Three spaceflyers will return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) early Friday morning (April 17), and you can watch their homecoming live.
The action starts this evening (April 16) at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT), when NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka start saying goodbye to the three crewmembers who will remain aboard the orbiting lab. Watch the farewells live online here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency.
Thirty minutes later, at 6:30 p.m. EDT (2230 GMT), the hatches between the ISS and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Morgan, Meir and Skripochka are scheduled to close. The webcast coverage will then end for a while, picking up again at 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 GMT on April 17) as the Soyuz prepares to head for home.
Related: Photos: The Expedition 62 mission to the International Space Station
Departure is scheduled to take place at 9:53 p.m. EDT (0153 GMT on April 17), when the Soyuz will undock from the aft port of the orbiting lab's Zvezda service module. This event will mark the official start of Expedition 63 aboard the ISS, which will be commanded by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, with help from Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
There will then be another two-hour webcast break. Coverage will resume at midnight EDT (0400 GMT), about 20 minutes before the Soyuz performs a key deorbit burn.
That burn will put the Soyuz on course for a parachute-aided touchdown on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 1:16 a.m. EDT (0516 GMT; 11:16 a.m. local time in Kazakhstan).
The Soyuz will land on an important spaceflight anniversary. Exactly 50 years ago, on April 17, 1970, NASA's Apollo 13 mission returned home safely after surviving a near-disastrous explosion en route to the moon. The "successful failure" of Apollo 13 stands as a testament to the bravery and ingenuity of crewmembers Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise and mission controllers here on Earth.
- The International Space Station: inside and out (infographic)
- Soyuz spacecraft: backbone of Russian space program
- What if Apollo 13 failed to return to Earth? A look back 50 years later
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.