The newly-expanded International Space Station (ISS) crew of 11 members kicked off a busy work week on Monday, March 6, conducting a variety of research and visiting vehicle activities. At the same time, four members of Expedition 68 are preparing to conclude their mission and depart from the space station back to Earth.
New station residents Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg of NASA, who commanded and piloted the SpaceX Crew-6 mission respectively, reviewed docked Crew Dragon procedures first thing on Monday. The duo, along with Crew-6 mission specialist Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos, automatically docked Crew Dragon Endeavour to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 1:40 a.m. EST on Friday. The quartet will live and work aboard the orbital outpost for six months.
The four newest crew members continue getting up to speed with life on orbit familiarizing themselves with space station operations and systems. The foursome also spent Monday installing new space biology hardware, replacing electronic components, and updating emergency procedures for the expanded crew.
The orbiting crew will soon return to a seven-member status when four station residents finalize their mission that began last year. Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, along with Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, launched to the station as the SpaceX Crew-5 mission on October 5 joining the Expedition 68 crew one day later. All four homebound crew members have begun their handover activities. They will enter the Crew Dragon Endurance, undock from the Harmony module’s forward port, then splash down off the coast of Florida on a soon-to-be-announced date.
The next Dragon mission to the station will be the SpaceX CRS-27 resupply mission scheduled for March 14 at 8:30 p.m. EDT. The Dragon cargo craft will automatically dock about 24 hours later to the Harmony port vacated by the Crew Dragon Endurance when it undocks a few days earlier.
The space station’s other three crewmates, Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos, and NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio joined each other and practiced on a computer the procedures for returning to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship. Rubio earlier had removed his seat liner from the Crew Dragon Endurance and installed it inside the MS-23. Prokopyev and Petelin also conducted tests inside the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship that will return to Earth unoccupied in late March.
The orbital outpost maneuvered out of the way of an Earth observation satellite early Monday. The docked ISS Progress 83 resupply ship fired its engines for just over six minutes slightly raising the station’s orbit to avoid the approaching satellite. The new orbital trajectory will not impact the upcoming departure of the Crew-5 mission.