The astronauts Sergey Prokopyev, German flight engineer Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will undock the spacecraft from the International Space Station and travel back to Earth today, according to NASA. The section of the spacecraft carrying the crew, will make a parachute-and-rocket-assisted touchdown near the town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. Prokopyev will command the Soyuz flight which will be live-streamed on NASA TV. The flight plan called for the crew to board the Soyuz MS-09/55S spacecraft and seal the hatch around 3.50 am IST, undocking from the space station’s Earth-facing Rassvet module at 8:40 p.m. Prokopyev and Auñón-Chancellor have logged 196 days 17 hours and 51 minutes off the planet during their first space mission while Gerst, is a veteran of a 165-day stay aboard the station.
Live now on @NASA TV, three Exp 57 crew members are seated inside their Soyuz crew ship ready to undock at 8:40pm ET and take a near 3.5-hour ride back to Earth. #AskNASA | https://t.co/yuOTrZ4Jut pic.twitter.com/LrwA0trFGt— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) December 20, 2018
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Earlier, Russian Soyuz spacecraft landed one astronaut each from the US and Canada and a cosmonaut from Russia, on the International Space Station (ISS). Soyuz had Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques on board. Saint-Jacques and McClain were on board for the first time, while Kononenko has already logged 533 days in space and this trip will be his fourth mission.
The three crew members are conducting experiments in forest observation, robotic refuelling and satellite deployment. The first failed mission raised concerns about Moscow’s Soviet-designed spacecraft, however, Russia’s Rocosmos space agency has confirmed that the previous aborted mission was caused by a faulty sensor.
Earlier, flight controllers on the ISS detected a tiny leak on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex, as the Expedition 56 crew slept. The leak resulted in a small loss of cabin pressure said Mark Garcia, NASA official. Flight controllers determined there was no immediate danger to the crew overnight.
“Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger, and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. Flight controllers will monitor the pressure trends overnight,” Garcia said. “All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday,” he said.