Crew Gets Ready for Russian, U.S. Spaceship Activities This Week

The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured above Hurricane Henri in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 21, 2021.

A Soyuz crew ship with three Expedition 65 crew members aboard will move to a new docking port on Tuesday. Two days after that a U.S. cargo craft will depart the International Space Station and return to Earth packed with science experiments and station hardware for retrieval.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship when it switches ports on Tuesday. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. EDT. Then they will maneuver temporarily toward the U.S. segment for a quick photo session of the orbiting lab’s configuration. Shortly afterward, Novitskiy will manually guide the Soyuz spaceship back toward the Russian segment and dock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at 9 a.m.

This opens up Rassvet’s port for next month’s arrival of the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship carrying veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and two Russian spaceflight participants to the station. NASA TV will begin its live Tuesday coverage of the relocation at 8 a.m. on the NASA app and the agency’s website.

While the station trio ramps up for the docking port change, two NASA astronauts are loading the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship today with science gear and other cargo. Flight Engineer Megan McArthur started her day transferring cargo inside the Dragon vehicle. NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough configured science freezers inside Dragon that will contain research samples for analysis back on Earth.

Cargo Dragon leaves the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter on Thursday at 9:05 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast Dragon’s undocking and departure starting at 8:45 a.m. but will not be on air when the returning spacecraft splashes down off the coast of Florida about 14 hours later.

Science rolled on today, as Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and  ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet partnered up during the afternoon for space biology work in the Kibo laboratory module. The duo later prepared research samples for return to Earth inside Dragon’s science freezers.