Space Station Swaps Command Today Before Three Russian Cosmonauts Depart
Onboard the International Space Station (ISS), the Expedition 67 crew is in the midst of a crew swap as three new flight engineers are adjusting to life in space and another crew prepares to return to Earth this week. Meanwhile, with 10 people currently living aboard the ISS, there were plenty of opportunities to keep up ongoing microgravity research and lab maintenance.
New Flight Engineer Frank Rubio from NASA was back to work on space physics on Tuesday installing hardware for the Intelligent Glass Optics study inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The research investigates using artificial intelligence to adapt materials manufacturing, such as fiber optics, to the vacuum of space. Flight engineers Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos, Rubio’s two cosmonaut partners, spent time unloading their Soyuz MS-22 crew ship and working on a variety of life support tasks. The pair also took turns studying ways to pilot spacecraft and robots on future planetary missions.
Meanwhile, Station Commander Oleg Artemyev is turning his attention to this week’s return to Earth with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov. The threesome is scheduled to board their Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and undock from the Prichal module at 3:34 a.m. EDT on Thursday, September 29. They will descend into Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan less than three-and-a-half hours later. It will mark the completion of a six-month space research mission.
On Wednesday, September 28, Artemyev will hand over station leadership responsibilities to ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. She will become the first European female ISS commander. The traditional Change of Command ceremony starts at 9:35 a.m. EDT live on NASA TV, the agency’s app, and its website.
Cristoforetti will lead the new Expedition 68 crew until she and three of her SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom crewmates depart the space station in October to return to Earth. She joined NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins today and reviewed their Dragon descent procedures with flight controllers on Earth. The Crew-4 quartet has been onboard the station since their arrival inside Freedom on April 27.