Science Expands on Station, Dragon Departs on Monday

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir strikes a superhero pose
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir strikes a superhero pose in the weightless environment of the International Space Station.

The International Space Station expanded its research capabilities overnight after robotics controllers installed a new external science platform. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew is packing cargo for return to Earth while getting ready for its own departure.

Europe’s latest contribution to the orbiting lab, Bartolomeo, was attached to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module early Thursday morning. Robotic engineers remotely commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Dextre robotic hand and completed the fine-tuned installation work over two days. Bartolomeo, delivered last month aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, gives private and institutional researchers the ability to command and control science payloads outside the space station.

Commander Oleg Skripochka with NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are preparing to end their mission in space on April 17. They checked their Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they parachute to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship for leaks today. The crew is also gathering personal items for stowage inside the Soyuz spaceship.

Before they leave, the SpaceX Dragon space freighter will return to Earth after being released from the Canadarm2 on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT. Meir and Morgan will finish loading over 4,000 pounds of station hardware and research samples, including live mice and plant cells, late Sunday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of Dragon’s departure on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

The station boosted its orbit again today raising it to the correct altitude enabling the new Expedition 63 crew to launch and dock on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will take a six-hour ride to their new home in space and begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

Science Packing, Robotics Work Ahead of Spaceship Traffic

The space station flies into an orbital sunset
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship (at right) and a pair of the space station’s main solar arrays foreshadow a trek into an orbital sunset.

A U.S. cargo craft is being packed for its return to Earth next week while robotics controllers get ready to install a new European science platform on the International Space Station. The Expedition 62 crew also continued its ongoing human research activities.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon space freighter is being loaded this week with thousands of pounds of science experiments and station hardware. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove Dragon from the Harmony module after its hatch is closed early Monday. Dragon will be released back into Earth orbit Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan will wrap up the science packing late Sunday. The duo will be transferring live mice, plant cells and other time-critical research samples into Dragon so scientists can understand how genetic expression changes in space.

Human research continued on board the station today as Meir examined and captured imagery of Morgan’s eyes with a fundoscope to learn how space-caused upward fluid shifts affect vision. Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos measured the station’s radiation environment then explored how future crews could pilot spaceships and robotic rovers on planetary expeditions.

Bartolomeo, an external science payload from the European Space Agency (ESA), will soon be installed on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The complex installation work is being choreographed from the ground as flight controllers remotely command the Canadarm2 and the Dextre fine-tuned robotic hand. The ESA science device will enable the command and control of numerous external investigations on Columbus.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, the Expedition 63 crew continued reviewing its mission procedures today then took a break for traditional pre-launch activities. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch to the station April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. After a six-hour ride to their new home in space, the trio will begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

Exercise Research, Spaceship Packing During Robotics Work

The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre extract Bartolomeo
The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre, the fine-tuned robotic hand, are remotely controlled on Earth to extract Bartolomeo from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Exercise tests aboard the International Space Station today are helping doctors evaluate the best ways to keep crews healthy and fit on long-term space missions. The Expedition 62 crew also readied cargo and crew ships for departure as a variety of other life science experiments took place.

Aerobic fitness in space is critically important so astronauts can successfully support physically demanding mission events such as spacewalks and spaceship landings. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan took turns testing their fitness on an exercise bike today while attached to sensors. Doctors will use the data to understand crew health and adapt exercise techniques so astronauts can maintain strong bones and muscles, and add to the body of knowledge that is helping astronauts readapt to gravity after long missions.

Afterward, Meir had a blood pressure check for the Vascular Echo cardiovascular study. Morgan checked on mice being observed for space-caused changes to their genetic expression.

The duo also continued loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply with station hardware and science experiments for analysis on Earth. Dragon will depart the station on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT and splashdown in the Pacific a few hours later. Meir and Morgan are also packing personal items to get ready for their return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos worked a pair of different Russian investigations today. He first studied how weightlessness affects blood circulation in the heart. The veteran cosmonaut then activated gear that observes the Earth’s atmosphere at nighttime in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.

The new Bartolomeo science platform from the European Space Agency is in the process of being installed to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module. Robotics controllers are remotely guiding Bartolomeo in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground teams will finalize the installation over two days.

Space Botany, Biology During Robotics and Spaceship Work

Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan
Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan works on U.S. spacesuit components inside the Quest airlock.

A U.S. cargo craft is just one week away from departing the International Space Station and returning to Earth packed with science and hardware for analysis. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew is continuing its space biology research as robotics controllers begin installing the new Bartolomeo science platform.

NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir will be packing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft the rest of the week before its departure on April 6. The duo will be loading Dragon with experiments and station gear such as spacesuit components for analysis by scientists and engineers on Earth.

Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon back into Earth orbit next Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT. Morgan will be in the cupola monitoring the release activities with NASA TV beginning its live coverage at 9:30 a.m.

