Human Research, Mouse Preps Ahead of Dragon Cargo Mission

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan conducts research operations
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan conducts research operations inside the Life Sciences Glovebox for the OsteoOmics-02 bone experiment.

The Expedition 62 crew is running a host of human research and space biology studies today aboard the International Space Station. The orbiting lab is also ramping up for new science being delivered on an upcoming U.S. cargo mission.

A crewmember’s bones and flow of body fluids are affected by the weightless environment of space. Besides daily exercise and diet, scientists are exploring ways to offset the detrimental effects and ensure long-term mission health and success. Insights from the ongoing experiments may also prove beneficial to humans on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir worked on the OsteoOmics-02 bone research hardware that has been in operation all week and serviced science freezers where biological samples are stowed. She also installed a carbon dioxide controller on an incubator that houses a variety of lifeforms such as microbes, animal cells and tissue cultures.

A common condition caused by living in space is called “puffy face.” A crewmember’s face becomes redder and rounder due to body fluids rising up as a symptom of weightlessness. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan set up gear that measures the head pressure caused by this upward flow that has also been known to affect vision.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is due to blast off toward the station on March 6 at 11:49 p.m. EST. It will arrive March 9 carrying about 5,600 pounds of cargo including live mice. Morgan installed hardware today that will house the rodents for the Mouse Habitat Unit-5 investigation from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). He prepared the habitat specifically designed for the study and will attach it later to the upgraded Cell Biology Experiment Facility.

Commander Oleg Skripochka continued studying the physics of dust particles creating plasma crystals. The veteran cosmonaut also worked on orbital plumbing tasks before wrapping up a session that recorded his heart rate and blood pressure for 24 hours.

Space Biology on Station Benefits Humans on Earth and in Space

The Expedition 62 crew poses for a playful portrait
From top to bottom, NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Roscosmos Commander Oleg Skripochka pose for a playful portrait.

The three-member Expedition 62 crew split its time today between biomedical studies and space physics. The microgravity research aboard the International Space Station helps scientists, doctors and engineers provide unique solutions that could improve life for humans on Earth and in space.

Astronauts living in space experience a condition that mimics osteoporosis on Earth. The lack of gravity quickly weakens a crewmember’s bones unless they counteract it with daily exercise and proper nutrition. This is one of many challenges NASA faces as it plans to send humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan this week are helping doctors to compare bone cells in space with samples on Earth that are levitated magnetically. The observations from the OsteoOmics-02 study could provide deeper insights into bone ailments on Earth, including osteoporosis.

Meir also serviced a 3D bioprinter today replacing components inside the device that manufactures complex organ structures aboard the orbiting lab. She later joined Morgan for more eye checks this week using optical coherence tomography in the station’s Harmony module.

On the Russian side of the orbiting complex, station Commander Oleg Skripochka continued exploring plasma physics. The veteran cosmonaut set up a device that traps clouds of particles creating plasma crystals and observes their dynamics. At the end of the day, he swapped out a lens on an Earth observation camera controlled by students on Earth.

Dragon Launch Set for March 6, Station Bone Research Benefits Earth

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship launches
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship launches Dec. 5, 2019, atop the Falcon 9 rocket on its last mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX has announced March 6 for the launch of its 20th contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station. Its Dragon resupply ship will arrive March 9 with over 5,600 pounds of science hardware, research samples and supplies to the Expedition 62 crew.

Meanwhile, NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are tending to a new experiment, which was delivered early last week aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft. The astronauts are exploring the differences between bone cells exposed to microgravity versus samples magnetically levitated on Earth.

Doctors will use the comparisons to gain a deeper understanding of bone diseases. Space-caused bone loss is similar to the symptoms of Earth-bound conditions such as osteoporosis. Astronauts exercise daily keeping track of their diet to counteract the effects of microgravity and maintain healthy bones and muscles.

