U.S., Russian and British Crew Continuing Station Operations

British Astronaut Tim Peake
British astronaut Tim Peake works on an experiment that explores the risk of breathing in toxic dust during a future crewed mission to Mars.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has returned to Houston and his Expedition 46 crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov have returned to Russia. Their historic mission is over but there are three crew members who are still orbiting Earth on the International Space Station.

The new station commander of Expedition 47, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, worked on the Water Recovery System that converts urine into pure drinking water. After that, he took a look at the humanoid robot, also known as Robonaut2, for some troubleshooting activities.

British astronaut Tim Peake was inside the Columbus lab module today checking out science hardware for a magnetic field experiment and a payload transfer rack. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who has visited the orbital lab five times, worked on Russian life support gear.

A new set of space station crew members is getting ready to join Expedition 47 when they launch March 18 U.S. time. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin will ride the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft for a six-hour trip to their new home in space.

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.

Veteran Station Crew Returns to Earth after Historic Mission

Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly
Year in Space crew members Mikhail Kornienko (left) and Scott Kelly work with tiny free-floating satellites known as SPHERES back in January.

Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA, and Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos landed their Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST. Russian recovery teams will help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space.

Kelly and Kornienko launched to the space station on March 27, 2015, for their one-year mission. The pair’s return on March 1 marks the end of 340 days aboard the space station and almost 143 million miles during their time in space, roughly the same average distance between Earth and Mars.

With Kelly, Kornienko and Volkov landing in Kazakhstan, Kelly has logged 520 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on space shuttle mission STS-103 in 1998. Kornienko has spent 516 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on Expedition 23/24 in 2010. Volkov arrived at the station on September 4 and has spent 548 days in space on three flights, the first of which was in 2008.

Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos, and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) remain aboard the station to continue research and maintenance. The remainder of the Expedition 47 crew, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skriprochka and Alexey Ovchinin, is scheduled to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on March 18.

The one-year mission will provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and stress of long-duration spaceflight. The science will continue for months and years as the data are collected and analyzed, an important step in the first phase of NASA’s efforts to prepare humanity for the journey to Mars. Such Earth-reliant exploration will lead to more complex operations in orbit around the moon where NASA will demonstrate, advance, and validate the capabilities and technologies we will need to send humans to Mars.

Expedition 46 Trio Leaves Station for Ride to Earth

Soyuz TMA-18M Undocks
The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft undocks carrying Expedition 46 crew members Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov. Credit: NASA TV

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov undocked from the station at 8:02 p.m. EST to begin their voyage home. Volkov, the Soyuz commander, is at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft.

They will perform a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a 4-minute, 49-second deorbit burn at 10:32 p.m. The crew is scheduled to land at 11:25 p.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

All three crew will participate in Field Tests immediately after landing. Scott Kelly will conduct Functional Task Tests once he is back at NASA’s Johnson Space Center which will assess how the human body responds to living in microgravity for such a long time. Understanding how astronauts recover after long-duration spaceflight is a critical piece in planning for missions to deep space.

The Expedition 47 crew members, Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos, and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) will continue research and maintenance aboard the station and will be joined March 18 by three additional crew members, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skriprochka and Alexey Ovchinin.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing beginning at 10:15 p.m.

Here is the timeline for Expedition 46’s landing:

Tuesday, March 1

EST                            EVENT

10:15 p.m.                 NASA TV: Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing coverage

10:32 p.m.                  Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 49 seconds duration)

10:37 p.m.                  Soyuz deorbit burn complete

10:59 p.m.                  Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)

11:02 p.m.                  Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)

11:10 p.m.                  Command to open parachute (6.6 miles)

11:25 p.m.                 Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Today is Homecoming Day for a Record-Setting Crew

Astronaut Scott Kelly posted this photo taken from the International Space Station to Twitter on Feb. 27, 2016 with the caption, “Of all the sunrises I’ve seen on my #YearInSpace, this was one of the best! One of the last too. Headed home soon.” Credit: https://twitter.com/StationCDRKelly

Three Expedition 46 crew members are finishing packing the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft for the ride home today, ending their record-setting mission. Three other space station residents will stay behind until June and wave farewell to their crewmates when they undock tonight.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are riding back to Earth with Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov. The trio will undock at 8:02 p.m. EST today/1:02 a.m. UTC Wednesday and land in Kazakhstan at 11:25 p.m. NASA TV will begin live coverage at 4:15 p.m. as the crew enters the Soyuz spacecraft and closes the hatches.

Kelly and Kornienko will have lived in space continuously for 340 days when they land tonight for an International Space Station program record. Volkov will have been in orbit for 182 days.

After the crew parachutes to a landing Kelly will be greeted by NASA personnel and checked out by doctors before flying back to the United States and landing in Houston 24 hours later. Kelly will be monitored over the next few weeks and months as scientists learn how living in space affects the human body before NASA sends astronauts to an asteroid or Mars.

Final Full Day in Orbit for Volkov and Year In Space Crew

Orbiting Earth at Night
Day 325. Set your sails for the #stars! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace. Credit: https://twitter.com/StationCDRKelly/status/699380052312477696

International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko, who have been living in space since March of last year, are spending their last full day in orbit today. The duo are returning home Tuesday evening with Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov who will lead the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft back to Earth.

