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After ISS command change, NASA's Crew-3 prepares to undock for trip home

Written by  Thursday, 05 May 2022 08:00
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Washington DC (UPI) May 4, 2021
NASA's Crew-3 astronauts are preparing to undock from the International Space Station on Thursday after a six-month stay at the orbital outpost. Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn of NASA, along with Matthias Maurer of Germany, are expected to board their Dragon spacecraft and close the hatch at 11:20 p.m. EDT, ahead of undocking from the ISS for the trip back to Earth. C

NASA's Crew-3 astronauts are preparing to undock from the International Space Station on Thursday after a six-month stay at the orbital outpost.

Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn of NASA, along with Matthias Maurer of Germany, are expected to board their Dragon spacecraft and close the hatch at 11:20 p.m. EDT, ahead of undocking from the ISS for the trip back to Earth.

Controllers plan to undock the Crew Dragon capsule, named Endurance, at 1:05 a.m. EDT Thursday for the flight back to Earth.

NASA TV will stream the undocking live starting at 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

A pre-dawn splashdown is expected around 1:05 a.m. EDT on Friday, according to NASA.

"Weather is being watched closely to confirm selected primary & alternate sites are good for return," Kathy Leuders, associate administrator for NASA's space operations mission directorate, said on Twitter.

Over the course of the mission, Crew-3 has conducted hundreds of research projects and welcomed two new crews of astronauts -- Crew-4, which launched on April 27 and arrived at ISS about 15 hours later, and the first crew of private astronauts.

Crew-4 -- NASA's Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins, and Bob Hines as well as Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA -- will stay on ISS for six months.

Crew-3 astronauts also welcomed the first private group of astronauts to fly to the space station on a commercial spacecraft.

The first private group of astronauts to fly to ISS -- Michael Lopez-Aligria, Larry Conoor, Mark Pathy and Etyan Stibbe -- were part of Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission.

That journey saw the four private citizens spend 16 days at the station, carrying out scientific research before returning to Earth.

To prepare for the journey home, Crew-3 donned their spacesuits and made sure there were no issues ahead of Thursday's undocking, handing off each of the tasks and projects they were working on.

Marshburn then handed command of the space station over to Russia's Oleg Artemyev.

"The lasting legacy of the space station is that it remains the center of international cooperation and a place of peace," Marshburn said. "I know we're leaving the station in good hands with you, Oleg."

"Thank you for your friendship and your leadership," Artemyev said. "It's only been a short time, but on behalf of myself, Denis and Sergey, we've enjoyed our time with you and you are all our brothers and sisters in space."

While Crew-3 will board their Dragon spacecraft tonight ahead of the trip back to Earth, the departure was actually delayed 24 hours so that officials could get a better look at the weather expected in the planned splashdown zones.

Leuders said the weather looks good for undocking, but officials are still keeping a close watch on the forecast.

The capsule, which is fully autonomous, will navigate itself away from the space station before ground controllers give the go ahead for de-orbit burn.

Endurance will then fire up its thrusters and drop through the atmosphere. As it descends, parachutes will deploy, slowing the craft enough to safely splash down in the ocean off the coast of Florida.

SpaceX and NASA have designated seven potential landing sites, though which one opt for depends on the weather and sea states at the time of landing.

Once the crew splashes down, recovery teams will hoist the capsule out of the water and the crew will be extracted and flown via helicopter back to Cape Canaveral.

"100 years from now, we'll be looking back on the ISS not only as an incredible engineering accomplishment, but also on its ability to improve human life," Marshburn said. "We're proud to be a part of that."


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