Meir and Morgan continue to unpack the over three tons of cargo shipped aboard Cygnus one week ago. The duo transferred powered payloads including science freezers containing research samples and tanks filled with nitrogen and oxygen to replenish the station’s atmosphere.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos was back on space physics research this morning observing the behavior of heavily charged particles, or plasma crystals. The three-time station resident also serviced life support gear before collecting measurements from Russian radiation detectors.

Human Research, Earth Studies Start the Work Week

Expedition 62 crewmates Oleg Skripochka, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan
Expedition 62 Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka poses with NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan perched on his shoulders in the weightless environment of the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module.

The Expedition 62 crew spent Monday on a variety of human research activities while also exploring Earth from the vantage point of the International Space Station.

NASA is studying how astronauts’ bodies adapt to living and working in space as mission managers plan longer human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The long-running Fluid Shifts investigation is observing the impact of pressure on the brain and eyes due to the upward flow of body fluids caused by weightlessness.

Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan spent Monday morning collecting their blood, saliva and urine samples for the biomedical study. They spun the samples in a centrifuge before stowing them in a science freezer for analysis on Earth.

The duo then split up as Meir serviced cell samples for a bone study, while Morgan checked on samples being observed for a bio-fuel experiment. They got back together at the end of the day for eye exams as part of the Ocular Health study.

Station Commander Oleg Skripochka, a veteran of two prior station missions, juggled a wide array of space research. He first studied heavily charged particles, or plasma crystals, before setting up Earth observation gear to be remotely controlled by students on the ground. Next, Skripochka split his time on a pair of Earth studies seeking ways to monitor conditions and forecast natural and man-made disasters.

Bone Research and Pilot Studies as Crew Trains for Emergencies

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir
Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir were conducting space biology research inside the Japanese Kibo lab module’s Life Sciences Glovebox in November 2019.

New bone research kicked off on the International Space Station today to improve human health on and off the Earth. The Expedition 62 crew also practiced an emergency simulation with ground controllers.

Living in space causes bone loss and scientists are studying ways to offset the negative effects to ensure long-term mission success. Results from the new OsteoOmics-02 study aboard the orbiting lab also have implications bone diseases on Earth.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan spent Thursday morning setting up the bone experiment hardware for operations in the Life Sciences Glovebox. Doctors will be observing the mechanisms of rapid bone loss in microgravity and extend that knowledge to learn more about osteoporosis on Earth.

The duo then joined Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos in the afternoon and practiced their emergency response training. The three crewmates coordinated their communication, roles and responsibilities with mission controllers in Houston and Moscow. In the unlikely event of a fire, chemical leak or pressure leak, the crew would need to locate safety gear, close module hatches and possibly evacuate the station aboard a Soyuz crew ship.

Before the training session, Skripochka spent the morning on an experiment exploring how long-term spaceflight impacts the professionalism of a crewmember. Results will help Russian scientists understand how a cosmonaut will react to different phases of a mission such as docking to another spacecraft or landing on another planet.

Cygnus Open for Business as New Science Starts

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir observes a floating sphere of water
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir observes a floating sphere of water formed by microgravity.

The Cygnus space freighter is open for business at the Unity module where it will stay for the next three months. The Expedition 62 crew has begun unloading over three tons of science, supplies and station hardware delivered Tuesday to replenish the orbital lab.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan opened Cygnus’ hatch a few hours after its capture and installation Tuesday morning. Afterward, the duo entered the vehicle and began unpacking and setting up over a ton of new science new experiments. The critical research is being stowed in station science freezers, activated in research racks and readied for upcoming operations.

Meir removed science freezers containing research samples from Cygnus and installed them in EXPRESS racks aboard the station. She also began reviewing operations for the just-delivered OsteOmics-02 study to prevent bone loss on Earth and in space.

Morgan retrieved a variety of research hardware from Cygnus and began integrating and activating them in station systems. The new Mobile SpaceLab, a tissue and cell culturing facility, was installed and powered up on an EXPRESS rack.

