Three Expedition 43 crew members are readapting to Earth’s gravity after returning home Thursday morning. The trio still onboard the International Space Station is working advanced microgravity science, orbital maintenance and exercise to remain fit and counter the effects of living in space.
Expedition 44 started early Thursday morning after the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft undocked from the Rassvet module. NASA astronaut Terry Virts, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov parachuted to a landing in Kazakhstan a few hours later.
Remaining in space and waiting for a new crew are cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Kornienko and Kelly are the One-Year crew members and Padalka is the new Expedition 44 commander.
The orbiting trio looked ways to improve performance in space with the Sprint experiment. They also explored methods to detect pressure leaks and radiation in the space station for the Bar and Matroyshka experiments.
Russian mission managers have chosen July 22 as the launch date for three new Expedition 44 crew members. Soyuz TMA-17M Commander Oleg Kononenko will be joined by astronauts Kjell Lindgren from NASA and Kimiya Yui from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for the ride to space and return home in December.
Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos landed their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 9:44 a.m. EDT. Russian recovery teams will help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space.
The trio arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 24, 2014, and spent more than six months conducting research and technology demonstrations. Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov spent 199 days aboard the space station and clocked almost 84 million miles during their time in space.
Virts has logged 212 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on space shuttle mission STS-130 in 2010. Shkaplerov has spent 364 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on Expedition 29/30 in 2011. This was Cristoforetti’s first flight into space.
The station now is occupied by Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. Kelly and Kornienko are two and half months into their year aboard the complex collecting valuable biomedical data that will inform future deep space, long-duration missions.
The remainder of the Expedition 44 crew, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is scheduled to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in late July.
Some items returning on this Soyuz were used as part of research investigations aboard the International Space Station. Equipment that supports various studies which use dosimeters will return with the crew. Dosimeters are devices that measure radiation. Several investigations employ the dosimeters to gather information about space radiation to help manage exposure and provide protection to crew members.
Both the Area Passive Dosimeter for Life-Science Experiments in Space (Area PADLES) and the Dosimetric Mapping (DOSMAP) investigations aboard the space station help researchers collect data to design radiation monitoring equipment for astronauts. This knowledge may improve design for spacecraft structures that shield internal occupants from radiation. Scientists also may use the data to develop protection devices for people who work in medical or industrial areas with potential radiation exposure.
Samples from the ongoing Study of the Impact of Long-Term Space Travel on the Astronauts’ Microbiome investigation also will return. The Microbiome study looks at the impact of space travel on the immune system and on human microbiomes – microbes living in and on the human body at any given time. Samples from crew members’ bodies and the space station environment are taken periodically to monitor changes in the immune system and microbiomes. The results of this study may add to research on health impacts to people who live and work in extreme environments on Earth, and help with research on early disease detection, metabolic function and immune system deficiency.
NASA Television coverage is again underway for today’s homecoming of International Space Station Commander Terry Virts of NASA and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos. The crew undocked from the station at 6:20 a.m. EDT, and they are on track for landing in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft at 9:43 a.m., southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Watch on NASA TV at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.
At this time, no concerns or issues are being worked. The timeline through landing is:
After spending 199 days aboard the International Space Station, Terry Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov undocked from the station at 6:20 a.m. EDT to begin their voyage home. Shkaplerov, the Soyuz commander, is at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft.
They will perform a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a 4-minute, 35-second deorbit burn at 8:51 a.m. The crew is scheduled to land at 9:43 a.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
The departure of Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov marks the end of Expedition 43. The Expedition 44 crew members, Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos will continue research and maintenance aboard the station and will be joined next month by three additional crew members, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
NASA Television will air live coverage of the Soyuz TMA-15M deorbit burn and landing beginning at 8:30 a.m. at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.
Three Expedition 43 crew members are busy preparing for their homecoming during their last full day in space. Commander Terry Virts ceremoniously handed over control of the International Space Station this morning to veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.
Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will end their stay tomorrow at 6:20 a.m. EDT when they undock from the Rassvet module. The trio in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m. after 199 days in space. NASA TV will cover the undocking and landing activities live.
Science, the main purpose of the space station, is still ongoing today as One-Year crew member Scott Kelly collected his urine and saliva samples for the Twins study. Scientists are comparing his body in weightlessness with his Earth-bound identical twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly.
