Station Astronauts Relax Before SpaceX Crew Launches

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket during a sunset at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket during a sunset at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Five Expedition 65 astronauts are off-duty today relaxing one day before four Commercial Crew astronauts launch toward the International Space Station. The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts focused on Russian science and life support maintenance tasks throughout Thursday.

NASA Commander Shannon Walker and Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Mark Vande Hei of NASA including Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) took it easy on the station today. The quintet is relaxing before gearing up for six days of crew swap activities. They will get back to work on Friday with more space research and preparations for the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts early Saturday.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov stayed busy on Thursday in the station’s Russian segment. The duo partnered up for a study to maximize the effectiveness of space exercise. Novitskiy then checked out power systems while Dubrov worked on life support gear.

SpaceX Crew-2 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Pilot Megan McArthur will launch Friday at 5:49 a.m. to the station aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour. The NASA duo will be flanked by Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. The veteran foursome will dock on Saturday at 5:10 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter. NASA TV begins its continuous launch and docking coverage on Friday at 1:30 a.m.

The new quartet’s arrival will set in motion the next crew swap as the SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts turn their attention toward returning to Earth on April 28. Hopkins will lead his crewmates Glover, Walker and Noguchi as they undock from the station then parachute inside the Crew Dragon Resilience to a splashdown off the coast of Florida just a few hours later.

Vande Hei will stay behind with Novitskiy, Dubrov and the four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts. They will remain at the station as the Expedition 65 crew until the next series of crew swaps planned for later this year begins.

Station Science in Full Swing as SpaceX Crew-2 Nears Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop stands at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop stands at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida.

Science is in full swing aboard the International Space Station today as the Expedition 65 crew studies how microgravity affects the human body. Back on Earth, four Commercial Crew astronauts are less than two days away from launching to the orbiting lab from Florida.

Blood samples, muscle scans and exercise were the subjects of Tuesday’s space research to learn how the human body adapts to weightlessness. To start the day, Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi collected their blood samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Hopkins then joined Flight Engineer Victor Glover for muscle scans using an ultrasound device to understand how space impacts muscle tone, stiffness and elasticity.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who is in his second week aboard the station, attached sensors to his chest and worked out on a stationary bike for another human research experiment during the day. The exercise study measures an astronaut’s aerobic capacity and the effort required to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks.

Another muscle study is observing changes in the genetic expression of muscles that take place in microgravity. Station Commander Shannon Walker of NASA peered at tiny worms in a microscope and recorded video as they wriggled through a specialized device that measures muscle strength. Muscle proteins change in space affecting muscle mass and strength and scientists are exploring therapies to offset this loss.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov juggled a variety of science and maintenance tasks in the station’s Russian segment today. Novitskiy powered down an atmospheric study then configured communications and ventilation gear. Dubrov inspected areas in the Russian modules and studied ways to maximize a workout in space.

NASA and SpaceX mission managers are “go” for Thursday’s launch at 6:11 a.m. EDT of four Crew-2 astronauts to the space station. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will occupy the commander and pilot seats respectively inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour during the ride to their new home in space. They will be flanked by Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet when they dock on Friday at 5:30 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew-2 mission continuously from launch to docking beginning Thursday at 2 a.m.