In the afternoon, the NASA Flight Engineers joined Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos to review emergency procedures. The trio went over the steps they would take in the unlikely event of a fire, pressure leak or ammonia leak aboard the station. The veteran cosmonaut spent the majority of Wednesday on the upkeep of Russian lab systems.

During the crew’s lunchtime a series of nine nanosatellites were deployed outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. They will each study different phenomena such as X-rays from distant pulsars, atmospheric and natural events and the effects of space radiation on hardware.

Cygnus Cargo Craft Attached to Station for Three-Month Stay

Feb. 18, 2020: International Space Station Configuration
Feb. 18, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Three spaceships are parked at the space station including the U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 74 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

After its capture this morning at 4:05 a.m. EST, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s

Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 6:16 a.m. At the time of installation, the space station was flying over south of New Zealand.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,500 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Here are some of the scientific investigations:

Better Tissue and Cell Culturing in Space

Mobile SpaceLab, a tissue and cell culturing facility, offers investigators a quick-turnaround platform to perform sophisticated microgravity biology experiments. Such experiments are critical for determining how microgravity affects human physiology and identifying ways to mitigate negative effects. The platform can work in multiple configurations, allowing investigators to tailor the facility to their needs.

Mochii

The Mochii investigation provides an initial demonstration of a new miniature scanning electron microscope (SEM) with spectroscopy. Mochii will demonstrate real-time, on-site imaging and measurements of micro- and nanostructures aboard the space station. This capability could accelerate answers to many scientific inquiries and mission decisions and serve the public as a powerful and unique microgravity research platform.

Examining Bone Loss in Microgravity

Crew members experience bone loss in orbit, stemming from the lack of gravity acting on their bones. OsteoOmics investigates the molecular mechanisms that dictate this bone loss by examining osteoblasts, cells in the body that form bone, and osteoclasts, which dissolve bone. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to more effective prevention of astronaut bone loss during space missions.

Fighting Bacteria with Phages

Phage Evolution examines the effects of microgravity and radiation exposure on phage and bacterial host interactions, including phage specificity for a bacterial host and host resistance to specific phages. A better understanding of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacteriophages and hosts could result in significant developments for phage technology, ultimately helping protect the health of astronauts on future missions.

(Do Not) Light My Fire

The Spacecraft Fire Experiment-IV (Saffire-IV) investigation examines fire development and growth in different materials and environmental conditions, fire detection and monitoring, and post-fire cleanup capabilities. It is part of a series of fire investigations conducted in the Cygnus resupply vehicle after its departure from space station, eliminating exposure of humans or occupied spacecraft to fire danger.

The Cygnus NG CRS-13 spacecraft for this space station resupply mission is named in honor of U.S. Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence, the first African American astronaut selected by any program, specifically chosen for the Air Force’s Manned Orbital Laboratory Program in June 1967. Lawrence died in an F-104 Starfighter aircraft accident at Edwards Air Force Base, California six months later at the age of 32.

This is the second time two Cygnus spacecraft will be in flight at the same time, as the NG-12 vehicle remains in orbit after departing from the station on Jan. 31.

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

Robotic Arm Reaches Out and Captures Cygnus Cargo Craft

The U.S. Cygnus cargo craft from Northrop Grumman
The U.S. Cygnus cargo craft from Northrop Grumman was about 12 meters away from the station when the Canadarm2 robotic arm captured it.

At 4:05 a.m. EST, NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan grappled Cygnus and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir acted as a backup. After capture, the spacecraft will be installed on the Unity module’s Earth-facing port.

