Crew Stepping Up Upcoming Cargo Mission and Crew Swap Preps

A vivid aurora streams over the Earth as the space station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica.
A vivid aurora streams over the Earth as the space station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica.

The Expedition 66 crew will have a restful weekend before stepping up preparations next week for an intense period of Russian resupply ship and SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle activities. However, the International Space Station residents are wrapping up the work week with a host of maintenance activities.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei worked on robotics activities in the NanoRacks Bishop airlock attached to the end cone of the Tranquility module during the afternoon. McArthur kicked off the work uninstalling the tiny GITAI robotic arm, located in Bishop, that is testing its abilities to perform routine support work saving the crew time. Vande Hei joined her afterward stowing the experimental robotic arm’s components, cleaning up Bishop, then closing its hatch.

Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started his morning flushing the oxygen generation system’s hoses of contaminants. Then the three-time station resident turned his attention in the afternoon toward assisting the two NASA astronauts with the Bishop cleanup work.

Over in the European Columbus laboratory module, NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough uninstalled science hardware that tests new radiation measurement techniques to make way for orbital plumbing work. Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) took over the plumbing duties and replaced water valves behind a research rack located in Columbus.

Two cosmonauts are sleeping in today after adjusting their shifts two days ago to monitor the undocking then the redocking of the ISS Progress 78 resupply ship. The automated maneuvers saw the Progress 78 back away from the Poisk module on Wednesday night then redock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module just after midnight on Friday. Roscosmos Flight Engineers Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov were on duty checking the Progress’ systems ready to take over and remotely control the spacecraft from the Zvezda service module if necessary.

The next cargo craft to replenish the crew will be the ISS Progress 79 when it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the middle of next week. It will dock two days later to the aft port of Zvezda where it will stay for about seven months.

A crew swap is scheduled to begin in just over a week. The four astronauts of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission are due to blast off aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance on Oct. 31 at 2:21 a.m. from Florida toward the orbiting lab. Commander Raja Chari will lead Pilot Thomas Marshburn with Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer inside Endurance and dock to the Harmony module’s forward port about 22 hours later.

Several days after that, four astronauts who have been on the station since April will return to Earth inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour completing the SpaceX Crew-2 mission. Kimbrough will lead McArthur, Hoshide and Pesquet back home for a retrieval by NASA and SpaceX personnel off the coast of Florida.

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