Four Space Station Crew Members Target Saturday for Return to Earth on SpaceX Dragon
Four Expedition 68 crew members are nearing the end of their stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend. Their replacements are completing their first week aboard the orbital outpost and getting up to speed with life in space.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance with four crewmates is targeted to depart the space station at 2:05 a.m. EST on Saturday and return to Earth less than 24 hours later. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will command and pilot Endurance respectively flanked by Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos. The foursome is due to splashdown off the coast of Florida at 9:19 p.m. on Saturday.
The quartet blasted off toward the orbiting lab as the SpaceX Crew-5 mission on October 5, 2022, and docked to the Harmony module’s forward port on October 6. A variety of crew ships and space freighters arrived and departed, numerous spacewalks were conducted, and a multitude of advanced space research took place during Crew-5’s five-month-long stay in space.
The station’s newest crew members are several days into their orbital residency after their arrival on March 3, as the SpaceX Crew-6 mission. The new flight engineers, Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg of NASA, Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos, have already begun a variety of space research and lab maintenance activities.
The four new station residents have started exploring how microgravity affects the human body and picked a small tomato crop growing for a space agriculture study. They also spent Thursday afternoon familiarizing themselves with space station hardware and emergency equipment located throughout the space lab.
Three other space station residents, Commander Sergey Prokopyev, Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, both from Roscosmos, and NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio, have been living in space since September 21. The trio spent the day stowing biological samples in a science freezer, packing cargo inside the Soyuz MS-22 spaceship, and servicing life support components. They will continue their station mission until later this year and return home inside the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship.