In a little under an hour, US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will attempt to land the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft after 11 months in orbit. This basically involves steering a fiery metal can from 400km in the sky towards Earth at speeds of 27,360km per hour. You can watch NASA’s livestream in Australia right here. We’ve also highlighted the estimated times for key events during the landing.
Image: European Space Agency
Today, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will finally depart the International Space Station after almost a year of living in zero gravity. For Scott’s part, this is the highest number of consecutive days a US astronaut has spent in space. (Russia’s Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov has him beat at 437 days.)
NASA will be livestreaming the event from 11:45am AEDT on the NASA TV website, complete with expert analysis and commentary. To make life easier, we’ve also embedded the live stream below.
If you’re unable to watch the entire programme, here are the main times to be aware of:
12:05pm AEDT (7:45pm ET): Soyuz TMA-18M undocks from the ISS
NASA begins its undocking coverage, with the Soyuz spacecraft set to undock from the ISS at 12:05pm AEDT.
2:15pm AEDT (10:15pm ET): Landing coverage begins
NASA begins its de-orbit and landing coverage at 2:15pm. Now’s the time to get excited!
2:34pm AEDT (10:34pm ET): De-orbit burn commences
A de-orbit burn will occur at 2:34pm, slowing the spacecraft and angling it toward Earth’s atmosphere. At this point, there is no turning back — as Planetary Society blogger Jason Davis put it, the spacecraft is “essentially a flying brick with thrusters”. This is the nail-biting part.
3:12pm AEDT (11:12pm ET): Parachutes deploy
Fifteen minutes before landing, parachutes will deploy to slow the Soyuz craft’s descent. A second before touchdown, two sets of three small engines on the bottom of the vehicle will fire to slow the landing even further.
3:27pm AEDT (11:27pm ET): Landing
If all goes according to plan, final landing will occur at approximately 3:27pm, in a 30km-wide target area near the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Best of luck, fly boys!
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Additional resporting by Maddie Stone.