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Watch live: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, two cosmonauts to depart space station

Oct. 21 (UPI) — NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos are scheduled to depart the International Space Station for Earth on Wednesday evening.

The trio have spent the last few days packing completed science experiments, personal items and other types of cargo onto the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft that will carry them home.

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After boarding the craft, they will close the hatch about 4:10 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the Poisk module’s space-facing port at 7:32 p.m.

The trip back to Earth will take a little over three hours. After a parachute-assisted descent, the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft is expected to touch down in the remote steppe of Kazakhstan about 10:55 p.m. EDT.

NASA TV will provide live coverage of the return mission beginning at 7 p.m. with the undocking of the Soyuz and then follow with coverage of the vessel’s deorbit burn and landing starting at 9:30 p.m.

“After landing, the crew will return by Russian helicopters to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan,” according to NASA. “From there, Cassidy will board a NASA plane for a flight back to Houston, while Ivanishin and Vagner will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft and return to their homes in Star City, Russia.”

The return trek will mark the end of a 196-day mission for Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner.

During his time as Expedition 63 commander, Cassidy welcomed the arrival of NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who traveled to ISS aboard NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, the first crewed flight of a commercial spacecraft and the first time humans have launched from an American launchpad since NASA retired the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

Behnken and Hurley returned to Earth in August.

Last week, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov joined the space station crew. On Tuesday, in a change of command ceremony, Cassidy relinquished official control of the space station to Ryzhikov.

Once Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner depart, Expedition 64 will officially begin.

“The Expedition 64 crew will conduct research in technology development, Earth science, biology, human research and more,” according to NASA.

Astronauts make round trip to space station from U.S. soil

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley (C) waves to onlookers as he boards a plane at Naval Air Station Pensacola to return him and NASA astronaut Robert Behnken home to Houston a few hours after the duo landed in their SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft off the coast of Pensacola, Fla,, on August 2, 2020. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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