It has been a long journey for the three astronauts who have been on board the International Space Station as part of Mission 45 for the last 141 days. Those three astronauts will return depart the space station Friday and land in Kazakhstan.
Flight engineers Klell Lindgren, Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui will begin descending from the International Space Station at 4:49 a.m. Eastern on Friday. The trek to Earth will only take three hours, 23 minutes.
The trio’s departure will briefly leave commander Scott Kelly and crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov as the only people in space. On Tuesday, Dec. 15, Tim Kopra, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Peake will liftoff from Kazakhstan to join the crew of the ISS.
Kelly and Kornienko are spending more time in space than usual. The duo is part of a one-year mission to test the long-term effects of space travel. Their mission is helping international space agencies prepare for a possible mission to Mars in the next few decades.
The crewmembers returning Friday launched from Earth on June 11, and will participate in a rare nighttime landing of the Soyuz craft. Soyuz landings are typically scheduled for early in the day to allow officials sufficient daylight to find the craft. Because of the accuracy of recent missions, officials believe they will be able to find where Soyuz parachutes down quickly and easily.
The crewmembers of Expedition 45 have had a busy few days. They spend much of Wednesday preparing Cygnus CRS OA-4 for its docking with the ISS. The craft supplied the crew with care packages, provisions and hardware.