FILE - This May 23, 2010 image provided by NASA shows the International Space Station with the Earth in the background made from the space shuttle Atlantis after undocking. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, NASA said the White House was poised to announce an extension of the space station's lifetime until at least 2024. The previous end-of-life date was 2020. (AP Photo/NASA)
On the eve of the return to Earth of three crew members after six months in space, the International Space Station’s Expedition 39 crew tackled spacesuit maintenance as well as a full morning of biomedical research for the station’s departing commander on Monday.
The reins of the International Space Station were passed from Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to NASA's Steve Swanson during a ceremony on the orbital outpost on May 12.
Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, will wrap up 188 days in space when they depart Tuesday aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft that brought them to the station back in November. The trio will undock their Soyuz from the station at 6:36 p.m. EDT for a landing southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 9:58 p.m. (7:58 a.m. May 14, Kazakh time).
Expedition 40, under the command of NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, will formally begin aboard the station when the Soyuz carrying Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin undocks. Swanson and his crewmates, Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, will operate the station as a three-person crew for two weeks until the arrival of three new crew members. Reid Wiseman of NASA, Max Suraev of Roscosmos and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 28.