After five and a half months orbiting Earth, it's time for a US astronaut, a Japanese astronaut, and a Russian cosmonaut to come home.
Three astronauts are leaving the International Space Station and headed back to Earth this weekend. NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will be making the three and a half hour descent on Sunday after five and a half months orbiting the planet.
A new trio of astronauts will be replacing them, launching June 6, just a few days after the current crew returns to Earth. Shkaplerov handed over control of the station to NASA astronaut Drew Feustel on Friday, and early on Sunday morning they will take the journey back to Earth, with the three of them climbing in the Russian Soyuz capsule.
Just before 8 a.m., the capsule is scheduled to ignite its engines and move out of Earth orbit, hurtling to the ground in a fiery descent. A series of parachuts will slow Soyuz down, and then about 40 minutes after firing the engines, it should end up somewhere in Kazakhstan.
“The Expedition 55 crew is unloading the Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter today ahead of next week’s crew swap at the International Space Station,” reads a NASA statement. “On top of the cargo transfers and crew departure activities, the orbital residents are also running space experiments to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts in space. NASA Flight Engineer Scott Tingle has been working inside Cygnus today unpacking station hardware and research gear delivered just last week. He removed science kits and spacewalking gear and stowed them throughout the orbital lab.”