The quarterly changing of command aboard the orbiting International Space Station occurred again tonight as the commander of the twenty-fourth expedition crew handed over control of the orbiting complex to a new commander.
In a traditional ceremony aboard the orbiting complex, Russian commander Alexander Skvortsov and his Soyuz crew of flight engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko said goodbye to their three crew mates which rounded out the expedition 24 crew of six. They also thanked controlers on the ground around the globe in helping with their science chores over the last six months.
Launched to the station on April 2, the crew of three will enter their Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft on Thursday, seal the hatches leading to the station at 6:20 pm EDT (2220 GMT), and undock tomorrow night at 9:35 pm (0135 GMT) for their trip home.
Landing in the desert region of Kazakhstan is set for Friday at 12:55 am EDT (0455 GMT).
New station commander Doug Wheelock and flight engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin will begin expedition 25 following the Soyuz's undocking on Thursday evening.
They will live and work aboard the space station until late-November.
Wheelock and his crew will spend the next two weeks alone, but preparing the complex for a busy month ahead.
On October 7, a new upgraded Soyuz TMA 01M will launch out of Kazakhstan with a new crew to begin their six month stay; and on November 1, the space shuttle Discovery is set to launch from Florida with fresh supplies and a new permanent Multi-Purpose Module which will be used for storage of cargo and trash.
During expedition 24, American astronauts Dyson and Wheelock performed three spacewalks in August to to install a 780 pound spare ammonia pump on the station's Starboard 1 truss segment to assist with future cooling needs.
Two Progress supply ships also brought up extra needed cargo and supplies which included fuel, oxygen and personal needs for the crew of six.