A 173 days long space expedition is over for the International space station crew and they are gearing up towards home. The three crew members of Expedition 50 – Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will take a ride back to Earth today in the Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-02.
Expedition 50 began in October, and lasted 173 days in space. Kimbrough handed over command of the ISS to another NASA astronaut, Peggy Whitson, on Sunday, who leads Expedition 51, with Oleg Novitskiy from Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet from European Space Agency as flight engineers. They are expected to be joined by Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikin and NASA’s Jack Fischer, who will leave Earth on April 20, bringing the total crew size to five.
Ryzhikov, who is on his first mission, will command the Soyuz during its undocking and reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Borisenko and Kimbrough are both wrapping up their second visit to space. Whitson will become station commander for the second time in her career Sunday less than 24 hours before her crewmates undock from the Poisk module.
As I am writing this article, the astronauts are already getting closer towards Earth. There have been two separation firings by the Soyuz’s thrusters have been completed to accelerate the spacecraft’s departure from the International Space Station. They are scheduled to land today at 4:51 PM (7:21 AM EDT) in Kazakhstan.
After 173 intense space days, the ISS astronauts are coming home and we wish them a safe and happy journey towards Earth, to home. Live streaming and updates about Soyuz spacecraft landings can be viewed here.