Thomas Marshburn just ticked off one of the last tasks on his orbital to-do list.
A NASA astronaut handed over command of the International Space Station (ISS) to cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev today (May 4), the last day aboard the orbital laboratory for Marshburn and three other members of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission.
“I think the long-term legacy of the space station is likely to be international cooperation and a place of peace,” Marshburn said during a webcast of the change of command ceremony this afternoon.
“Oleg, you are a very strong and experienced cosmonaut,” Marshburn told Artemyev. “I know that you and I will leave the space station in safe hands.”
Pictured: SpaceX Crew-3 astronaut launch for NASA
(Image credit: NASA TV)
Marshburn then spoke a few words to the cosmonaut in Russian and handed him the ceremonial key to the ISS.
“Thank you for the key and thank you for the friendship,” Artemyev replied in English. “It was an incredible time together,” he added, emphasizing the importance of such cooperation and friendship for “family, our children and peace between our countries.”
Artemyev and Marshburn then hugged, while the rest of the ISS crew members applauded.
It was a powerful moment considering everything that is happening here on Earth. Most of Russia’s space partnerships fell apart after the country’s invasion of Ukraine, and its status as a key ISS partner has come into question.
For example, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian federal space agency Roskosmos, has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the ISS program unless sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine are lifted. (However, it’s hard to see how seriously such threats can be taken, given that bragging may be Rogozin’s baseline.)
The Crew-3 mission consists of Marshburn, fellow NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari, and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency. The four arrived on the ISS in November aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule called Endurance, and their time in orbit was nearly up.
Endurance is scheduled to leave the ISS Thursday morning at 1:05 am ET (0505 GMT) and land off the coast of Florida approximately 24 hours later at 04:43 EST (0443 GMT) on Friday ( the 6th of May). You can watch it all live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA.
Lighting will begin tonight at 23:00 ET (0300 GMT May 5), with hatches between Endurance and the ISS expected to close in about 20 minutes. Coverage will resume at 0445 ET (0445 GMT) on Thursday, 20 minutes before the scheduled undock.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate) about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.