If you’re looking for more space in your life, look no farther: The stars have aligned to bring your four separate space events today (Oct. 21).
The U.S. Space Force will unveil its first field command station, a science team reports on its attempt to have a spacecraft snatch a piece of an asteroid. a robotic mission will launch to Earth orbit and three astronauts will return home after six months of living and working in space. You’ll be able to watch it all live here and on Space.com’s homepage, or directly from the companies and agencies involved.
The festivities begin at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT), astronauts on the International Space Station will hold a hatch closure ceremony as they prepare to return to Earth. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin have been living and working in orbit since April; now, it’s time for the trio to return to Earth via the same Soyuz capsule that ferried them to space.
During the hatch closing ceremony, the trio will bid farewell to three other crewmates and enter their Soyuz spacecraft to prepare for a landing later tonight. The hatches between the two vehicles should be closed at 4:10 p.m. EDT (2010 GMT), according to NASA.
Space Force ceremony
At 4:20 p.m. EDT (2020 GMT), the Space Force holds a redesignation ceremony to mark what is currently known as Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs becoming the first Space Operations Command for the fledgling military service. The event will stream live on Facebook.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid update
Next on the docket is an update from the team of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which yesterday (Oct. 20) executed an ambitious sampling maneuver at a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.
Three mission leaders will release the first new images from the sampling attempt and provide an update on the spacecraft’s performance during the maneuver. The news conference will begin at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT); you can watch it at Space.com or directly through NASA TV.
Rocket Lab’s next launch
While the news conference is unfolding, Rocket Lab will launch a new mission on its Electron rocket.
The mission, dubbed “In Focus” will be the company’s 15th launch and will blast off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch pad. The rocket will carry 10 satellites: nine SuperDove Earth-observation satellites for the company Planet and one satellite testing telescope technology for Canon. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:14 p.m. EDT (2114 GMT) and the launch will be broadcast on the company’s YouTube page.
Soyuz capsule undocking and landing
That brings us to the last of the day’s events, the actual Soyuz spacecraft landing from the space station.
The crew will undock that capsule from the space station at 7:33 p.m. EDT (2333 GMT); the astronauts should land at 10:55 p.m. EDT (0255 GMT on Oct. 22) in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
NASA TV will broadcast the undocking beginning at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and the landing beginning at 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 GMT on Oct. 22); you can also watch both events on Space.com.