Watch Live As Three People Return From Space Today

It’s time to come home! Expedition 39 astronauts Rick Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata and Mikhail Tyurin will climb into a Russian Soyuz spacecraft later today to make the trip back to Earth from the International Space Station. Much of the activity will play out on NASA TV, which you can watch above. Below are details about when to watch.

These are the descriptions from NASA about when the major events of the day occur. Bear in mind that all of these times are subject to change as circumstances warrant.

3 p.m. EDT / 7 p.m. UTC — Farewells and hatch closure (hatch closure scheduled at 3:15 p.m. / 7:15 p.m. UTC )
6:15 p.m. EDT / 10:15 p.m. UTC — Undocking (undocking scheduled at 6:33 p.m. / 10:33 p.m. UTC)
8:45 p.m. EDT / 12:45 a.m. UTC — Deorbit burn and landing (deorbit burn scheduled at 9:03 p.m. EDT /1:03 a.m. UTC landing scheduled at 9:57 p.m. EDT / 1:57 a.m. UTC)

The crew is expected to land near Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. After doing some quick medical checks on site, the crew will be flown out separately to do more detailed testing at their local medical centers.

With Wakata flying home, the station is now under the command of Expedition 40 NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, who will oversee activities there along with Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. The rest of the Expedition 40 crew should fly to station May 28, if all goes to plan.

Event Alert: Watch Space Station Hatch Opening Live Tonight

Update, 8:33 p.m. EDT: The Soyuz spacecraft arrived safely at station at 7:53 p.m. EDT (11:53 a.m. UTC) and coverage of the hatch opening is scheduled at 10:15 p.m. EDT (2:15 a.m. UTC).

After spending an extra couple of days in the cramped Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the incoming International Space Station crew will likely be very be glad to get out and stretch their legs. You can check out the festivities live in the video link above.

Three people are set to make a docking with the orbiting complex at 7:58 p.m. EDT (11:58 p.m. UTC). If all goes to schedule, they’ll pop the hatch open at 10:40 p.m. EDT (2:40 a.m. UTC). Meanwhile, engineers are trying to figure out what caused the malfunction that prevented a docking as planned on Tuesday (March 25).

Remember that all schedules are subject to change, so tune into NASA TV well before each event happens.

The Expedition 39/40 crew lifted off Tuesday afternoon (EDT) from Kazakhstan to take a fast track to the space station that should have seen them dock on launch day. The Soyuz has to make three engine firings or burns to accomplish this. The docking was cancelled after the third burn did not happen as planned. The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has determined this was because the spacecraft was in the wrong orientation, but the underlying cause is still being investigated.

Once this happened, the crew switched to a standard backup procedure to bring them to the station in two days instead. (This path, in fact, was what all crews did up until last year.) The crew is safe and in good spirits heading up to the docking, NASA has said. The Soyuz has done several other engine firings since, with no incident.

The Soyuz crew includes Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). Awaiting them on the station are Koichi Wakata (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency),  Rick Mastracchio (NASA) and Mikhail Tyurin (Roscosmos). Wakata is in command of the station, marking a first for Japan’s astronaut corps.

Astronauts ‘In Good Shape’ As They Face Space Station Docking Delay

Despite a problem that held up last night’s International Space Station docking, the Expedition 39/40 crew is doing well as they execute a standard backup procedure to bring their Soyuz spacecraft to the station on Thursday, NASA said.

The crew was originally expected to dock with the station around 11 p.m. EDT (3 a.m. UTC), but an error with the spacecraft’s position in space prevented the engines from doing a third planned “burn” or firing to make that possible, NASA said in an update.

“At this point, the crew is in good shape and the vehicle appears to be in good shape,” said Kenny Todd, the space station’s operations integration manager, in an interview on NASA TV Wednesday morning (EDT). “At this point, everything looks real good.”

In fact, the spacecraft has done a couple of burns since to get it into the right spot for a docking Thursday evening, Todd added. (So it appears the crew just missed the window to get there on Tuesday night.) The underlying cause of the orientation problem was not mentioned in the interview, presumably because it’s still being investigated.

NASA is quite familiar with a two-day route to the space station as up until last year, all crews took two days to get to the space station. This took place for 14 years until a rapider method of reaching the orbiting complex within hours was introduced.

The crew includes  Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos), who will join three people already on station when they arrive.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata plays around wiith humanoid robot Robonaut 2 during Expedition 39 in March 2014. Credit: NASA
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata plays around wiith humanoid robot Robonaut 2 during Expedition 39 in March 2014. Credit: NASA

Current station residents Koichi Wakata (the commander, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency),  Rick Mastracchio (NASA) and Mikhail Tyurin (Roscosmos) got to sleep in this morning and had some minor modifications to their schedule because of the docking delay, Todd added.

Instead of taking the day off as planned, the crew will do some work. A planned ISS software update for last night is going to be pushed “down the line”, Todd said, adding that the forthcoming SpaceX launch on Sunday and docking on Tuesday is still going ahead as planned.

We’ll provide more updates as the situation progresses. Docking is scheduled for 7:58 p.m. EDT (11:58 p.m. UTC) Thursday and will be covered on NASA Television.