SpaceX Dragon Prepares for Return to Earth from ISS

by Santiago Fernandez
SpaceX Dragon ISS Return

In July 2022, a SpaceX Dragon resupply vessel, viewed from the SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship window, neared the International Space Station over the south Atlantic Ocean. The craft carried over 5,800 pounds of new scientific experiments and supplies for the crew. Credit: NASA

On Wednesday, the Expedition 70 team completed loading a U.S. freight vehicle in preparation for its departure from the International Space Station. The crew of seven in orbit also engaged in various human research projects, aiming to understand the maintenance of human health in space.

On Wednesday, four astronauts coordinated the final transfer of cargo into the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. The Dragon, attached to the station since November 11, was initially scheduled to undock at 9:05 p.m. EST on Wednesday from the station’s Harmony module’s forward port. However, due to weather conditions, the undocking has been rescheduled to 5:05 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 21.

NASA will broadcast the undocking and departure of Dragon live starting at 8:45 p.m. on NASA+ streaming service, available on the web, the NASA app, NASA Television, YouTube, and the agency’s website, detailing how to access NASA TV across various platforms, including social media.

In April 2023, a SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approached the International Space Station, carrying over 6,200 pounds of scientific experiments, crew supplies, and additional cargo for the Expedition 68 crew. The spacecrafts were approximately 269 miles above the Indian Ocean near Madagascar at the time of the photo. Credit: NASA

Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Andreas Mogensen initiated the science payload’s return in the morning, transferring frozen research samples from station freezers into insulated bags in Dragon for science transport. Astronauts Loral O’Hara and Satoshi Furukawa then took over the transfers within the Destiny, Kibo, and Columbus laboratory modules, packing them into Dragon. NASA flight engineers O’Hara and Moghbeli finalized the process by securing fresh astronaut blood samples inside Dragon for later retrieval and analysis on Earth. Moghbeli, as the final crew member in Dragon, will exit and seal its hatch a few hours prior to departure.

The Expedition 70 crew of seven, captured in a portrait inside the ISS’s Kibo laboratory module, includes ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Andreas Mogensen, NASA Flight Engineers Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, Roscosmos Flight Engineers Nikolai Chub, Konstantin Borisov, and Oleg Kononenko, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa. Credit: NASA

Beginning their shifts, all four crewmates collected blood and saliva samples for the CIPHER suite of 14 experiments, studying the impact of weightlessness on the human body. O’Hara also conducted a cognition test to assess brain function in space. Moghbeli downloaded medical data from a health-monitoring vest and headband. At day’s end, Furukawa and Mogensen, representing JAXA and ESA, used the Ultrasound 2 device to scan each other’s neck, shoulder, and leg veins.

Meanwhile, the station’s three cosmonauts concentrated on their Roscosmos-based scientific experiments and lab upkeep. Flight Engineers Konstantin Borisov and Nikolai Chub participated in two distinct fitness tests, with Borisov cycling and Chub running on a treadmill, both connected to sensors to measure aerobic capacity. Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko executed another 3D printing session, showcasing tool and supply manufacturing in microgravity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about SpaceX Dragon ISS Return

What is the purpose of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s mission to the ISS?

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s mission involves transporting over 5,800 pounds of new scientific experiments and crew supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) to support ongoing research and maintenance of the station’s crew.

When did the SpaceX Dragon initially dock with the International Space Station?

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft initially docked with the International Space Station on November 11, as part of its mission to deliver supplies and support scientific experiments.

What were the main activities of the Expedition 70 crew aboard the ISS?

The Expedition 70 crew was involved in packing the U.S. cargo craft for its return to Earth and conducting various human research studies, which included transferring research samples and conducting health monitoring and fitness evaluations to understand the effects of living in space on the human body.

What was the new departure schedule for the SpaceX Dragon due to weather conditions?

Originally scheduled to undock at 9:05 p.m. EST on a Wednesday, the SpaceX Dragon’s departure was rescheduled to 5:05 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 21, due to weather conditions.

How can the public view the SpaceX Dragon’s undocking and departure?

The public can view the live coverage of SpaceX Dragon’s undocking and departure via NASA’s streaming service, NASA+, which is accessible through the web, the NASA app, NASA Television, YouTube, and the agency’s website.

More about SpaceX Dragon ISS Return

  • SpaceX Dragon Mission Overview
  • International Space Station Updates
  • Expedition 70 Crew Activities
  • NASA Streaming Services Information
  • Space Research and Experiments on ISS

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RocketRachael December 21, 2023 - 3:06 pm

this article is great but it’s missing some key info, like how long is the mission, and what are these “human research studies” specifically?

SpaceFanatic99 December 21, 2023 - 6:33 pm

wow, the amount of stuff they’re doing up there is incredible, science in space is just mind-blowing_xD83D__xDE2E_

GalacticGary December 21, 2023 - 11:16 pm

Can’t wait to see the live stream of the Dragon’s return, NASA’s coverage is always top notch! though their app can be a bit glitchy sometimes _xD83D__xDE05_

TechGuyTim December 22, 2023 - 3:17 am

SpaceX continues to impress, but they should focus more on the tech details, What kind of experiments are they doing? would love to know more about that…

AstroJenny December 22, 2023 - 5:13 am

really cool to see the Dragon spacecraft being used like this, but i thought it was docking later? maybe got my dates mixed up


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