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.

Station Trio Preps for Homecoming as Life Science Continues

Expedition 54 Crew Members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba
Expedition 54 crew members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba work with combustion science gear inside the space station’s Destiny laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew mates are in the final week of their mission and are packing up for a return to Earth. They and the rest of the crew also researched botany and biomedical science to support future crews on longer missions further into space.

Commander Alexander Misurkin is readying the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that will return him and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba back to Earth Feb. 27 after 168 days in space. He and Vande Hei trained for next week’s descent using a station simulator and reviewed potential return hazards.

Acaba spent his morning stowing botany samples in a science freezer for the Plant Gravity Perception study. That experiment is observing how plants detect gravity and light in the early stages of growth. The home-bound astronaut then spent the afternoon packing personal gear inside the Soyuz MS-06 space ship.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai attached electrodes to his chest area, wore a leg cuff and performed an ultrasound scan today. He worked in conjunction with doctors on the ground for the Vascular Echo study that looks at blood vessels and the human heart and how they change in space and on Earth.

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov continues to unload cargo today from the new Progress 69 resupply ship that arrived last week. NASA astronaut Scott Tingle stowed rodent habitats and worked on combustion science gear.

Spacewalkers Wrap Up Robotic Hand Transfers

Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai
Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei (foreground) and Norishige Kanai transfer a spare robotic hand to a long-term stowage area on the International Space Station.

Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have completed a spacewalk lasting 5 hours and 57 minutes.

The two astronauts concluded their spacewalk at 12:57 p.m. EST with the repressurization of the Quest airlock.

The spacewalkers moved two Latching End Effector (LEE), or hands, for the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2. They moved one to a long-term storage location for future use as a spare part and brought the other inside the space station to be returned to Earth. It will be refurbished and later relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.

Running well ahead of the timeline, the two spacewalkers also conducted a number of get ahead tasks, including the lubrication of the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk. They also positioned an interface tool for the Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman Dextre, installed a grounding strap on a component of the LEE positioned on one end of the robotic arm, and adjusted a strut on a component on one of the station’s spare parts platforms. That component is a flex hose rotary coupler that transfers liquid ammonia across a connecting point on the station’s backbone to provide cooling for its systems.

It was the 208th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Vande Hei’s career, and the first for Kanai, who became the fourth Japanese astronaut to walk in space.

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

 

Spacewalkers Making Quick Work of Major Tasks

Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai
Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei (attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm) and Norishige Kanai are working ahead of today’s spacewalk timeline.

Approximately two and a half hours into today’s spacewalk, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai completed the second major task of today’s spacewalk. They moved an aging, but functional, Latching End Effector (LEE) from its temporary storage outside the Quest airlock to a long-term storage location on the Mobile Base System, which is used to move the arm and astronauts along the station’s truss structure.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are providing live coverage of the spacewalk.

The spacewalkers are now more than an hour ahead of the timeline and moving on to work through some extra tasks. Vande Hei will begin a regular maintenance task to grease the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk.

Vande Hei is wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Kanai’s suit has no stripes. Views from a camera on Vande Hei’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Kanai’s is labeled with the number 17.

Astronauts Step Outside Beginning Third Spacewalk of Year

Astronauts in Quest Airlock
Astronaut Joe Acaba (center) assists spacewalkers Norishige Kanai (right) and Mark Vande Hei (left) inside the Quest airlock Friday morning.

Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7 a.m. EST, signifying the official start of today’s planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

Watch the spacewalk live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Vande Hei is wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Kanai’s suit has no stripes. Views from a camera on Vande Hei’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Kanai’s is labeled with the number 17. Vande Hei is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) for this spacewalk, the fourth of his career. Kanai, embarking on his first spacewalk, is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2). Kanai is only the fourth Japanese astronaut in history to conduct a spacewalk.

The first task for the two spacewalkers is to move a Latching End Effector (LEE), or hand, for the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2, from a payload attachment on the station’s Mobile Base System rail car to the Quest airlock. This LEE was replaced during an Expedition 53 spacewalk in October 2017 and will be returned to Earth to be refurbished and relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.

Once they have completed that activity, they will move an aging, but functional, LEE that was detached from the arm during a Jan. 23 spacewalk and move it from its temporary storage outside the airlock to a long-term storage location on the Mobile Base System, which is used to move the arm and astronauts along the station’s truss structure.

Live Coverage of U.S. Spacewalk Begins

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured attached to the outside of the space station during a spacewalk to lubricate the latching end effector on the tip of the Canadarm2 on Oct. 10, 2017.

Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are preparing for their exit from the International Space Station’s Quest airlock at approximately 7:10 a.m. EST to begin a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk.

Coverage of the spacewalk is now underway on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Sarah Korona, the lead spacewalk officer for today, provided an overview of the activities.

The spacewalkers will move two Latching End Effector (LEE), or hands, for the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2. One will be moved to a long-term storage location for future use as a spare part, and the other will be brought inside the spaces to be returned to Earth to be refurbished and later relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.

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 Prepping for Spacewalk After New Cargo Ship Arrives

Spacewalker Mark Vande Hei
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured during a spacewalk that took place Jan. 23, 2018, to begin maintenance work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The Expedition 54 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk Friday morning and beginning the work to unload a newly-arrived cargo delivery.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are completing their spacewalk reviews and readying their spacesuits and tools ahead of Friday morning’s excursion. The duo is scheduled to turn their spacesuits batteries on to internal power at 7:10 a.m. EST signifying the start of a planned six and a half hour spacewalk.

The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov opened the hatch to a new Progress cargo craft that arrived today at 5:38 a.m. The duo will start the work to offload a little over three tons of food, fuel and supplies from the resupply ship that will stay docked to the Zvezda service module until March.