Station Crew Re-Enters U.S On-Orbit Segments, Mission Control Preps for Storm

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured by an Expedition 56 crew member aboard a departing Soyuz crew ship on Oct. 4, 2018.

The Expedition 63 crew ended its stay isolated in the Russian segment of the International Space Station this morning after an extended leak test. Mission Control also deployed remote teams to maintain 24/7 support for the station and its crew as Hurricane Laura approaches the Texas Gulf Coast.

Commander Chris Cassidy started the day reopening the hatches to the U.S. segment to begin resuming normal station operations. He reactivated U.S. life support equipment and restowed U.S. gear used during the crew’s weekend stay in the Zvezda service module.

Mission control will study the test data this week in an effort to determine the source of a cabin air leak detected in September of 2019. The rate is still well within segment specifications and presents no danger to the crew or the space station. The station’s atmosphere is maintained at a pressure comfortable for the crew members, and a tiny bit of that air leaks over time, requiring routine repressurization from nitrogen tanks delivered on cargo resupply missions.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin spent the morning reconfiguring the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. The veteran station cosmonaut checked pressure valves and communications gear while opening hatches to various Russian modules.

Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner, on his first station mission, started the day resetting Russian life support equipment and sampling the air in Zvezda for analysis. Vagner also had time for science during the afternoon studying the Earth’s nighttime atmosphere and exploring ways to improve locating landmarks on Earth for photography.

Meanwhile, personnel at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are monitoring Hurricane Laura and making general preparations at the center. A small team of flight controllers germane to monitoring and sending commands for the most important station systems were sent to a backup control center hub in central Texas in advance of the storm.

A full team of station flight controllers is getting set up at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to take over longer-term control of station systems should that become necessary. This backup activity is planned for each hurricane season or for some other extenuating circumstance and will be executed with no impact on critical station operations or the safety of the crew.

Scott Kelly Returns to Houston After Year In Space

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to friends, family and NASA officials shortly after arriving in Houston early Thursday morning. Behind Scott from left are, Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States; Mark Kelly, former astronaut and Scott’s twin brother; Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator; and Ellen Ochoa, Johnson Space Center Director. Credit: NASA TV

Just before 2:30 a.m. EST Thursday, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly landed at Houston’s Ellington Field, marking his return to the U.S. following an agency record-setting year in space aboard the International Space Station.

Those on hand to greet him in Houston included Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Dr. John P. Holdren, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Kelly’s identical twin brother and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

Scott Kelly returned to Earth March 1, along with his one-year mission crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, and cosmonaut Sergey Volkov.