Space Station Swaps Command Today Before Three Russian Cosmonauts Depart

Space Station Orbits Above Northwest Sudan

The Soyuz MS-21 crew ship is pictured docked to the International Space Station’s Prichal docking module which is itself attached to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. The station was orbiting 259 miles above northwest Sudan at the time this photograph was taken on September 21, 2022. Credit: NASA

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.

NASA Astronauts Greet New Station Crew Member Frank Rubio

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (center) is greeted by fellow NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines shortly after he arrived at the International Space Station. Rubio docked to the orbiting lab’s Rassvet module earlier with Roscosmos cosmonauts (out of frame) Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin aboard the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship beginning a six-month space research mission. Credit: NASA

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.

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