Thrusters on a Soyuz spacecraft inadvertently fired Tuesday morning momentarily changing the station’s orientation. Russian flight controllers quickly corrected the situation and the crew was never in any danger nor is there any impact on the Expedition 43 undocking Thursday morning.
Today at 10:27 a.m. Central time during the routine testing of communications systems between the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz thrusters activated inadvertently which led to a slight change in the orientation of the ISS. Actions were immediately taken to reorient the ISS. There was no threat to the crew or the station itself, and the issue will have no impact to a nominal return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-15M on Thursday. Roscosmos specialists are determining the cause of the incident. Once more information is known, additional information will be provided.
Station managers from Roscosmos have announced new Soyuz and Progress spacecraft launch dates through the end of the year. Meanwhile, the six member Expedition 43 crew on orbit has a packed schedule of homecoming preparations, science and maintenance.
Three Soyuz crew missions to the International Space Station have been given new launch dates. The next Soyuz mission carrying three Expedition 44/45 crew members is scheduled sometime between July 23 and 25. A Soyuz taxi flight that will bring up Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov and return Commander Gennady Padalka is scheduled for launch Sept. 1. Volkov will be accompanied by European astronaut Andres Mogensen and a third crew member yet to be announced. The Expedition 46/47 trio will launch Dec. 15.
Three Progress cargo missions were also rescheduled. The first resupply mission is set for July 3 and the next two are planned for Sept. 21 and Nov. 21.
In space, Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti are packing their Soyuz TMA-15M and getting ready for Thursday’s undocking and landing. The homebound trio will undock at 6:20 a.m. EDT and land in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m.
A wide array of experiment work that observes how humans adapt to living in space took place Tuesday. One-Year crew member Scott Kelly collected his saliva and blood samples for the Twins study. Scientists are comparing his body in weightlessness with his Earth-bound identical twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly. The crew prepared for ultrasound scans so they could explore cardiovascular health before, during and after a space mission for the Cardio Ox study. The crew also studied how astronauts operate and repair interactive, touch-based and sensitive technologies in space for the Fine Motor Skills study.
Playing it conservatively, International Space Station flight controllers conducted a pre-determined avoidance maneuver (PDAM) today to steer the station well clear of a fragment of a spent Minotaur rocket body launched in 2013. Having tracked the object throughout the weekend and today, U.S. and Russian flight controllers executed a 5 minute, 22 second firing of the ISS Progress 58 thrusters at 2:58 p.m. CDT to slightly raise the station’s orbit and distance it from the fragment that was projected to pass within three statute miles of the complex later in the day.
The maneuver raised the station’s altitude by just 106 feet at apogee and 7/10 of a mile at perigee, resulting in an ISS orbit of 254 x 244.8 statute miles.
The crew was never in any danger and the maneuver will have no impact on the scheduled landing later this week of Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, who are completing preparations for their return to Earth and a parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft at 9:43 a.m. EDT Thursday.
A fragment from a spent Minotaur rocket body is being monitored today as flight controllers decide whether or not there will be a conjunction with the International Space Station. A docked ISS Progress 58 cargo craft would fire its engines should the space station need to get out of the way of the space debris.
A trio of Expedition 43 crew members will still come home Thursday morning should an avoidance maneuver be necessary. Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti are moving right along with their departure preparations. They trained for their descent through the Earth’s atmosphere and tested the thrusters of their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft.
The latest Expedition 43 trio including Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko teamed up to review their roles and responsibilities in case of an emergency.
Expedition 43 crew members Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will return to Earth June 11 at 9:43 a.m. EDT. The trio from the U.S., Russia and Italy will enter the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, undock from the Rassvet module and land in Kazakhstan after 6-1/2 months in space.
The homebound crew is packing gear in their Soyuz vehicle and training to use the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit which gets their bodies ready for the return Earth’s gravity. In the midst of Soyuz departure preparations, the crew is also continuing the International Space Station’s mission of advanced microgravity science to benefit life on Earth and in space.
There was more Rodent Research work on Friday as scientists study mice to understand the effects of weightlessness on muscles and bones. The crew is also participating in the Fine Motor Skills experiment which looks at how astronauts interact with touch-based technologies and spacecraft instrumentation.