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Last update: May 29, 2015

One Year In Space Mission: Expedtion 43 Arrives at the International Space Station on March 27th, 2015
Posted: 27 March 2015
Expedition 43 arrives at the ISS on March 27th, 2015.
Photo by: NASA/ Russian Space Agency
Left to right: Scott Kelly, Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko. Expedition 43 crew members.

The second group of Expedition 43 who arrived at the International Space Station on March 27th, are among the most veteran crews to travel to the ISS. The March 27th arrival at ISS is the 5th spaceflight for Commander Gennady Padalka and his 3rd to the ISS. He will soon be the most flown human being in history breaking the 803 days in space record.  

At 7:57 pm central time about 40 minutes before Expedition 43’s scheduled docking at 8:36 pm, the Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronauts Scott Kelly, Padalka, and Mikhail Kornienko was 5.4. km away from the ISS moving at a speed of about 15 meters / second. It would eventually slow down to 1/10th of a meter/ second on its final approach before docking on the Poise node of the ISS. Before that point in its flight, the crew of the Soyuz spacecraft had successfully completed delta velocity burns to elevate the orbit of the Soyuz and also impulse burns to fine tune the approach to the ISS.

At 8:06 pm central time the Soyuz was about ¾ of a km away from the ISS. Space station cameras showed a small craft approaching, the Soyuz. The black and white video tracking screen inside the Soyuz showed an image of the ISS. It appeared closer and bigger on the screen than the Soyuz appears to the crew inside the ISS because the ISS is so much larger than the Soyuz. The video screen from inside the Soyuz spacecraft, also seen live for online viewers via NASA TV, shows the Soyuz's distance from the ISS in the bottom left corner of the screen to 3 decimal places, and their speed in meters/second, which was slowing down at a steady pace before beginning the fly around. At the end of the fly around, the Soyuz was less than .2 km away or 160 meters away from the ISS.

At 8:11 pm central time the Commander of the Soyuz, Gennady Padalka, executed a maneuver called a "fly around" in which the Soyuz flew a short segment to the side of the ISS, not a full circle around it. After the 10 minute fly around, the Soyuz entered a  period called “station keeping” at 8:21 pm central time. Expedition 43 appeared to be slightly ahead of schedule as these events took place. 

During the fly around the Soyuz only appeared to go slightly below and to the left of the ISS, not completely circling it, so that from their view they appeared to be looking at the ISS from a diagonal angle rather than full frontal angle. The fly around appeared to be occuring at a speed of about 2.11 m/ second according to a report from Commander Padalka to Russian Mission control, which is in a town just outside of Moscow. As the cross hairs on the video screen from the Soyuz matched up in a perfect union with the t-shape inside the docking probe, contact was confirmed 3 minutes early at 8:33 pm and 41 seconds central time. The Soyuz crew and the ISS crew were at that moment 252 statute miles above the Earth off the western coast of Columbia. Expedition 43’s flight to the ISS took 5 hours and 51 minutes.

After the docking probe retracted, the hooks closed, and the hooks close signal was sent. Next there is a period called free drift, where motion between the vehicles is allowed to dampen out. Hatch opening is scheduled for 10:15 pm central time, 11:15 pm eastern, at which point NASA will resume live coverage to watch the astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Padalka and Kornienko enter the ISS to begin the 1 year mission. Kornienko and Kelly will be the first ever crew to be onboard the International Space Station for a duration of 1 year, which is more than double the length of a standard visit to the ISS.

Scott Kelly of expedition 43 is the twin brother of Mark Kelly, space shuttle commander, who is the husband of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords  was a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, from Arizona, when she was brutally shot at an event near Tuscon in 2011. She survived and recovered thoroughly from her injuries and on March 27th, 2015 was on site at Mission Control Houston to witness the live NASA coverage of the Expedition 43 launch, which is a momentous occasion for her husband and brother in law, Mark and Scott Kelly. The Kellys’, are part of a “twin study” in which Mark is the control group on Earth and Scott, a member of Expedition 43, will be on the ISS for the first ever 1 year mission in space. Scientists plan to collect data on the Kelly twins that will be useful as space agencies prepare for longer duration missions in space, such as a mission to Mars, which could take as long as 30 months of space travel. 

by Andrea Boggs


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