that will change on Friday when three Expedition 64 crew members return to Earth. Soon after that, four new Commercial Crew members will launch to the orbital lab when it will temporarily host 11 crew members.
Houston native and NASA astronaut Shannon Walker is preparing to take command of the space station on Thursday when Commander Sergey Ryzhikov hands over control before departing the next day. NASA TV will broadcast the traditional change of command ceremony from Expedition 64 to Expedition 65 live beginning at 3:45 p.m. EDT.
Expedition 65 officially begins when Ryzhikov undocks inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship with Flight Engineers Kate Rubins of NASA and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. The automated undocking command will come at 9:34 p.m. on Friday when the Soyuz spacecraft will slowly back away from the Poisk module. Less than three-and-a-half hours later the three space travelers will parachute to Earth inside their spacecraft after a 185-day space research mission.
The second operational crew mission from SpaceX is gearing up for launch on April 22 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two NASA astronauts, one Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and one ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut will ride inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station to complete the Expedition 65 crew. NASA TV will be on air live broadcasting the 6:11 a.m. launch next Thursday. NASA TV’s continuous coverage will also show the docking taking place the following day at 5:30 a.m.
The four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts are all veteran astronauts having previously launched to space on space shuttles and Soyuz crew ships. Crew-2 Commander Shane Kimbrough rode to the station twice on space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and the Soyuz MS-02 crew ship in 2016. Pilot Megan McArthur flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2009 to service the Hubble Space Telescope. JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide took two rides to low-Earth orbit, the first aboard space shuttle Discovery in 2008 and the second in 2011 aboard the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft. This will be ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s second space mission, his first aboard the Soyuz MS-03 crew ship in 2016.
Less than a week after the veteran quartet’s arrival, the four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts will return to Earth after working in space for 162 days. Walker, along with her commercial crewmates Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi, will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter on April 28 at 12:04 p.m. and splashdown off the coast of Florida about five-and-a-half hours inside their Crew Dragon vehicle.