Astronauts Swap Station Command Before Cargo and Crew Ships Depart

By  //  April 27, 2021

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The SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts (from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi are pictured shortly after commenting on their mission before returning to Earth this weekend. (NASA Image)

(NASA) – The International Space Station has a new commander today as four astronauts prepare for their return to Earth this Saturday. The orbital residents will also send off a Russian cargo craft on Tuesday evening, completing its year-long stay at the orbital lab.

The four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts have a new splashdown date after mission managers waved off Wednesday’s planned departure due to weather conditions at the landing site.

The quartet of Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, is now targeting a splashdown off the coast of Florida for Saturday at 11:36 a.m. EDT.

NASA TV will begin its continuous live coverage at 3:30 p.m. Friday starting with hatch closure of the Crew Dragon Resilience set for 3:50 p.m. Resilience with its four-person crew will then autonomously undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter at 5:55 p.m. completing a 164-day station research mission.

Walker handed over station command to today Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) during the traditional change of command ceremony. Hoshide, Japan’s second station commander, will now lead Expedition 65 until October of this year.

Hoshide arrived at the orbital lab on April 24 aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour with SpaceX Crew-2. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough commanded Endeavour riding alongside Pilot Megan McArthur and Mission Specialists Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet during the near 24-hour trip that began with a launch from Kennedy Space Center.

Staying on the orbiting lab with the four Crew-2 astronauts are NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio docked to the station’s Rassvet module inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship on April 9 and will stay on orbit until October.

Russia’s ISS Progress 75 cargo craft has been packed with trash and discarded gear and its hatch closed for an undocking today at 7:11 p.m. It will leave the Zvezda service module’s aft port and spend another day orbiting Earth on its own before reentering Earth’s atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe destruction.