Light Day for Orbiting Crew Ahead of New Crew Launch

Expedition 46 Crew Members
Expedition 46 Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), left, Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA pose for a picture at the conclusion of a press conference held at the Cosmonaut Hotel, Monday, Dec. 14, 2015 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The three Expedition 46 crew members on board the International Space Station have a light duty day today before they welcome a new trio to the station on Tuesday. Commander Scott Kelly enjoyed a day off while cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov spent some time on microgravity science and vision checks.

Back on the ground in Kazakhstan, a new Soyuz rocket stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome after being rolled out Sunday morning. The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft will liftoff Tuesday at 6:03 a.m. EST/11:03 a.m. UTC (5:03 p.m. Kazakh time) carrying three new crew members on a six-hour trip to the International Space Station.

Veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will command the Soyuz vehicle alongside NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and British astronaut Tim Peake. The crew will be living and working in space for the next six months on advanced science benefitting life on Earth and future crews in space.

Malenchenko is the most experienced member of this trio with 641 days in space. He is embarking on his fourth space station mission.  He also lived on Russia’s last space station Mir and flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis. This will be Kopra’s second station residency, having spent 58 days in space as an Expedition 20 Flight Engineer. Peake will be Britain’s first astronaut to go to the International Space Station and this will be his first mission.

Station Ramping Up for New Crew and New Supplies

The Sun's light
The Sun’s light is reflected off a body of water as the space station orbit’s Earth.

A trio of International Space Station residents is getting ready to return to Earth while a new crew in Kazakhstan is preparing to replace them. Meanwhile, a pair of space freighters, the Orbital ATK Cygnus and Russia’s Progress 62 (62P), is being readied for liftoff as another docked cargo craft is being packed before it’s undocking.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft will launch Thursday at 5:55 p.m. EST to the station. The 61P is scheduled for a Dec. 21 liftoff. While mission managers are preparing three different spacecraft for launch this month, the Expedition 45 crew is performing research to help scientists benefit life on Earth and crews in space.

The next home-bound astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui checked their vision and blood pressure today for the Ocular Health study. The duo will return home with Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko Dec. 11 officially ending the Expedition 45 mission. Kononenko participated in a pair of blood circulation experiments, Cosmocard and Cardiovector, and prepared the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft for its departure in less than two weeks.

Commander Scott Kelly, who is staying in space until March with Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov and fellow One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko, sampled and tested the station’s water quality. Volkov and Kornienko explored veins in the lower body to understand blood flow during a long-term space mission.

The next crew to live on the space station, Expedition 46, is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site counting down to its Dec. 15 liftoff inside the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket. First-time British astronaut Timothy Peake is joining veteran station crew members Timothy Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko for the six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory.

Station Gearing Up for Science Delivery and Crew Swap

Expedition 46-47 Crew Members
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, the Expedition 46-47 crew poses for pictures following a news conference Nov. 23. (From left) European Space Agency astronaut Timothy Peake, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra.Credit: NASA/Seth Marcantel

The International Space Station residents are gearing up to host the Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter when it arrives Dec. 6. On the ground, a new trio of Expedition 46-47 crew members headed to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before their mid-December mission.

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren trained for the rendezvous and robotic capture of Cygnus after its Dec. 3 launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The Cygnus will deliver supplies for the crew and new science experiments Dec. 6 when it is captured and berthed to the Unity module.

Three new station crew members are in the final stage of their mission training before beginning a six-month mission to the orbital laboratory. First-time British astronaut Timothy Peake will join veteran station residents Yuri Malenchenko and Timothy Kopra inside the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft for a six-hour ride to the space station set for Dec. 15.

Meanwhile, advanced space science continued today as the crew explored radiation, blood circulation and microbes living on crew members. Scientists hope to use the results from the many experiments on the station to benefit people on Earth and future crews.

Finally, the crew is packing the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft before its undocking Dec. 11. The Soyuz will bring home Expedition 45-46 crew members Lindgren, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui.