Science Surges on International Space Station Amid Crew-6 Departure Delays

Space Station Pictured From SpaceX Crew Dragon

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly-around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8, 2021. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 69 crew is expected to split up soon when four flight engineers return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. Meanwhile, all crew members on the International Space Station (ISS) spent Friday keeping up their orbital research and maintenance tasks.

Unfavorable weather conditions off the coast of Florida have pushed back Saturday’s planned undocking and splashdown of the four Crew-6 astronauts at least 24 hours. Mission managers from SpaceX and NASA are now targeting the undocking of Endeavour with four crewmates inside for no earlier than 7:05 a.m. EDT on Sunday.

Endeavour Crew’s Return Journey

Endeavour, commanded by NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen and piloted by NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg, is targeted to splash down in the waters off Florida’s coast at 12:07 a.m. on Monday. Flanking the NASA duo during the 19-hour ride back to Earth will be UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. The quartet will be completing a six-month space research mission that began with a launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 2.

Woody Hoburg, Jasmin Moghbeli, and Frank Rubio

From left, are Expedition 69 Flight Engineers Woody Hoburg, Jasmin Moghbeli, and Frank Rubio, all from from NASA, posing for a portrait aboard the International Space Station. The three astronauts were selected as part NASA’s 22nd group of astronauts, nicknamed “The Turtles”, in June of 2017. Credit: NASA

New Arrivals and Their Activities

New station flight engineers Jasmin Moghbeli of NASA, Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency), Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Konstantin Borisov of Roscosmos have been familiarizing themselves with station systems all week. They are turning their attention now to full-time science, cargo, and health activities having been living on the space station since August 27.

Moghbeli transferred research samples to science freezers that will be returned to Earth inside the Endeavour spacecraft with the departing crewmates. Mogensen set up a pair of Kubik research incubators that support studies of seeds, cells, and small mammals inside the Columbus laboratory module. Furukawa worked in the Kibo laboratory module removing a microbiology experiment from a research incubator that can generate artificial gravity. Finally, Borisov unpacked cargo from the Roscosmos Progress 85 cargo craft and tested ways future crews might pilot spacecraft and robots on planetary missions.

Other Crew Activities

The space station’s other three crewmates are due to leave the orbital lab at the end of September completing just over one year orbiting Earth. In the meantime, the trio from NASA and Roscosmos has continued its research and lab upkeep tasks. Astronaut and Flight Engineer Frank Rubio configured and stowed emergency masks and had his eyes scanned by Mogensen using standard medical imaging hardware. Cosmonaut and Commander Sergey Prokopyev partnered with Borisov for the Progress 85 cargo unpacking duties. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin also participated in the futuristic piloting study, then inspected windows in the Zvezda service module, and inventoried cargo in the Poisk module.

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