After more than six months of performing scientific research and technology demonstrations in space, three International Space Station crew members are scheduled to depart the orbiting laboratory Thursday, June 11. NASA Television will provide coverage of their station departure and return to Earth.
Coverage begins at 10:40 a.m. EDT Wednesday, June 10, when Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA hands over command of the space station to cosmonaut Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).
At 6:20 a.m. the following day, Virts and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos will undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the space station and land in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m. (7:43 p.m. Kazakh time).
Their return wraps up 199 days in space, during which they traveled more than 84 million miles since their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 24. Their return date was delayed four weeks to allow Roscosmos to investigate the cause of the loss of the unpiloted Progress 59 cargo ship in late April.
NASA Television will broadcast departure and landing activities at the following times:
Wednesday, June 10
- 10:40 a.m. - Change of command ceremony in which Virts hands over station command to Padalka
- 2:30 a.m. - Farewell and hatch closure coverage (hatch closure scheduled for 2:55 a.m.)
- 6 a.m. - Undocking coverage (undocking scheduled at 6:20 a.m.)
- 8:30 a.m. - Deorbit burn and landing coverage (deorbit burn scheduled at 8:51 a.m., with landing at 9:43 a.m.)
- noon. - Video File of hatch closure, undocking and landing activities
- 10 p.m. - Video File of landing and post-landing activities and post-landing interviews with Virts and Cristoforetti in Kazakhstan
Expedition 44 formally begins aboard the station, under the command of Padalka, when the Soyuz undocks. He and crewmates Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos will operate the station until the arrival of NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan in July.
Kelly and Kornienko are spending one year in space, twice the typical mission duration, to provide researchers the opportunity to learn more about the medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during long duration spaceflight.