The station was flying over southeastern Russia when it was captured.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 6:00 a.m. Cygnus will remain at the orbiting laboratory for a three-month stay before it disposes of several thousand pounds of trash through its fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

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

U.S. Cygnus Cargo Ship Blasts Off to Station for Tuesday Delivery

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches on time
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches on time atop the Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA TV

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft is on its way to the station with approximately 7,500 pounds of science investigations and cargo after launching at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 15 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At the time of liftoff, the International Space Station was flying 258 statute miles over the western Pacific, northeast of the Northern Mariana Island.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops. Automated command to initiate solar array deploy will begin at 4:40 p.m., about one hour and 19 minutes after launch. Solar array deployment will take about 30 minutes. Confirmation of solar deployment will be shared on the launch blog and social media at @NASA_Wallops and @space_station.

Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory around 4:05 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 2:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus, while NASA’s Jessica Meir monitors telemetry. The spacecraft is scheduled to stay at the space station until May.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,500 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Here are some of the scientific investigations:

Better Tissue and Cell Culturing in Space

Mobile SpaceLab, a tissue and cell culturing facility, offers investigators a quick-turnaround platform to perform sophisticated microgravity biology experiments. Such experiments are critical for determining how microgravity affects human physiology and identifying ways to mitigate negative effects. The platform can work in multiple configurations, allowing investigators to tailor the facility to their needs.

Mochii

The Mochii investigation provides an initial demonstration of a new miniature scanning electron microscope (SEM) with spectroscopy. Mochii will demonstrate real-time, on-site imaging and measurements of micro- and nanostructures aboard the space station. This capability could accelerate answers to many scientific inquiries and mission decisions and serve the public as a powerful and unique microgravity research platform.

Examining Bone Loss in Microgravity

Crew members experience bone loss in orbit, stemming from the lack of gravity acting on their bones. OsteoOmics investigates the molecular mechanisms that dictate this bone loss by examining osteoblasts, cells in the body that form bone, and osteoclasts, which dissolve bone. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to more effective prevention of astronaut bone loss during space missions.

Fighting Bacteria with Phages

Phage Evolution examines the effects of microgravity and radiation exposure on phage and bacterial host interactions, including phage specificity for a bacterial host and host resistance to specific phages. A better understanding of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacteriophages and hosts could result in significant developments for phage technology, ultimately helping protect the health of astronauts on future missions.

(Do Not) Light My Fire

The Spacecraft Fire Experiment-IV (Saffire-IV) investigation examines fire development and growth in different materials and environmental conditions, fire detection and monitoring, and post-fire cleanup capabilities. It is part of a series of fire investigations conducted in the Cygnus resupply vehicle after its departure from space station, eliminating exposure of humans or occupied spacecraft to fire danger.

Northrop Grumman named the NG CRS-13 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. Major Lawrence was selected in honor of his prominent place in history as the first African American astronaut.

This is Northrop Grumman’s 13th cargo flight to the space station and will support dozens of new and existing investigations.

Follow the Cygnus spacecraft’s arrival to the orbiting laboratory on the space station blog and by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Astronauts Relaxing Ahead of U.S. Cargo Mission

Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds
Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds, the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere, are pictured from the International Space Station orbiting 269 miles above the South Pacific.

Two NASA astronauts are relaxing for the next couple of days as a U.S. space delivery nears its launch to the International Space Station. The Expedition 62 Commander is staying busy with the research and the upkeep of Russian orbital lab systems.

Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are taking it easy Thursday and Friday as they look ahead to the arrival of the Cygnus cargo craft from Northrop Grumman. Cygnus launches Friday at 3:43 p.m. EST and will reach the station less than two days later. Morgan will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus on Sunday at about 4 a.m. Meir will assist and monitor the space freighter’s approach and rendezvous.

Mission controllers will take over and remotely guide the Cygnus in the grips of Canadarm2 and install it to the Unity module. The two NASA astronauts will open Cygnus’ hatch Sunday afternoon and begin unloading about 7,500 pounds of new science, crew supplies and station hardware. NASA TV will cover all the launch, capture and installation activities live.

Roscosmos Commander Oleg Skripochka started his day jogging on a treadmill for an exercise study. Afterward, the veteran cosmonaut worked on orbital plumbing tasks and housecleaning tasks in the station’s Russian segment.