The International Space Station is preparing for the arrival of three new crew members who are scheduled to begin their mission on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Expedition 67 astronauts continue to explore a wide range of microgravity phenomena for the benefit of people on and off Earth.
The Soyuz MS-22 rocket, which will carry NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin to the space station, stands on its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The trio will lift off in the Soyuz crew ship at 9:54 a.m. EDT Wednesday and dock with the Rassvet module less than three and a half hours later to begin a six-month research mission in Earth orbit. NASA will broadcast the launch live on NASA TV, the app, and its website beginning at 9 a.m
A little over a week later, three cosmonauts who have been in space since March 18 will board their Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and return to Earth. The Soyuz vehicle, with station commander Oleg Artemyev and flight engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov inside, will undock from the Prichal module, descend through Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan, completing the trio’s six-month orbit. The trio spent Tuesday packing up cargo and personal gear for stowage on the returning Soyuz and conditioning their bodies for the return to gravity.
ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will take over as station commander from Artemyev before he departs next week during the traditional handover ceremony. The leadership change will be broadcast live on NASA TV, the agency’s app, and its website on September 28 at 9:35 a.m.
Research operations aboard the station are always ongoing, whether the astronauts are conducting the experiments themselves or scientists are conducting the studies remotely from control centers on the ground. Tuesday’s space science plan saw the astronauts busy all day exploring biology, botany, physics and robotics.
Humans and plants are important subjects of study in space as researchers learn to support crews in space for longer missions and further from Earth. NASA flight engineer Jessica Watkins on Tuesday scanned her arteries with an ultrasound machine and took her blood pressure to understand the risks to the cardiovascular system from space radiation. NASA astronaut Bob Hines planted vegetables for the soilless XROOTS botany study, which examines the use of hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants in space.
Technology is also key to the success of manned missions, allowing astronauts to focus more on scientific activities and less on ground pilots. NASA flight engineer Kjell Lindgren studied through the KERMIT microscope how microgravity affects the microstructures of foam to advance research and commercial opportunities on Earth and in space. Finally, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti tested the use of a smartphone device to guide and control Astrobee robotic free-flyers while assisting crews in scientific operations.
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