Start your Monday morning off right by watching three astronauts return to Earth from the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko are scheduled to leave the ISS in a Soyuz capsule and then make the three-and-a-half-hour journey to our planet’s surface. Though if you want to watch these events unfold, it’s going to be an early-morning wakeup call; the astronauts are slated to enter the Soyuz around 12:40AM ET tomorrow and then undock at 3:57AM ET.
Tomorrow’s departure will wrap up a 173-day stay on board the ISS for the three leaving crew members. The trio launched to the station on the Soyuz in October of last year. This was the second mission to the ISS for both Kimbrough and Borisenko, and the first for Ryzhikov. During their stay, Kimbrough performed three spacewalks to swap out batteries and repair the outside of the ISS — bringing his total number of career spacewalks to six.
With the crew set to leave tomorrow, it means that there’s a new commander on the ISS. Earlier this morning, Kimbrough turned over command of the ISS to NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has been on board the station since November. It’s not the first time she’s held this role, either. Whitson made history in 2008 when she became the first female commander of the ISS, and now she’s making history again by becoming the first woman to command the station twice. It’s just one of many records Whitson is breaking during her mission.
With the command swap, Kimbrough and the rest of the crew are all set to make the trip back to Earth tomorrow. After undocking around 4AM ET on Monday, their Soyuz will stay in orbit for a couple of hours, inching farther away from the ISS. Then at 6:28AM ET, the Soyuz capsule will ignite its engines for a few minutes, taking the vehicle out of orbit and putting it on its descent to Earth. The capsule is then scheduled to land about an hour later at 7:21AM ET in Kazakhstan.
NASA plans to cover the entire departure and landing on its TV channel, starting with the astronauts’ goodbyes after midnight. Check back then to follow the crew as they make the trip back home.