Rocket Launching New Station Crew Rolls Out to Kazakhstan Pad

The Soyuz rocket that will launch three new crew members to the space station stands at its Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The Soyuz rocket that will launch three new crew members to the space station stands at its Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The rocket to launch the next crew to the International Space Station has rolled out to its launch pad and is counting down to its liftoff in the middle of the week. Meanwhile aboard the orbiting lab on Monday, the Expedition 67 crew studied tele-robotics and fluid physics while preparing for the upcoming crew arrival and next week’s crew departure.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is preparing for his first spaceflight set to begin at 9:54 a.m. EDT on Wednesday when he launches to the station aboard the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship. He will be riding along with Soyuz Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, both from Roscosmos. The trio will dock to the Rassvet module less than three-and-a-half hours after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan beginning a six-month space station research mission.

View photographs of the Soyuz rocket rolling out to the launch pad.

Just over a week after the new crew’s arrival, three cosmonauts who have been on the station since March 18 will return to Earth. Station Commander Oleg Artemyev will board the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship with Flight Engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, undock from the Prichal module, then reenter Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute to a landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan. The threesome spent Monday readying their launch and entry suits for the ride home, packing gear for loading into their Soyuz spaceship, and reviewing Soyuz undocking and descent procedures.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will take over as station commander from Artemyev before he departs during the traditional Change of Command ceremony. The leadership change will be seen live on NASA TV, the agency’s app, and its website at 9:35 a.m. on Sept. 28.

Back in space, NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines spent his day peering at foam samples inside the KERMIT microscope to observe characteristics only possible in microgravity. The Foams and Emulsions study looks at how weightlessness affects microstructures and the dispersion of bubbles in liquid possibly expanding commercial opportunities both in space and on Earth.

Robotics activities are critical both inside and outside of the orbiting lab. With NASA and its international partners planning human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, researchers are also exploring the ability to control ground-based robots, also known as tele-robotics, from a spacecraft. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins powered up the Surface Avatar laptop computer on Monday morning and studied a variety of methods, such as haptic controls, user interfaces, and virtual reality, to command robot vehicles from long distances. Watkins later participated in a cognition test that seeks to measure a crew member’s ability to perform robotic activities in microgravity conditions.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren was next to participate in the robotics cognition study for the Behavioral Core Measures investigation that may inform future spacecraft and space habitat designs. Lindgren also spent the day on space station chores including servicing U.S. spacesuit parts and cleaning crew quarters. Cristoforetti focused on lab maintenance activities as well, inspecting biology research gear and replacing components on the station’s toilet, also known as the Waste and Hygiene Compartment.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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