It’s Friday morning and everyone’s already eager to clock off from work, including astronauts Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet, who will depart the International Space Station and head back to Earth just before 7AM ET. You can watch them do so live in the stream above, with the undocking procedure of their Soyuz capsule expected to start around 6:30AM. If all goes according to schedule, the craft containing Novitskiy and Pesquet will perform its routine de-orbit burn at 9:17AM (firing the engines to slow the craft’s approach) before the pair land back on terra firma at roughly 10:10AM. How’s that for a commute home.
Pesquet (of the European Space Agency) and Novitskiy (of Russian space agency Roscosmos) have been on the ISS for a total of 196 days. They blasted up to the station along with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as the crew of Expedition 51 back in November 2016 and even celebrated Pesquet’s birthday on board (see below). But due to downsizing from Roscosmos (the agency is temporarily reducing the number of cosmonauts it stations on the ISS from three to two) Whitson will not be accompanying the pair on their journey back to Earth.
Instead, she’ll stay until September, extending her residency and furthering a record she set in April — spending more hours in space than any other US astronaut. In a statement in April she said: “I love being up here. Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for.” Novitskiy and Pesquet would presumably feel similar, but I’ll bet they’re also happy to be heading back home. TGIF.