Dragon’s final splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later will not be broadcast on NASA TV. Future Dragon cargo missions will splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Morgan spent the morning on plant and mice research. He first added water to the Veggie PONDS device that delivers nutrients to lettuce and mizuna greens being grown and harvested aboard the station. Next, he fed rodents being observed for changes to their genetic expression due to living in microgravity.

Both Morgan and Meir started Monday collecting and stowing their blood samples. The duo also had their periodic health check measuring each other’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate.

Meir then moved on to the Vascular Echo study to understand the arterial stiffness and cardiac changes that occur while living in space. She took several blood pressure measurements for the long-running study that could improve cardiovascular health on Earth and in space.

Bartolomeo, the external science payload device from the European Space Agency, is ready for installation after being removed from Dragon’s trunk last week. Robotics controllers will begin the two-day job to attach it to the Columbus module on Tuesday where it will host experiments exposed to harsh environment of space.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos is packing the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship that will return him, Meir, and Morgan back to Earth on April 17. They will welcome a new crew on April 9, when Chris Cassidy of NASA lifts off with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. They will dock to their new home in space just six hours after launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Space Biology on Station Ahead of Cargo and Crew Ship Activities

Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are pictured in front of the hatch to the Space Dragon resupply ship shortly after it was attached to the Harmony module on March 9.

The Expedition 62 crew wrapped up the workweek with more space biology research to understand what living in space does to the human body. The International Space Station is also getting ready to send off a U.S. cargo craft and swap crews.

A 3D bioprinter inside the station’s Columbus laboratory module is being deactivated and stowed today after a week of test runs without using human cells. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir packed up the device that seeks to demonstrate manufacturing human organs to help patients on Earth. The Bio-Fabrication Facility may even lead to future crews printing their own food and medicines on missions farther away from Earth.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan checked out hardware for an experiment exploring how to create heart cells on the orbiting lab. The investigation may lead to advanced treatments for cardiac conditions on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Meir are also getting the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship ready for its departure on April 6. The duo gathered U.S. spacesuit components and packed them inside Dragon for engineering analysis on the ground.

During the morning, Commander Oleg Skripochka continued servicing a variety of laptop computers in the station’s Russian segment. After lunchtime, the veteran cosmonaut serviced hardware for a pair of experiments, one looking at the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the other to understand the degradation of station gear.

Back on Earth at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in final preparations for their April 9 launch to the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stepped out of the Cosmonaut Hotel today for pre-launch activities celebrating spaceflight heroes such as Yuri Gagarin.

Heart, Eye Studies in Space as Next Crew Nears Launch

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan retrieves gut microbe samples
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan retrieves gut microbe samples from a science freezer for an experiment to understand how microgravity affects microbes that impact astronaut health.

Cardiac research and 3D bioprinting aboard the International Space Station today are helping NASA improve health for humans in space and on Earth. The three Expedition 62 crewmembers also participated in eye exams and radiation checks.

Three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in Kazakhstan just two weeks away from beginning a 195-day mission on the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy joined Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner for a traditional flag-raising ceremony today outside the Cosmonaut Hotel at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The trio is due to liftoff April 9 at 4:05 a.m. EDT and arrive at their new home in space about six-and-a-half hours later.

Back aboard the orbiting lab, the station crew spent the afternoon on eye checks. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir started the optometry work and scanned her crewmates’ eyes using the Human Research Facility’s ultrasound device.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan then took over and imaged the eyes of Commander Oleg Skripochka using optical tomography (OCT) gear. The OCT uses lightwaves for non-invasive mapping and measurement of a subject’s retina.

Morgan started the day with ongoing tests of a 3D bioprinter without using human cells. The device, also known as the Bio-Fabrication Facility, seeks to manufacture human organs in space due to the detrimental effects of Earth’s gravity. Patients on the ground would benefits and future astronauts on planetary missions could print their own food or medicines.

Meir checked samples of cultured cardiac muscle tissue for the Engineered Heart Tissues experiment in the morning. The investigation is exploring cardiac function in weightlessness that may provide new drug developments for astronauts and Earthlings.

In the station’s Russian segment, Skripochka collected radiation measurements then serviced atmospheric purification gear. The commander also spent a few moments working on a specialized research furnace that levitates and observes metallic alloys at high temperatures.

Robotics Work, Space Biology Keep Station Humming

The International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is pictured as the International Space Station flew into an orbital sunrise above the Pacific Ocean.

Robotic controllers unloaded new research hardware off a U.S. cargo craft today for installation outside the International Space Station. Inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 62 crew continued exploring microgravity’s impact on a variety of life forms.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today offered the Bartolomeo science payload system for installation on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Robotics engineers on the ground commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract Bartolomeo from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk and stage it for installation later. The European research device will enable numerous external science experiments to be conducted and controlled outside the space station.

Botany, biology and physics were the focus of today’s research aboard the orbiting lab. The space science work is helping NASA keep astronauts safe and healthy as it plans missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA spent a couple of hours on botany research learning how to cultivate vegetables and fruits in space. She also continued the Vascular Echo study attaching a sensor to her leg that monitored her arteries during a light exercise session.

