Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Returning Crew On Soyuz; Robonaut Unveiled

Homebound American astronaut Scott Kelly and two cosmonaut crewmates climbed into their Soyuz spacecraft at the International Space Station tonight after the first human-like robot to fly in orbit was unveiled aboard the outpost.

Kelly and his colleagues -- Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka -- closed hatches between the Soyuz and the station at 9:25 p.m., winding up a 157-day stay on the outpost. Leak checks and other departure preparations will take place over the next several hours before an undocking scheduled for 12:27 a.m.

With Kaleri at the controls, Soyuz thrusters will be fired at 3:03 a.m. The four-minute, 17-second retrograde burn will slow the ship enough to drop it out of orbit and send the crew toward a 3:53 a.m. landing on the cold, snow-covered central steppes of Kazakhstan.

You can watch all the action unfold here in The Flame Trench. Undocking coverage will begin about midnight and NASA TV coverage of the deorbit burn and landing will pick up about 2:30 a.m. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

During the work day today, two station flight engineers unveiled the first human-like robot to fly aboard the outpost -- a two-arned android that will be put through a variety of proof-of-concept tests.

U.S. astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman and Italian astronaut Paulo Nespoli of the European Space Agency unpacked Robonaut II, also known as R2, and put him to work in the U.S. Destiny laboratory.

"Robonaut is onboard and at work," Coleman told flight controllers at the U.S. Mission Control Center in Houston. "He couldn't wait for us to get him out of the box."

In a call to the joint crews of the station and shuttle Discovery earlier this month, President Obama had teased the crew about keeping Robonaut in wraps after the long trip to the station from Kennedy Space Center.

Check out more about R2 HERE

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