A U.S. cargo craft is being loaded with hardware and sensitive research samples for analysis on Earth before it departs the International Space Station today. The Expedition 68 crew members also had time on Monday for biomedical activities and lab maintenance ensuring the crew and the station continue operating in tip-top shape.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is poised to complete a 43-day stay attached to the station when it undocks from the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 5:05 p.m. EDT today. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, and Frank Rubio along with Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are finalizing the loading of about 4,400 pounds supplies and science experiments inside the Dragon. NASA TV’s live coverage of Dragon’s undocking and departure begins at 4:45 p.m. on NASA’s website and the agency’s app.
The crew will close Dragon’s hatch about an hour-and-a-half before its departure today. Dragon will then orbit Earth until Wednesday when it reenters Earth’s atmosphere and parachutes to a landing off the coast of Florida for retrieval by SpaceX and NASA support personnel. NASA TV will not air Dragon’s return to Earth.
The quartet also split its day collecting and stowing a variety of samples as part of ongoing human research studies. The astronauts began the morning gathering their saliva samples and placing them in science freezer for later analysis. The foursome, with assistance from specialists on the ground, wrapped up the day drawing blood samples that will be examined back on Earth to understand how living long-term in space affects the human body.
The space station’s three cosmonauts focused mainly on orbital maintenance throughout Monday. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin serviced an assortment of life support and electronics components. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina charged video camera batteries and photographed electronics hardware inside the Zarya module.
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