Two rockets on opposite sides of the Earth are at their launch pads today counting down to liftoff to the International Space Station. Back on the orbiting lab, the seven Expedition 66 residents are busy conducting space research, station maintenance, and preparing for the upcoming departure of four crewmates.
Russia’s ISS Progress 79 resupply ship is standing vertical at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will blast off today at 8 p.m. EDT with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies, destined for the station crew. The ISS Progress 79 will arrive at the station on Friday for an automated docking to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 9:34 p.m.
At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Falcon 9 rocket with the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance attached rolled out to the launch pad early Wednesday morning and now stands vertical. Endurance will launch four commercial crew astronauts toward the space station on Sunday at 2:21 a.m. SpaceX Crew-3 Commander Raja Chari will lead Pilot Thomas Marshburn and Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer on a one-day ride to the Harmony module’s forward docking port.
Meanwhile, station Commander Thomas Pesquet and Flight Engineer Megan McArthur began the day collecting their blood samples. They spun the samples in a centrifuge and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Pesquet and McArthur also partnered up inside the Cygnus space freighter for cargo work before packing up personal gear ahead of their return to Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour next month.
Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide are also packing up for next month’s departure aboard Endeavour. Kimbrough still had time today for computer maintenance while Hoshide worked on U.S. spacesuit components. Kimbrough will command Endeavour leading McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide, from undocking to a splashdown off the coast of Florida ending the SpaceX Crew-2 mission that began in April.
Staying behind on the station will be Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov. Today, Vande Hei was back setting up the Fluids Integrated Rack research facility for the new the Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment. Dubrov continued his research into effective space exercise methods while Shkaplerov studied the behavior of plasma-dust structures in the Russian segment of the station.