Soyuz MS-17 Trio Return Safely to Earth, As NASA Makes Lunar Lander Decision

Soyuz MS-17’s descent completes its remaining, parachute-aided drop to the desolate Kazakh steppe, after six months in orbit. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Expedition 64 has formally concluded with the secure departure and homecoming of Soyuz MS-17 crew members Sergei Ryzhikov, Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and Kate Rubins. Following a customary change-of-command ceremony on —during which Ryzhikov relinquished the helm of the Worldwide House Station (ISS) to Shannon Walker—the outgoing trio boarded their Soyuz automobile and closed the hatch early Friday night.

Solely hours than the crew’s return, NASA formally down-selected SpaceX to construct the Human Touchdown System (HLS) to plant the primary Artemis Crew astronauts—of whom Rubins is one member—on the floor of the Moon within the coming years. Awarded a contract valued at $2.89 billion, SpaceX’s pipped fellow HLS opponents Dynetics and a “Nationwide Crew”, led by , to the publish.

Video Credit score: NASA

On the immediate of undocking at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday, Expedition 64 ended and Expedition 65 started beneath Walker’s command. Slightly over three hours later, at 12:55 a.m. EDT Saturday, following a searing hypersonic descent by means of the ambiance, the bell-shaped descent module of Soyuz MS-17 touched down easily on the desolate Central Asian steppe, near the Kazakh copper-mining metropolis of Jezkazgan.

All informed, Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins wrapped up a mission of 184 days, 23 hours and 10 minutes and accomplished some 2,960 orbits of Earth. In a bit of over six months, they traveled in extra of 78.Four million miles (126 million km). Launched from Baikonur final 14 October—on Rubins’ birthday—they adopted the first-ever “ultra-fast” rendezvous profile, docking on the ISS solely three hours and two orbits later.

Kate Rubins has now logged greater than 300 days in house throughout her two missions. Photograph Credit score: NASA

The newcomers have been welcomed aboard the station by resident Expedition 63 crewmen Chris Cassidy, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who concluded their very own six-month keep a couple of days later and Ryzhikov took command of Expedition 64.

In mid-November, with the launch and arrival of Crew-1 astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, Expedition 64 sprang as much as the first-ever seven-person long-duration increment. Thus started a exceptional half-year of operations aboard the orbital outpost, during which Glover grew to become probably the most flight-seasoned African-American spacefarer, tons of of analysis investigations in planet biology, coronary heart research and cell progress have been carried out and 6 classes of Extravehicular Exercise (EVA) have been undertaken.

Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov spent a month as a crew of three, earlier than Dragon Resilience arrived final November. As a consequence, Expedition 64 expanded into the first-ever seven-person long-duration crew. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Final November, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov attended to a mess of duties exterior the Russian Orbital (ROS), while Hopkins, Glover, Rubins and Noguchi supported 5 spacewalks between January and March to wrap up battery set up work on the P-Four truss, configure a Ka-band antenna and the Bartolomeo payloads-anchoring platform on Europe’s Columbus lab and put together for future ISS Roll-Out Photo voltaic Array (iROSA) upgrades.

As Expedition 64 concludes, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov have each logged six hours and 48 minutes on their first profession EVA, whereas Rubins—who performed two spacewalks on this mission and one other two on her 2016 Expedition 48/49 increment—has now totaled 26 hours and 46 minutes on 4 EVAs.

Soyuz MS-17, seen at left, has spent six months on the Worldwide House Station (ISS). Photograph Credit score: NASA

The crew additionally welcomed a minimum of three uncrewed visiting autos. SpaceX’s CRS-21 Dragon arrived in December, marking its first flight beneath the second-round Business Resupply Providers (CRS2) contract, and carried a spread of analysis payloads and NanoRacks’ Bishop business airlock uphill, earlier than departing in mid-January. And in February, Russia’s Progress MS-16 and Grumman .’s NG-15 Cygnus arrived on the house station. One other automobile, Progress MS-15, additionally departed in February. Extra not too long ago, Soyuz MS-18 launched and docked on 9 April, carrying new crewmen Oleg Novitsky, Pyotr Dubrov and Mark Vande Hei.

With their secure return to Earth, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov went on to the Star Metropolis cosmonauts’ coaching middle, on the forested outskirts of Moscow, while Rubins was set to fly residence to Ellington Discipline in Houston, Texas. All informed, Rubins has logged greater than 300 cumulative days in house, setting her in fourth place behind Suni Williams, Christina Koch and Peggy Whitson on the checklist of most skilled feminine astronauts.

Kate Rubins works to organize Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover for an EVA in January. Photograph Credit score: NASA

And Rubins is anticipated to press into her subsequent project within the not-too-distant future. Final December, while on orbit with Glover, the 2 astronauts have been introduced as members of NASA’s 18-strong “Artemis Crew”, the group of women and men who will assist the primary missions to lunar distance a couple of years therefore. Extra not too long ago, on 28 February, Rubins and Glover carried out an EVA collectively, which marked the primary spacewalk ever performed by the Artemis Crew.

Solely hours earlier than Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins landed, NASA on Friday named SpaceX and its under-development Starship automobile because the prime Human Touchdown System (HLS) for these long-awaited lunar voyages. Alongside Dynetics and a “Nationwide Crew” led by Blue , SpaceX was initially chosen final spring and the three opponents pressed right into a ten-month design and growth course of.

SpaceX’s Starship in the end gained out in opposition to Dynetics and the Blue Origin Nationwide Crew for the Human Touchdown System (HLS) award. Picture Credit score: NASA

Blue Origin’s giant HLS mockup arrived in Houston for purposeful and habitability testing final summer time, accomplished its rigorous System Necessities Assessment (SRR) in September and its spectacular scope was laid naked in a January 2021 webinar. In the meantime, in February, Dynetics wrapped up its Preliminary Design Assessment (PDR) for its personal HLS idea.

In opposition to this backdrop, SpaceX has continued to press forward with Starship trials from Suborbital Pads A and B at its “Starbase” at Boca Chica in Texas. Because the HLS award final spring, no fewer than six take a look at flights have been performed, reaching altitudes as excessive as 7.7 miles (12.5 km), equal to about 41,000 toes. In response to NASA, the firm-fixed-price, milestone-based contract to SpaceX is valued at $2.89 billion.

Flight plan schematic for Artemis-1, the primary House Launch System (SLS) mission, focused for late 2021. Picture Credit score: NASA

“With this award, NASA and our companions will full the primary crewed demonstration mission to the floor of the Moon within the 2 century, because the company takes a step ahead for girls’s equality and long-term deep-space exploration,” mentioned Kathy Lueders, NASA’s affiliate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations and Mission Directorate (HEOMD). “This vital step places humanity on a path to sustainable lunar exploration and retains our eyes on missions farther into the Photo voltaic System, together with Mars.”

“That is an thrilling time for NASA and particularly the Artemis Crew,” added Lisa Watson-Morgan, program supervisor for HLS at NASA’s Marshall House Flight Middle (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala. “In the course of the Apollo program, we proved that it’s attainable to do the seemingly not possible: land people on the Moon. By taking a collaborative method in working with trade whereas leveraging NASA’s confirmed technical experience and capabilities, we are going to return American astronauts to the Moon’s floor as soon as once more, this time to discover new areas for longer intervals of time.”

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