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Dragon Go for the Saturday departure; Post-Spacewalk Cleanup Continues – Space Station

A faint aurora and Earth’s atmospheric glow are pictured above the city lights of Ireland and Great Britain from the space station.

The five astronauts representing the Expedition 66 crew had a day off on Friday while the two cosmonauts continued their activities after the spacewalk. A US supply ship is also on track to leave the International Space Station on Saturday.

Mission controllers gave the all-clear to the Cargo Dragon, loaded with science experiments and station hardware, to detach from the port facing Harmony module space at 10:40 a.m. EST Saturday. Dragon will then parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida early Monday morning to be picked up by SpaceX recovery personnel. NASA TV will only cover undocking and departure activities live on the NASA app and the agency’s website beginning Saturday at 10:15 a.m.

The four American astronauts and one European astronaut aboard the orbiting laboratory relaxed today ahead of the final cargo packing operations inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle on Saturday. NASA astronaut Kayla Barron and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer will begin loading frozen research samples into Dragon on Saturday. After that, NASA flight engineers Thomas Marshburn and Raja Chari will ensure that all of Dragon’s cargo has been secured for safe return to Earth before finally closing the hatch.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will unpack samples of protein crystals, grown on the station and studied for the Advanced Nano Step experiment, then store them inside the Cargo Dragon. Ground scientists will analyze the samples to learn how to develop new materials and drugs in space and the impacts of weightlessness on biochemistry.

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov serviced their Orlan spacesuits today after Wednesday’s seven-hour, 11-minute spacewalk. Vande Hei joined the pair for a few hours in the afternoon to unplug and stow spacesuit components. During the excursion, the Russian astronauts activated the new Prichal docking module, successfully integrating it into the Russian segment of the orbital laboratory.

Learn more about the station’s activities by following the space station blog, @space station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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