Busy Day Aboard Station Ahead of New Crew Launch

Waxing Gibbous Moon
A waxing gibbous moon was pictured above the Earth’s limb as the International Space Station orbited over the southern Indian Ocean just southeast of the African continent.

The orbiting Expedition 55 crew members participated in a variety of biology research and life support maintenance today. Their counterparts on the ground took part in traditional ceremonies today ahead of their liftoff to the International Space Station in two weeks.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle started his day photographing and watering plants being grown for the Veggie-3 botany study. He later charged a pair of U.S. spacesuit batteries before inspecting emergency equipment including portable fire extinguishers and breathing apparatus.

Norishige Kanai, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, set up hardware to measure the levels and analyze the exhaled air in the station’s environment. Afterward, he positioned an infrared sensor arm to measure Dwarf Wheat leaf temperatures growing inside the Kibo laboratory’s Plant Habitat.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov spent Tuesday morning working on Russian environmental and life support systems. The veteran cosmonaut also activated video gear and checked the tension of an exercise treadmill shock absorber.

In the midst of all the orbital maintenance work, Shkaplerov still had time for a pair of science experiments. The commander explored the internal and external radiation the space station encounters along its flight path. He also researched how international crews interact with each other during different phases of a long term space mission.

Back in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 55-56 crew members are counting down to their March 21 liftoff and two-day trip to the space station. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel raised the flags of their respective countries today at their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur near their launch site. The trio is in final preparations training for their launch aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

New Crew Arrives at Launch Site Before March 21 Liftoff

Expedition 55 crew members
Expedition 55 crew members (from left) Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev and Drew Feustel pose for pictures with their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits as part of the crew’s first vehicle fit check activities.

The next three International Space Station crew members arrived at their launch site Sunday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are in final launch preparations ahead of their March 21 launch to their new home in space. They suited up in their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits today and climbed into their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for their first vehicle fit check activities.

Waiting for them onboard the orbital laboratory are Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. Their new crewmates will dock on March 23 to the Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Meanwhile, the current orbital residents are ensuring the station remains in tip-top shape and conducting ongoing microgravity science.

Shkaplerov worked on Russian life support equipment throughout the day and handed over radiation detection equipment to the U.S. astronauts. Tingle inspected the Destiny laboratory module’s large window and cleaned vents in the Tranquility module.

Kanai worked on a variety of scientific gear all day Monday. He disassembled and replaced the METEOR camera before some maintenance work on a physics furnace and science freezer. The rest of the afternoon Kanai worked on the Combustion Integrated Rack connecting cables and checking for leaks.

Three Up, Three Down, Another Three Prepare for Launch

Expedition 55-56 Crew Members
The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is the Expedition 55-56 crew. (From left) Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev and Ricky Arnold. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin and Irina Spektor

Three Expedition 55 crew members are back to work today on the International Space Station, having taken a day off Wednesday following the landing of the three Expedition 54 crew members on Tuesday. The departing space residents are back on Earth, having returned to their homes less than a day after landing.

Now on board the station, Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov is leading Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The three crewmates have been onboard the orbital laboratory since Dec. 19 and are due to return to Earth June 3. They will greet a new set of Expedition 55-56 crew members on March 23.

Those new residents, Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are in Star City, Russia completing training for their mission and will soon head to Kazakhstan for final launch preparations. They will blast off March 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for a two-day ride to their new home in space.

Touchdown! Three Expedition 54 Crewmates Back on Earth

Expedition 54 Soyuz MS-06 Landing
Expedition 54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei are wrapped in blankets after exiting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that landed in wintry conditions in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Three members of the Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), including NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, have returned to Earth after months of performing research and spacewalks in low-Earth orbit.

Vande Hei, Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 9:31 p.m. EST (8:31 a.m. Feb. 28 in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.

The crew also welcomed four cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the station in November on the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission, followed in December by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the company’s thirteenth resupply mission. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo craft arrived at the station in October and February.

Vande Hei logged 168 days in space on this, his first, mission. He ventured outside the space station on four spacewalks to perform work that included replacing and lubricating the Latching End Effectors on both ends of the Canadarm2. Acaba completed one spacewalk to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss. He now has accrued 306 days in space on three flights. Acaba and Vande Hei also participated in dozens of educational events while in space as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station.

Misurkin conducted one record-setting spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to replace an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module in February. The spacewalk timed out at 8 hours and 13 minutes, the longest in Russian space program history. Misurkin now has spent 334 days in space on two flights.

Now operating the station are Expedition 55 crew members Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA, and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch March 21 and arrive at the space station two days later, returning the crew size to six.

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

Expedition 54 Trio Undocks from Station, Begins Ride Home

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 Crew Members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei are pictured in front of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft before their launch on Sept. 13, 2017.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba and Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos undocked from the International Space Station at 6:08 p.m. EST to begin their voyage home to Earth.

The deborbit burn is targeted for 8:38 p.m., and will lead to a landing at 9:31 p.m. NASA Television coverage of deorbit and landing begins at 8 p.m. Watch their return to Earth online at: www.nasa.gov/live

Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three people to four, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.

