Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Station changes command as crew readies for departure

Before a planned Thanksgiving Day return to Earth, Expedition 25 leader Doug Wheelock today handed over command of the International Space Station to fellow NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will lead Expedition 26.

"Scott, it’s my great honor and pleasure to relinquish command of the International Space Station to you, my friend and crewmate," he told Kelly.

"I assume command," Kelly replied. "It’s a real honor and privilege to take command of this great ship, the International Space Station. I look forward to leading the Expedition 26 crew on a great mission."

On Thursday, Wheelock will strap into a Soyuz capsule with fellow American Shannon Walker and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

After more than five months in space, they're expected to say final goodbyes to three crewmates remaining on board the station around 5 p.m.

Their Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the outpost at 8:22 p.m. and land on the steppe of Kazakhstan at 11:46 p.m. (Nov. 26 local time). You can watch live NASA TV coverage of the landing here.

Wheelock today thanked all his crewmates and ground teams around the world for their support during his stay at the station.

"It's been a great ride," Wheelock said. "It was in a lot of ways different than what we had planned, but it was very, very exciting."

Some of that excitement came in August when Wheelock and a crewmate performed three spacewalks to replace a broken coolant pump that shut down half the station.

Before they part ways, the crew tonight planned an early Thanksgiving dinner of rehydrateable turkey and dressing.

No comments: