A trio of scientists who spent almost 200 days in space have now landed safely back on Earth after departing the International Space Station.
On Tuesday, the United States extended its commitment to manning and maintaining the International Space Station through 2030, but Russian officials say they may not be ready to cooperate after discovering what they claim is deliberate, human sabotage aboard the ISS.
NASA and the Russian space agency are continuing to investigate the incident, and NASA said there are tentative plans to conduct a spacewalk next month to gather more information. Early Thursday, Feustel will strap into another Soyuz - not the one where the hole was found - with NASA's Ricky Arnold and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev for the ride home to Earth.
The six-person ISS crew includes two Russians, two Americans and a German representing the European Space Agency.
At 13:51 the engines of Soyuz MS-08 will be turned on to slow down the spacecraft and send it into descent.
Intrigue continues about what - or who - punctured a hole in a Russian spacecraft that caused a small but potentially serious loss of pressure aboard the International Space Station in late August.
Feustel has now logged more than 226 days in space on three spaceflights, accumulated 61 hours and 48 minutes over nine career spacewalks, and ranks third overall among American astronauts. Gerst assumed command of the station as Feustel prepared to depart.
If the mission proves successful, India will join an elite group of only three countries - Russia, US and China - which have the capability to launch a manned mission to outer space. They will launch October 11 on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.