VR, Space Biology Studies as Crew Nears Departure

Astronauts (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide talk to journalists on Earth before their return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.
Astronauts (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide talk to journalists on Earth before their return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.

A pair of astronauts aboard the International Space Station studied advanced piloting controls using virtual reality today. In the meantime, four Expedition 66 crewmates are turning their attention to returning to Earth this month.

An experiment sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency) is using virtual reality in the space environment to help engineers optimize workstations and interfaces for controlling future space robots and spacecraft. Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA set up the Pilote experiment this morning for NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur who wore the virtual reality headset. She worked in the Columbus laboratory module wearing the VR goggles using a haptic controller to pilot and capture simulated spacecraft in a video game-like environment.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked throughout Friday on a variety of station hardware. Kimbrough worked in the in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module servicing thermal gear as Hoshide checked out lights and orbital plumbing systems in the Kibo laboratory module.

Kimbrough will also lead McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide back to Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour. The quartet have been packing Endeavour with personal items and station hardware, as well as training on a computer for the ride back home. The four commercial crew astronauts will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing port and splashdown off the coast of Florida ending a station mission that began in April.

The orbiting lab’s other three crewmates, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, will continue their stay in space until spring next year.

Vande Hei trained throughout Friday for his role when he will be monitoring the Crew Dragon’s upcoming undocking and departure. He also checked U.S. toilet sensors before ending his day setting up hardware to collect biological samples. Shkaplerov continued cargo transfers inside the ISS Progress 79 resupply ship then photographed the Photobioreactor hybrid life support system experiment for inspection. Dubrov explored ways to maintain safe, sterile conditions when conducting microgravity biology research for the Aseptic study.

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.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Station Residents Work Science, Get Ready for Crew Swap

The waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth's horizon as the International Space Station orbited 262 miles above eastern China.
The waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth’s horizon as the International Space Station orbited 262 miles above eastern China.

The seven Expedition 66 crew members living and working aboard the International Space Station focused on a variety of microgravity research today while preparing to split up this month. Back on Earth, four commercial crew astronauts are preparing for their launch to the orbiting lab from Kennedy Space Center.

NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur have been packing the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. The duo will return to Earth later this month inside Endeavour with Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet. They will complete their mission in space which began in April when they splashdown off the coast of Florida.

Hoshide, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), worked inside the Kibo laboratory module relocating a microbe sensor before checking out the console that controls the Japanese robotic arm. Station Commander Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) put on a virtual reality headset for the Pilote technology demonstration and explored the ergonomics of robotic and spacecraft interfaces. The international duo also spent some time Monday packing personal items inside Endeavour for the ride back home.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei, who is staying on the station until April for a near yearlong mission, spent most of Monday working on the Fluids Integrated Rack. He set up components inside the physics research device to support operations for the new Fluids Boiling and Condensation Experiment.

The two cosmonauts working in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment spent their day on cargo transfers and science module connections. Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov packed and unpacked cargo today in the ISS Progress 78 and 79 resupply ships. The duo also checked and measured circuit connections between the new Nauka multipurpose laboratory module and the Zvezda service module.

Down in Florida, three NASA astronauts and one ESA astronaut of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission are now targeting their launch to the space station inside the Crew Dragon Endurance for no earlier than Nov. 6. Commander Raja Chari, with Pilot Thomas Marshburn, will lead Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer inside Endurance when it lifts off carrying the foursome to their new home in space where they will stay for six months.

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.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/