3 Space Station Crewmembers Return to Earth Tonight: Watch It Live

Update for 10:53 pm ET: Read our full story here on tonight's successful Soyuz landing.

Original story: 

Two astronauts and one cosmonaut will return to Earth today (Feb. 27) after spending 168 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Packed inside the same Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that brought them to the orbiting laboratory in September, NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will depart  the ISS at 6:08 p.m. EST (2308 GMT). Three hours later, the Soyuz spacecraft will plunge into Earth's atmosphere before parachuting down to the steppe of Kazakhstan, where the crew is scheduled to land at 9:32 p.m. EST (0232 GMT, or 8:32 a.m. local time in Kazakhstan, on Feb. 28).

You can watch a live webcast of the crew's return here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. Live coverage will begin at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT), when the three space travelers will bid farewell to their Expedition 54 crewmates, who will stay at the ISS for another three months as part of Expedition 55. [Space Station Photos: Expedition 54 Crew in Orbit

Expedition 53/54 crewmembers (from left) NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. (Image credit: NASA)

"At the time of undocking, Expedition 55 will begin aboard the station," NASA officials said in a statement. "[Russian cosmonaut Anton] Shkaplerov, NASA's Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will crew the station until three additional crew members arrive on March 23."

After the hatch of the Soyuz spacecraft is closed at 2:50 p.m. EST (1950 GMT), NASA TV's live coverage will break until 5:45 p.m. EST (2245 GMT), shortly before the Soyuz is scheduled to undock from the ISS. Live coverage of the deorbit burn and landing will begin at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT on Feb. 28). The deorbit burn, which will drop the Soyuz spacecraft out of Earth's orbit and initiate the crew's descent, will happen at 8:38 p.m. EST (0138 GMT on Feb. 28).

After the Soyuz lands, at 9:32 p.m. EST (0232 GMT on Feb. 28), helicopter crews will meet the crewmembers on the ground to help them out of their spacecraft. Per tradition, they will then fly to the Karaganda airport in Kazakhstan for a welcoming ceremony.  

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.