The Expedition 59 crew is going into the weekend preparing to split up on Monday amidst an array of ongoing human research. The orbital residents are also working on power upgrades and filming a virtual reality experience today.
Kononenko will hand over station command to cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin in a ceremony slated for Sunday at 3:35 p.m. live on NASA TV. Ovchinin officially becomes commander of Expedition 60 when the homebound trio’s Soyuz undocks Monday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are continuing their stay aboard the orbiting lab.
McClain and Saint-Jacques participated in one final study today exploring behavior, performance and cognition in space. The duo practiced grappling a cargo craft during a robotic simulation for the Behavioral Core Measures study. McClain also prepared a CubeSat for deployment next week. Saint-Jacques recorded a science video demonstrating Newton’s second and third laws in microgravity.
Hague joined McClain during the morning setting up the CubeSat hardware inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. In the afternoon, he partnered up with Koch and upgraded power electronics hardware in the Harmony module.
Finally, all six crewmembers gathered in the Zvezda service module at dinnertime and videotaped their activities with a 360-degree camera. The crew has been filming a variety of immersive, cinematic experiences throughout their mission to share with audiences on Earth.
Station Trio Reviews Landing Procedures During Human, Physics Research
Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are reviewing the procedures they will use on their way to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station early next week. In the midst of the departure preparations, the six orbital residents also had time set aside for biomedical science and physics research aboard the orbiting lab.
Commander Oleg Kononenko will lead astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques back to Earth on Monday inside the Soyuz MS-11spacecraft after 204 days in space. The trio spent the afternoon practicing their Soyuz undocking, atmosphere reentry and landing procedures. The homebound crew also familiarized themselves with the g-forces and the physical sensations they will experience when they penetrate Earth’s atmosphere 100 kilometers above Earth’s surface.
McClain continued more biomedical tests Thursday as she submitted breath samples for the Marrow fat and blood cell study. Saint-Jacques injected control samples inside the new Bio-Analyzer to demonstrate the rapid analysis of blood, urine and saliva samples in microgravity.
Flight Engineer Christina Koch is in the midst of a ten-and-a-half month mission on the station, conducting scientific research and station maintenance. Today, she explored the possibility of producing high-grade fiber optic cables made possible only in microgravity. Fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who is staying in space until October, nourished and collected samples of microalgae grown inside the Photobioreactor. The study is demonstrating biological processes that may support hybrid life support systems in space.
Soyuz MS-11 preparing to return ISS trio back to Earth
The Russian Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, returning NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency to Earth. The End Of Mission events began on Sunday, with a Space station change of command ceremony, during which Konenenko handed over command to Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Undocking is set to take place at 7:25 pm Eastern on Monday.
The crew is completing a 204-day mission spanning 3,264 orbits of the Earth and a journey of 86.4 million miles.
McClain first trip into space has been a busy mission, including two spacewalks that completed a battery swapout and worked on the Station’s power systems.
Among her numerous tasks on the Station, McClain also took part in welcoming the first Commercial Crew vehicle to the ISS, as Dragon 2 completed its opening DM-1 flight.
She also made friends with one of Dragon’s passengers, leading to numerous viral tweets and an unaware producer of “Little Earth” toys running out of stock.
David Saint-Jacques of the CSA is also completing his first spaceflight and was involved with one of McClain’s EVAs, his first.
Following McClain’s tour of the ISS, Saint-Jacques was also heavily involved with the Visiting Vehicles that arrived and departed from the ISS, which involved obvious synergy via the use of the Canadian robotic assets. He was last involved with the departure of the CRS-17 Dragon, which was released by the Canadian SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System).
Saint-Jacques’ mission will be the longest single spaceflight by a Canadian astronaut.
They will be transported home under the command of Kononenko, which will have logged 737 days in space on his four flights, putting him in sixth place on the all-time list of space travelers for cumulative time.
Following the handover ceremony, McClain will close the hatch to their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft Monday afternoon and undock from the station.
Following undocking, Soyuz will enjoy a few hours of free flight as it departs from the Station’s neighborhood via two separation burns while the onboard crew prepare for the final aspect of their mission.
The deorbit burn will occur at 9:55 p.m Eastern, reducing the Soyuz’s velocity just enough for it to begin the plunge back to Earth via a 4 min, 40 second retrograde firing.
The Soyuz will then enter the critical part of its mission as the spacecraft has no other option but to re-enter.
The first milestone is module separation as the three major elements of the Soyuz spacecraft – the OM, DM and Instrumentation/Propulsion Module (IPM) – are pushed apart via the use of pyrotechnics.
All three modules nominally separate simultaneously – shortly after the deorbit burn is completed – at around 140 km altitude.
Two “off nominal” re-entries occurred in 2007 and 2008 and were the cause of separation failures on the modules, thus initiating a very stressful return for their three-person crews.
Known as “ballistic entry” – the crew have to endure much higher G-forces and land at an alternative site.
Mitigation against this issue has resulted in no further issues with the module separation milestone in any of the following missions.
Once through the plasma of entry interface, the capsule is prepared for the deployment of its drogue chute. This readies the spacecraft for the deployment of its main parachute.
This is one of the hardest parts of the return for the crew, which has been described as being inside a washing machine by some returning astronauts.
The Soyuz craft then completes the return to terra firma, landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan. This is scheduled to occur at 10:48 p.m Eastern.
The exact timing of touchdown, under a “soft” thruster engine firing, is always dependent on a number of factors – such as the impact of winds on the Soyuz chutes – and can vary by several minutes.
With the Soyuz safely back on Earth, ground and air crews will converge on the Soyuz and extract the crew from the SA.
The crew will undergo immediate and preliminary health checks once outside their Soyuz spacecraft. All three are then transferred to a medical tent and then prepared for transit away from the landing site.
After landing, the crew will return by helicopter to the recovery staging area in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, where McClain and Saint-Jacques will board a NASA plane for their return to Houston, and Kononenko will return to his home in Star City, Russia.
NASA Astronaut Anne McClain, Crewmates Return from Space Station Mission
NASA astronaut Anne McClain is assisted out of the Soyuz MS-11 that returned her and crewmates Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency back to Earth on June 24, 2019, landing in a remote area near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, after 204 days aboard the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain and two of her Expedition 59crewmates returned to Earth from the International Space Station Monday, landing safely in Kazakhstan at 10:47 p.m. EDT (8:47 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, local time) after months of science and four spacewalks aboard the microgravity laboratory.
McClain, Expedition 59/Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency launched Dec. 3, 2018. They arrived at the space station just six hours later to begin their 204-day mission, during which they orbited Earth 3,264 times traveling 86,430,555 miles.
After post-landing medical checks, McClain and Saint-Jacques will return to Houston and Kononenko to Star City, Russia.
McClain, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and native of Spokane, Washington, conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 8 minutes on her mission into space.
Saint-Jacques, also on his first space mission and only the sixth Canadian astronaut to perform a spacewalk, joined McClain on her second outing, which totaled 6 hours and 29 minutes. Kononenko, on his fourth mission, conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 46 minutes, bringing his career total to 32 hours and 13 minutes spread over five spacewalks.
When their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft undocked at 7:25 p.m., Expedition 60 began aboard the station officially, with Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA as flight engineers, and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos as the station’s commander.
The next residents to arrive at the space station – Andrew Morgan of NASA, Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos – will launch aboard Soyuz MS-13 on July 20, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and join Expedition 60 after a six-hour flight.