A little while ago astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov returned to Earth on the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft, that landed in Kazakhstan. Parmitano and Skvortsov spent a bit more than 6 months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on July 20, 2019 as part of Expedition 60, while Christina Koch arrived on March 15, 2019 as part of Expedition 59 and accomplished a long mission.
During the time spent on the International Space Station with Expedition 61, the three crew members have been conducting various maintenance activities and many scientific experiments. On November 1, 2019, the Japanese HTV-8 cargo spacecraft departed the Station. On November 4, 2019 Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft reached the Station on its NG-12 mission and departed on January 31, 2020 to conduct a sort of mission coda with the launch of some nanosatellites before disintegrating into the Earth’s atmosphere in late February. On December 8, 2019 the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft reached the Station on its CRS-19 mission and departed on January 7, 2020 to return to Earth. On December 9 the Russian Progress MS-13 cargo spacecraft reached the Station.
During that period several spacewalks were carried out. On October 6, 2019, Christina Koch and her Expedition 61/62 colleague Andrew Morgan took almost exactly 7 hours to replace some old batteries. That activity continued on October 11 when the two astronauts took about 6 hours and 45 minutes to replace more old batteries. On October 18, Christina Koch and her Expedition 61/62 colleague Jessica Meir took a little over 7 hours to replace some faulty components of the Station’s power system. On November 15 Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan began repairing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) cosmic particle detector in just over 6.5 hours. That activity continued on November 22 when the two astronauts took another 6.5. On December 2, the two astronauts took just over 6 hours to install a new cooling system for the AMS. On January 15, 2020, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir took nearly 7.5 hours to replace more old batteries. On January 20 the two astronauts completed that activity taking almost 7 hours. On January 25, Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano took just over 6 hours to complete the AMS maintenance activities.
On Wednesday, February 5, Luca Parmitano officially handed over the command of the International Space Station to the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, marking the beginning of Expedition 62. The crew will be completed with the arrival of new members, scheduled for April 9. After a period that had a an out of the normal crew rotation due to Christina Koch’s long mission, with Expedition 62 the rotation returns to its normal rhythms. This could only be temporary because future rotations will be influenced by the decisions that will be made in the coming months regarding the new American spacecraft SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner entering service.