This mission was the first spaceflight for Vande Hei, the second for Misurkin, and the third for Acaba. Their cumulative time in space, respectively, is 168 days, 334 days, and 306 days.

With the undocking, Expedition 55 has now begun aboard the station with Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos as the Commander and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Three additional crew members arrive on March 23. Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21 for a two-day journey to join Expedition 55 on station.

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

Station Hatches Closed, Trio Prepares to Head Home

Station Hatches Closed, Trio Prepares to Head Home
Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov (foreground) says farewell to his Expedition 54 crewmates inside the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that will return them to Earth today.

At 2:58 p.m. EST, the hatch closed between the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking. Expedition 54 crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos are scheduled to undock their Soyuz at 6:08 p.m. NASA Television will air live coverage of undocking beginning at 5:45 p.m.

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crew members, at: www.nasa.gov/station

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

Cosmonauts Swap Command Today Before Trio Comes Home

Expedition 54 Crew Members
Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin (far left) hands over command of the station to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (far right). In the background (from left) are astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin handed over control of the orbital laboratory today to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov during a traditional Change of Command ceremony. Misurkin is returning to Earth tomorrow with NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei after 168 days in space.

Landing day begins Tuesday when Misurkin, Acaba and Vande Hei say farewell, enter their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and close the hatches at 2:50 p.m. They will don their Sokol launch and entry suits, check for air and pressure leaks and undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. The Expedition 54 trio will then parachute to a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST (Wednesday at 8:31 a.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV will broadcast all the landing activities live starting at 2:15 p.m.

Expedition 55 officially begins when Misurkin and his crewmates undock. Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is staying behind as commander until June 3 with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

A new crew training in Russia is getting ready to replace the Earth-bound station residents in late March. Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are preparing for their March 21 launch to the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will greet their new crewmates March 23 after docking to the vacated Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Crew Goes into Weekend Preparing to Split Up on Tuesday

Expedition 54 Crew Members
(Clockwise from bottom) Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos; NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba; Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov; Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; NASA astronaut Scott Tingle.

Three Expedition 54 crew members are going into the weekend packing up and preparing to return to Earth on Tuesday. Commander Alexander Misurkin will lead fellow crew members Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei back to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft Tuesday for a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST.

NASA TV will broadcast live all of the departure activities on Monday and Tuesday. The Change of Command Ceremony begins Monday at 2:40 p.m. when Misurkin hands over station control to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. The new commander will stay behind with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and become Expedition 55 when their crewmates undock the next day.

The departing trio will say farewell Tuesday and close the Soyuz hatch at 2:15 p.m. They will undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. signifying the start of Expedition 55 and the end of Expedition 54. Next, the Soyuz engines will fire one last time at 8:38 p.m. sending the crew back into Earth’s atmosphere for a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m.

The trio will have spent 168 days in space, orbiting Earth 2,688 times, conducted dozens of science experiments and seen the departure and arrival of eight different space ships. The departing crew members will also go home as experienced spacewalkers. Misurkin and Acaba each conducted one spacewalk and Vande Hei conducted four spacewalks during their five-and-half month stay in space.

Astronauts Open BEAM and Prepare for Crew Departure

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei pose for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew members continued preparing for their return to Earth next week. A pair of astronauts also opened up BEAM today to stow a robotic hand and to check for contaminants.

Commander Alexander Misurkin joined his Soyuz MS-06 crewmates Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and reviewed their procedures for next week’s descent into Earth’s atmosphere. The trio also familiarized themselves with the sensations they will experience flying through the atmosphere and feeling gravity for the first time after 168 days in space.

Misurkin will hand over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on Monday at 2:40 p.m. EST. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will then close the hatch to their Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. and undock from the Poisk module 6:08 p.m. The trio will then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:32 p.m. NASA TV will cover all the landing activities live.

Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai will stay behind on the station with Shkaplerov as commander officially becoming the Expedition 55 crew when their crew mates undock next week. They will be joined March 23 by new Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. The trio will launch March 21 and were in Red Square in Moscow today for traditional ceremonial activities.

Today, Tingle and Kanai opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and stowed a degraded robotic hand, or Latching End Effector (LEE), that was attached to the Canadarm2. The LEE was returned inside the station after last week’s robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo also sampled BEAM’s air and surfaces for microbes.

Station Gets Ready for Crew Swap During Ongoing Human Research

Progress resupply ship and Earth's limb
A docked Russian Progress resupply ship dominates the foreground as Earth’s limb is illuminated during an orbital night pass.

As one crew is packing up for its return back to Earth another crew is training for its launch to the International Space Station. During the month long crew swap activities, human research is still ongoing aboard the orbital laboratory today.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin is getting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft ready for its undocking Feb. 27. He and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei will then take a three-and-a-half-hour ride back to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space.

They will be replaced by three new Expedition 55 station residents who are in Star City, Russia taking final crew qualification exams today. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will command the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft that will launch March 21 carrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the space station two days later.

Today’s research onboard the station is exploring the physiological changes that take place inside the human body while living and working in space. Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai collected blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis as part of the Biochemical Profile and Repository studies. Kanai later checked and tested gear that will measure blood flow in the brain for the new Cerebral Autoregulation experiment.