An extra-long space mission for three men in orbit is about to come to an end.
American astronaut Frank Rubio of NASA and his two Russian crewmates are scheduled to return to Earth early Wednesday (Sept. 27) after spending more than a year in space, and you can watch the action live online.
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Rubio and the two cosmonauts — Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos — is scheduled to depart the International Space Station (ISS) Wednesday at 3:54 a.m. EDT (0754 GMT). If all goes according to plan, the trio will touch down on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 7:17 a.m. EDT (1117 GMT).
You can watch all these events live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA. Coverage will begin at 12 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT), just ahead of when hatches between the Soyuz and the ISS get closed. That closure is scheduled to occur at 12:20 a.m. EDT (0420 GMT).
Then, the livestream will pick up again at 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT) for undocking and again at 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT) before the Soyuz's deorbit burn, which should occur at 6:24 a.m. EDT (1024 GMT). After that, the crew will touchdown on Earth.
Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin launched to the ISS on a Soyuz on Sept. 21, 2022. They were supposed to spend the standard six-month stint in orbit, but their Soyuz sprang a leak on Dec. 15, 2022 and lost all of its coolant to space.
The vehicle was deemed unsafe to fly the trio home, so they had to wait for another Soyuz to be prepped and launched. That empty replacement craft — their new ride back to Earth — arrived at the ISS on Feb. 25.
But Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin still had to wait for their relief crew, the astronauts who would take over their duties in orbit, and that new trio couldn't lift off until yet another Soyuz was ready. The replacement astronauts — NASA's Loral O'Hara and cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub — launched on Sept. 15 and arrived at the ISS that same day.
So Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin ended up staying in orbit for twice as long as originally planned.
If they land on time on Wednesday, their mission will have lasted 371 days. Rubio, a spaceflight rookie, now holds the American record for the longest continuous spaceflight, besting the 355-day mark set by NASA's Mark Vande Hei.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.