The Expedition 55 crew currently orbiting our planet on board the International Space Station (ISS) are busy unpacking all the goodies and science equipment delivered on May 24 by Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply vehicle.
But the cargo spacecraft is not the only one “parked” at the ISS. A Soyuz MS-07 spaceship is also docked with the space station patiently waiting for the weekend when it will carry three of the Expedition 55 crew members back to Earth, NASA announced in a blog post.
June 3 will mark the homecoming of NASA astronaut Scott Tingle (imaged on the right in the photo above), Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai (left), and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (center).
The trio is expected to land in Kazakhstan some 3.5 hours after the Soyuz capsule undocks from the ISS on Sunday.
The three astronauts arrived on board the space station on the same Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft on December 17, 2017. The photo above captures the moments before the trio boarded the Soyuz capsule that lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to take them into space.
When they return home, Tingle, Kanai, and Shkaplerov “will have spent 168 days in space and conducted one spacewalk each,” notes the NASA blog post.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, Shkaplerov, who is Commander of Expedition 55, broke the Russian spacewalk record during an extended space outing on February 2. At the time, the Roscosmos astronaut was acting as flight engineer for Expedition 54 and went outside the ISS to fix an old antenna together with the expedition’s commander and fellow cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.
Kanai also made headlines earlier this year when he worriedly declared on Twitter that he had grown 9 cm taller (or 3.5 inches) while in space and that he was concerned he wouldn’t fit in the Soyuz capsule for the ride home.
According to the Financial Express, the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut later apologized for the misinformation, stemmed from an error in measurement, and clarified that he had stretched only 2 cm from his Earth-bound height (or 0.78 inches).
“It appears I can fit on the Soyuz, so I’m relieved,” Kanai said in a statement, as reported at the time by Reuters.
Shkaplerov and Kanai were also featured in the media in early February, on the occasion of the world’s first badminton match played in outer space. The pair played opposite Misurkin and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, competing in the first-ever badminton tournament in zero-g.
The trio will be replaced on board the ISS by NASA astronauts Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev. The three new crew members of Expedition 56-57 are getting ready for a six-month mission in space and will travel to the ISS in a Soyuz MS-09 capsule launching June 6.
Meanwhile, Tingle, Kanai, and Shkaplerov are preparing for their homecoming and have already started packing gear into the Soyuz MS-07 and checking their spacesuits, NASA reported on May 25.