NASA astronauts working at the International Space Station (ISS) begin packing SpaceX Dragon to send cargo to Earth as part of the agency’s 24th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-24) mission. The spacecraft arrived to the orbiting laboratory on December 22; It delivered 6,500 pounds of cargo, including Christmas presents and holiday dinner treats for the seven-member ISS Expedition 66 crew. Dragon CRS-24 has been docked to the Space Station for almost a month and it is scheduled to autonomously return cargo to Earth this week (uncrewed). It will undock on January 21st at 10:40 a.m. Eastern Time. “Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, will send commands at 10:40 a.m. for Dragon to undock from the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module and fire its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station. Controllers will command a deorbit burn the following day,” NASA announced in a press release.
Dragon will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere over the weekend and perform a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida at around 4:25 p.m. Saturday, January 22nd. “Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the experiments to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, allowing researchers to collect data with minimal sample exposure to Earth’s gravity,” NASA representatives said.
SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts loaded Dragon with over 4,900 pounds of cargo, including the results of important scientific experiments that were conducted in microgravity. Last week, NASA Flight Engineers SpaceX Crew-3 members Kayla Barron and Raja Chari helped organize the cargo inside the Cargo Dragon. Chari spent some time swapping out components inside a freezer aboard Dragon, to make room for the samples that will return. Some of the tools and science research that will return aboard Dragon this week include: The Light Microscopy Module (LMM), which is a light imaging microscope that was in use for about 12 years at the Space Station. An experiment by the European Space Agency that studies Cytoskeleton will also return. The research is designed to expand knowledge on how the human body responds to microgravity. “The study could support development of countermeasures to help astronaut crew members maintain optimum health on future space missions,” the agency says. NASA will livestream when Dragon CRS-24 undocks on Friday via NASA Television, linked in the video below.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: NASA