Station Ramps Up for Crew Swap and Spacewalk Preps

The Sun's light glints off the Atlantic Ocean in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 262 miles above.
The Sun’s light glints off the Atlantic Ocean in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 262 miles above.

NASA and SpaceX are preparing for a Commercial Crew swap taking place this month at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) astronauts are staying busy as two cosmonauts gear up for a pair of spacewalks outside the orbiting lab’s Russian segment.

Two Commercial Crew missions are getting ready to trade places on the orbiting lab by the end of April. The four SpaceX-Crew-4 astronauts are in quarantine counting down to liftoff aboard the Dragon Freedom crew ship from Florida at 5:26 a.m. EDT on April 23. Commander Kjell Lindgren will lead Pilot Robert Hines and Mission Specialists Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti on a ride to the station’s Harmony module where they will dock just over 24 hours later.

The new quartet will replace the SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts who are due to leave the station at the end of April inside the Dragon Endeavor crew ship. Commander Raja Chari, Pilot Tom Marshburn and Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer will splashdown off the coast of Florida after living and working nearly six months in space.

The four Ax-1 crew members continue to focus on their busy slate of space research ahead of their undocking planned for next week. Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria partnered with Pilot Larry Connors and analyzed human cells for the Aging and Heart Health study. The duo also joined Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe from Israel taking turns wearing a headset that monitors cognitive performance and brain activity in weightlessness. Mission Specialist Mark Pathy from Canada spent some time in the cupola photographing landmarks on Earth.

Two cosmonauts are ramping up their preparations for a pair of spacewalks set for April 18 and April 28. Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev are reviewing procedures they will use to activate the European Robotic Arm outside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module during both excursions. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov spent the day helping the cosmonauts get ready for their spacewalks.

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