Expedition 51 Ramps Up for New Crew and Cargo

Expedition 51 Crew Members Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer
Expedition 51 crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer pose in front of the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft they will launch in April 20. Credit: NASA/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin

The three Expedition 51 crew members aboard the International Space Station are waiting for a new cargo shipment and a new crew to arrive next week. The orbiting trio are also performing human research and working on U.S. spacesuits.

A pair of spaceships are due next week at the space station. The Orbital ATK Cygnus will launch April 18 on a four-day trip to deliver over 7,600 pounds science gear and crew supplies. On April 20, a pair of new Expedition 51 crew members will blast off in the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft on a six-hour ride to the station’s Poisk module.

Commander Peggy Whitson is continuing to explore how new lights installed in the station are affecting crew health and wellness. She is documenting her sleep patterns and participating in cognition and visual tests for the Lighting Effects study.

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet started his day conducting a Fine Motor Skills test. The study is helping scientists understand how astronauts adapt to touch-based technologies that could influence the development of mobile devices and spacecraft piloting interfaces.

Pesquet turned his attention to spacesuit maintenance Wednesday afternoon. He dumped cooling water and purged gas buildup from the water tanks inside the suits. The work is being done ahead of a planned May 12 spacewalk to replace an avionics box to control science experiments installed outside the station.

Soyuz Undocks To Carry Trio Back to Earth

Soyuz MS-02 Undocks
The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft undocks on time and backs away from the International Space Station’s Poisk module. Credit: NASA TV

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos undocked from the International Space Station at 3:57 a.m. EDT to begin their journey home.

Ryzhikov, the Soyuz commander, is at the controls of the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Borisenko is seated in the left seat of the Soyuz descent module and Kimbrough is in the right seat.

The crew is scheduled to land at 7:21 a.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

As the Soyuz MS-02 undocked, Expedition 51 officially began under the command of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. She and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), will operate the station until the arrival of two new crew members later this month.

NASA TV will air live coverage of the Soyuz MS-02 deorbit burn and landing beginning at 6 a.m. Watch live on NASA’s website.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.