Crew Juggles Research and Upkeep as Astronaut Departure Nears

Astronauts (from left) Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, Akihiko Hoshide and Megan McArthur, pose with chile peppers grown aboard the station.
Astronauts (from left) Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, Akihiko Hoshide and Megan McArthur, pose with chile peppers grown aboard the station.

Space experiments filled the Expedition 66 crew’s day on Tuesday with a variety of physics research and science hardware maintenance on the schedule. Four astronauts on the International Space Station are also continuing to pack up as they prepare for a return to Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei partnered throughout the day with international crewmates Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet servicing research gear and managing cables. He started the morning supporting Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as he retrieved the multipurpose experiment platform from the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock.

Just after lunch, Vande Hei stowed old hardware uninstalled last week from the Fluids Integrated Rack. Finally, the NASA astronaut who is over midway through his near yearlong mission, wrapped up the day with Pesquet from ESA (European Space Agency) organizing and cleaning up cables throughout the station’s U.S. segment.

Hoshide and Pesquet are also getting ready for their return to Earth soon with NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur. The quartet have been packing personal items and other cargo inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour that has been docked since April to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. Kimbrough will be in command and McArthur be Endeavour’s pilot alongside Hoshide and Pesquet when NASA and SpaceX finalize a November date for a splashdown off the coast of Florida.

In the meantime, Kimbrough and McArthur have still been busy maintaining orbital lab systems. Kimbrough spent most of Tuesday reconfiguring and replacing hardware inside the Combustion Integrated Rack, while McArthur checked personal carbon dioxide monitors and deployed USB chargers inside the Harmony and Tranquility modules.

The two cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, spent their day on several space research activities. Dubrov explored ways to ensure safe and sterile lab gear when studying microbiology on the station. Shkaplerov installed EarthKAM imaging hardware in the Harmony module then stowed plasma physics hardware after several runs of the Plasma Crystal-4 experiment last week.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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