Kelly will hand over command of the orbital laboratory to NASA astronaut Tim Kopra in a ceremony today at 3:10 p.m. EST/8:10 p.m. UTC live on NASA Television. When the Soyuz spacecraft undocks Tuesday, Expedition 47 will officially begin with Flight Engineers Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko staying behind with Kopra.

While the homebound trio is wrapping up its mission, the three remaining crewmates will stay in orbit till June and continue their science and maintenance activities. Today, Peake worked inside Japan’s Kibo lab module preparing to increase its stowage capacity. Kopra explored new space exercise techniques to minimize bone and muscle loss during long-term missions. Malenchenko checked on Soyuz communications and worked on several Russian science experiments.

Tune in to NASA TV Tuesday beginning at 4:15 p.m. to watch the live Soyuz crew departure and landing activities. Kelly and Kornienko will have accumulated 340 days in space while Volkov will have been orbiting 182 days when they land Tuesday at 11:25 p.m.

Crew Explores Breathing Risks of Long-Term Space Mission

Shanghai, China
Astronaut Scott Kelly shared this image of Shanghai, China on Instagram. Credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/BBjW1uEAXpJ/

A pair of astronauts is exploring breathing risks during long term space missions today while a trio of crew members is packing a Soyuz spacecraft for the return home.

NASA astronaut and two-time space station resident Tim Kopra joined first-time British astronaut for the Airway Monitoring experiment. That study explores the risk of breathing in toxic dust during future crewed missions to Mars which can possibly upset a crew member’s respiratory system.

Kopra and Peake will be staying in space until June with cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. They will become the Expedition 47 crew when a pair of One-Year crew members and a veteran cosmonaut undock in their Soyuz spacecraft and return to Earth next week.

Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko are set to complete 340 days in space when they land in Kazakhstan on March 1 U.S. time. Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, who will lead the duo home inside the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft, will have lived in space for 182 days.

Crew Wrapping Up Year-Long Mission in Less than a Week

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (left) and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko marked their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2016.

Three International Space Station crew members, two of whom have been in orbit nearly a year, will complete their stay in space March 1. As they prepare for landing, the Expedition 46 crew is moving right along with human research, advanced space science and ongoing lab maintenance.

One-Year crew mates Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko will join Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov for a ride back to Earth Tuesday. They will undock inside the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft and land in Kazakhstan carrying personal items and science for analysis.

Kelly joined NASA astronaut Tim Kopra for some plumbing work throughout Wednesday. Kelly also participated in blood, urine and saliva sample collections to help doctors understand how living in space affects the human body.

British astronaut Tim Peake, who will be staying in space till June, began checking out new science gear that will support new biology research. Peake also set up hardware for an experiment that explores the risk of airway inflammation in astronauts.

Cargo Ship and Crew Departure Preps Underway

Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft
Astronaut Tim Peake photographed the Cygnus cargo spacecraft with its umbrella-like solar arrays. The Soyuz TMA-19M crew spaceship is seen to the left. Credit: https://twitter.com/astro_timpeake/status/698517572405354496

The crew aboard the International Space Station is set to say farewell to a pair of spaceships over the next several days. The first spaceship, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo craft, is being readied for its release Friday morning. After that, the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft will return to Earth March 1 bringing home three crew members.

Mission controllers in Houston are finalizing preparations before the 57.7 foot Canadarm2 robotic arm detaches Cygnus from the Unity module. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus at 7:25 a.m. EDT Friday. Finally, Orbital ATK controllers in Virginia will command Cygnus to move away from the station and head towards Earth to burn up high in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Kelly, along with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, is in his final days of a mission that began in March of last year. The pair will take a ride home with three-time station resident Sergey Volkov who has been aboard the orbital lab since September. When the trio lands in Kazakhstan March 1, Kelly and Kornienko will have lived in space continuously for 340 days. Volkov’s mission will have lasted 182 days.

While the crew is busy with spacecraft departure activities, British astronaut Tim Peake worked on a variety of experiments today. He partnered with Kopra on a pair of experiments, one looking at how astronauts work on detailed interactive tasks and another researching cognitive performance. Peake also studied the thermophyscial properties of different metals inside Japan’s Electrostatic Levitation Furnace.

Station Boosts Orbit before Heavy Spacecraft Traffic Period

Solar Arrays and Earth's Limb
The International Space Station’s solar arrays and the Earth’s limb were photographed during a Jan. 15, 2016, spacewalk.

The International Space Station raised its orbit again today as three crew members prepare for a March 1 landing while another trio gets ready for a March 18 launch. Meanwhile, advanced research continued inside the orbital laboratory to improve life on Earth and for future space residents.

Today’s orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude for the March 1 undocking of Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. Their undocking will leave the Poisk module’s docking port vacant where a trio of Expedition 47 crew members will dock two-and-a-half weeks later inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft.

Today, the Expedition 46 crew participated in a variety of human research exploring how the heart adapts to life in space, the risk of atherosclerosis in astronauts and how microgravity affects an astronaut’s vision. The crew also sampled the station’s air and surfaces for microbes to learn how to prevent contamination in future spacecraft.

Another spacecraft is being prepared for departure Friday morning when it will be released from the grips of the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2 robotic arm. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is being loaded with trash before NASA astronauts Kelly and Tim Kopra release Cygnus using the robotics controls inside the seven-window cupola. NASA Television will cover the activities live Friday beginning at 7 a.m. EST.