Four years after his first flight to the International Space Station, the NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will return to space today (October 14).
Today at 1:45 am EDT (0545 GMT), the astronaut of Expedition 64 Rubins will fly to the space station aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan alongside cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud- Sverchkov. Immediately upon his arrival at the station, Rubins will welcome a SpaceX crew aboard and celebrate the history of the space station.
Related: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will vote from space
“I’m starting to get excited,” Rubins told Space.com before the next flight. “We just finished our final exams before space flight, and it’s kind of hard to think about anything but exams when you’re preparing for them.”
But, he added, “now that we’re done, I can’t wait to launch it and go back into space.”
The Rubins launch could mark the last time a NASA astronaut flies into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, as commercial manned launch capabilities from the United States are growing rapidly. Last May, for example, SpaceX launched its manned Demo-2 mission, which sent two NASA astronauts to the space station aboard the company’s Crew Dragon vehicle. SpaceX’s first fully operational manned mission, Crew-1, will launch four astronauts this fall, and Rubins will be on the space station to take those spacecraft aboard.
“I think it’s incredibly exciting,” Rubins said. “I am looking forward to welcoming the first operational commercial vehicle for the crew to the station, not only because it represents a milestone in the commercial crew, but I have very good friends in that vehicle. So I am looking forward to see them coming through the hatch. ”
“I think we will always have this incredible partnership; we have international partners all over the world,” he added. “The [NASA] The Commercial Crew Program just allows us to have more presence on the space station, but it doesn’t mean the end of the partnership. So we will constantly work with our partners around the world. This is one of the strengths of the space station “.
In addition to being perhaps the last NASA astronaut to lead a Soyuz into space, Rubins will also be part of the space station’s history as, during his stay, the orbiting laboratory will celebrate its 20th anniversary of continued human presence. Rubins will also vote from space, as well as NASA astronauts who launch with the crew-1. (Crew-1 will take off no earlier than “early mid-November,” according to NASA officials.)
During this upcoming mission, Rubins, a microbiologist who was the first person to sequence DNA in space, will work on a series of experiments. He will participate in a cardiovascular survey and experiment with the Cold Atom Laboratory, a tool that researchers use to study how atoms behave and more.
“I’m looking forward to some of the live cell experiments,” Rubins said. “We did some studies the last time we were growing heart cells. Some of the things we’re looking at now are, can you look at the architecture of the tissues, the things that make up organs in space? We can grow things that most do they resemble human organs? Can we build delicate tissue structures in space? “
“I’m also very interested, of course, in the space station microbiome,” she said, adding that they are working to “map the entire space station microbiome, which has been separated from Earth for 20 years. I think whatever the result, it will be incredibly exciting. “
Rubins and his cosmonaut crewmates are expected to dock at the space station at 4:52 am EDT (0852 GMT, and the hatch between the space station and the capsule will open at 6:45 am EDT (1045 GMT).
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