Afterward, she joined fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan servicing and photographing samples of gut microbes. The study seeks to understand how microgravity enriches and depletes the microbes that affect crew health

The duo also unpacked samples that were exposed to the harsh environment of space outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Scientists want to understand what happens to materials such as paint, metals and other substances that could make up future spacecraft and habitats experiencing long-term space radiation and differing gravity environments.

Commander Oleg Skripochka updated the station’s inventory system today after unloading and organizing cargo inside the Russian Progress 74 space freighter. The veteran cosmonaut also worked on computers and communications gear before some research on crew dynamics.

The next to crew to launch to the station, Expedition 63, is in Kazakhstan today getting fitted in their Sokol launch and entry and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship seats. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will lift off April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to begin a 195-day mission on the orbiting lab.

Artery Scans, Eye Checks on Station as Crews Prepare for April Swap

Expedition 63 crewmembers arrive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
(From left) Expedition 63 crewmembers Ivan Vagner, Anatoly Ivanishin and Chris Cassidy arrive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

Ultrasound scans and eye checks aboard the International Space Station today are helping doctors understand how the Expedition 62 crew is adapting to microgravity. Back on Earth, a new crew is in final preparations for its launch next month.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir spent Tuesday morning on biomedical duty and scanned her leg arteries with an ultrasound device. She also attached electrodes to her neck, thigh and heart for the Vascular Echo study. Flight surgeons on the ground monitor the scans real-time to glimpse a crewmember’s heart and blood vessel health in space.

In the afternoon, Meir joined fellow Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan for eye exams. The duo took turns imaging each other’s eyes using optical coherence tomography gear commonly found in an eye doctor’s office. Eye health in space is important, as some astronauts have reported experiencing vision problems after returning to Earth.

Morgan started the morning swapping out batteries in a device that analyzes the station’s atmosphere. Afterward, he tended to hardware for an experiment that seeks to improve the manufacturing process of metallic alloys on Earth.

All three crewmates, including Commander Oleg Skripochka, started the day readying their Soyuz MS-15 crew ship ready for departure on April 17. They performed a fit check of the Soyuz seats they will be sitting in for the three-and-a-half hour ride back to Earth.

Meanwhile, the crew that will replace them is nearing its launch scheduled for April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner arrived today at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final training. The Expedition 63 trio is due to live aboard the station for 195 days with Cassidy as commander.

Vision Tests, 3D Bioprinting on Station as New Crew Ramps up for Launch

The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea
The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain on the European continent from Morocco on the African continent.

Vision tests and a variety of advanced biology research activities took place aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 62 crew also serviced several computers and life support gear as a new crew gets ready for launch next month.

Each crewmember had a vision acuity test today, with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan starting first just after lunchtime today. The crew set up a laptop computer with a vision chart and read the characters with one hand over each eye as ground doctors monitored in real-time.

Morgan started his morning tending to mice living in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The rodents are being observed to understand how microgravity affects genetic expression. Results could inform how humans will adapt to longer missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

In the afternoon, Morgan explored how the space environment, including radiation, impacts microbes living in the human body. The study seeks to understand how gut bacteria is enriched or depleted in space and how it affects astronaut health.

Watch how NASA is learning to protect an astronaut’s microbiome… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOZFfUyOw8s

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir activated a 3-D bioprinter that is being tested for its ability to manufacture human organs in space. She tested the device without printing any cells today and checked its cleaning syringes. The station’s Bio-Fabrication Facility could help patients on Earth and enable future crews to produce food and medicines on long-term space missions.

In the Russian segment, station Commander Oleg Skripochka worked an experiment during the morning to help researchers understand the ergonomic conditions aboard the orbiting lab. The veteran cosmonaut then moved onto computer upgrades before collecting radiation readings in the afternoon.

The next crew to live and work on the space station is preparing to depart to its launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner will sit next to Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin when they launch April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew craft for the six-hour ride to their new home in space.

Spacesuit Work, Air Quality and Radiation Checks on Station Today

The Nile River winding northward next to the Red Sea
This image taken from the space station 263 miles above Sudan shows the Nile River winding northward next to the Red Sea toward the Mediterranean Sea.

The Expedition 62 trio aboard the International Space Station spent their Friday on a variety of activities. The crew conducted a hearing test, swapped spacesuit components, and checked out computers, air quality and radiation.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started the day with a hearing test for the Acoustic Diagnostics study. The research measures an astronaut’s hearing before, during and after a mission to understand the impacts of microgravity and the station’s noise levels.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir worked in the Tranquility module on Friday morning servicing a device that measures the orbiting lab’s atmosphere. The life support gear monitors a variety of major constituents such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor to ensure a safe breathing environment for the crew. Meir wrapped up her day in the airlock, where she changed out a hard upper torso of one of the U.S. spacesuits with Morgan.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, Commander Oleg Skripochka replacing older laptop computers with new ones. In the afternoon, the veteran cosmonaut sampled the air quality and set up radiation detectors in the station’s Russian modules.