Two Spaceships Depart, Crew Will Spend Holidays in Space – Space Station


The Cygnus space freighter is pictured attached to the space station as the Canadarm2 robotic arm prepares to grapple the cargo craft.

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured attached to the space station as the Canadarm2 robotic arm prepares to grapple the cargo craft.

After a successful departure of two spaceships from the International Space Station, the astronauts of Expedition 70 will spend Christmas and New Year’s Day orbiting Earth.

Last Friday, Dec. 22, NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara monitored the release of the Cygnus space freighter using the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The ground engineers remotely maneuvered the Canadarm2 to detach Cygnus from the Unity module, where it had been installed since Aug. 4.

Packed inside Cygnus, along with disposable cargo, is the SAFFIRE-VI experiment that will be remotely activated aboard the spacecraft to explore fire safety. The Northrop Grumman space freighter will continue to orbit Earth on its own until early January, when it will be safely disposed of above the south Pacific Ocean.

On Thursday, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft completed its mission, undocking from the Harmony module’s forward port and parachuting to splashdown off the coast of Florida on Dec. 22. Dragon returned important station science and hardware for retrieval and analysis in laboratories on Earth.

Following the departure of Cygnus, Loral O’Hara focused on combustion research and replaced components for an experiment that observes how fuel temperatures affect material flammability.

Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Andreas Mogensen spent the first part of Friday on lab maintenance. Moghbeli serviced a U.S. spacesuit in the Quest airlock and then worked on fiber optic samples inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Mogensen set up the Advanced Resistive Exercise device for the ARED Kinematics study, which aims to improve workout programs for both Earth and space. At the end of the day, they underwent eye exams using standard medical imaging equipment.

JAXA’s Satoshi Furukawa set up interactive studio gear inside the Kibo laboratory module in preparation for an event with Japanese audiences on Earth. He also inspected and photographed windows in the Kibo and Destiny lab modules for any contamination or damage.

Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko began his day with cardiac research, attaching sensors to himself to measure his heart activity in weightlessness. Flight Engineer Konstantin Borisov assisted Kononenko with the cardiac study and then joined him in the afternoon for checkouts of audio and antenna gear in the Zvezda service module. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub replaced smoke detectors in the Poisk module and activated a 3D printing experiment.

Throughout the final week of 2023, the seven astronauts and cosmonauts of Expedition 70 will continue their ongoing research and lab upkeep. They will also have some time to relax, open gifts, share a meal, and communicate with their families on Christmas and New Year’s Day. The astronauts have shared their thoughts and well wishes while in orbit this holiday season. The next space station blog post is scheduled to be published on Jan. 2, 2024.


For more information about station activities, you can follow the space station blog, @space_station, and @ISS_Research on X, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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