Three astronauts onboard the ISS are due to depart the orbiting laboratory shortly. NASA’s Chris Cassidy will return on the Soyuz MS-16 craft, along with Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The astronauts will depart the ISS at 3.30pm EDT (8.30pm BST), with NASA live-streaming the event on NASA TV, which will be shown live on this page.
They will enter the atmosphere at 9.30pm EDT (12.30am BST) before touching down in Kazakhstan half an hour later.
Following their departure, Roscosmos astronaut Sergey Ryzhikov will take command of the ISS.
Mr Ryzhikov will be kept company by fellow space cadets Kate Rubins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
NASA said on its website: “The trio is wrapping up final cargo loading today as they pack station hardware, research samples and personal items inside the Soyuz.
“After landing, the crew will have logged 196 days in space and circled Earth over 3,100 times for a total of just over 83 million miles.
“Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos will assume command of the orbiting lab at the moment the departing crewmates undock tonight.
“He will be leading Expedition 64 Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov during their planned 185-day space research mission.”
The life-cycle of the ISS is coming to an end, with international collaboration due to come to a close in 2024.
In its place will come the Gateway, another orbiting laboratory, but this one will orbit the Moon instead.
Gateway is set to be more NASA-centric. As a result, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has distanced itself from the project, saying a more global approach is needed.
Russia is unlikely to want to be led by the US in its space program, so it will attempt to get its own missions up and running or participate with other global partners.
Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, told the International Astronautical Congress on October 12: “In our view, the lunar Gateway in its current form is too US-centric, so to speak.
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“Russia is likely to refrain from participating in it on a large scale.”
Mr Rogozin urged international space partners to work together as part of a more holistic approach to conquering space.
He elaborated: “The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation which were used in order to fly the ISS program.
“If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program, then Roscosmos could also consider its participation.”