Astronauts Focus on Spacesuits, High-Temp Physics and Storm Photography

Lake Superior and Lake Michigan surrounded by the cloudy and frozen terrain
Lake Superior and Lake Michigan is surrounded by the cloudy and frozen terrain of the North American continent.

Spacesuit servicing and high-temperature physics kept the crew busy today aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 astronauts also researched meteorology from the station and explored more Earth phenomena from space.

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques is returning a U.S. spacesuit to service today inside the U.S. Quest airlock. He verified successful installation of suit components and checked for water leaks in the suit at full operational pressure. NASA is planning a set of maintenance spacewalks at the station planned for March 22, 29, and April 8.

In the Kibo lab module from Japan, astronaut Anne McClain cleaned sample cartridges in a specialized thermo-physical research device called the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace. The high-temperature facility levitates, solidifies and melts samples that may contribute to the synthesis of new materials difficult to achieve on Earth.

She later set up camera hardware for the Tropical Cyclone experiment to demonstrate storm predictions from the station. McClain targeted a moonlit Typhoon Oma today off the coast of Queensland, Australia from inside the cupola.

Commander Oleg Kononenko worked on a suite of science experiments Wednesday in the Russian segment of the station. The veteran cosmonaut photographed terrestrial landmarks to document forest conditions and the effects of natural and man-made disasters. He also studied how space impacts the cardiovascular system and the piloting skills of a cosmonaut.

Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are preparing for their March 14 launch to the orbital lab aboard the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia for final training before heading to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26.

Experimental Fuel Hardware, Astrophysics and Life Science Fill Crew Day

Expedition 58 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA
Expedition 58 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for the Marrow experiment.

The International Space Station is hosting a robotic experiment that may help enable and refuel future missions to the moon and Mars. The Expedition 58 crew installed that hardware today then worked on a variety of life science, astrophysics and combustion science gear.

The Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) experiment will demonstrate transferring and storing fuels and coolants such as liquid methane and a cryogenic fluid in space. Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques installed the RRM3 hardware today inside Japan’s Kibo lab module airlock. The gear will be deployed outside Kibo then transferred to an external logistics carrier. Once there, the Dextre “robotic hand” will begin operations demonstrating fluid transfers with a set of specialized tools.

The two astronauts also split their time conducting maintenance on a pair of space incubators. McClain worked on a mouse habitat replacing filters inside Kibo’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility. Saint-Jacques swapped a carbon dioxide controller in the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL). SABL supports research into microorganisms, small animals, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants.

McClain also replaced a laptop computer hard drive dedicated to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 experiment. The experiment is housed on the station’s truss structure and searches for antimatter and dark matter in addition to measuring cosmic rays. She later cleaned up gear supporting gaseous flame studies inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.

Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are a month away from joining the three orbital residents aboard the space station. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia in final training before their March 14 launch to the orbital lab.

Time Perception Studies, Free-Flying Robotics on Station Schedule

The forward end of the International Space Station
The forward end of the International Space Station is pictured showing portions of five modules.

The Expedition 58 crew is helping scientists today understand how astronauts perceive time and orient themselves when living in space. The orbital residents are also working on CubeSat and free-flying robotics hardware aboard the International Space Station.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques wore virtual reality gear for the Time Perception experiment sponsored by the European Space Agency. The study takes place in the Columbus lab module and is researching the hypothesis that time and depth perception are altered in microgravity.

McClain of NASA started the day inside the Kibo lab module, opened the airlock and removed the CubeSat deployer. She disassembled and stowed the hardware in Kibo’s logistics module after it ejected a series of CubeSats into Earth orbit in January.

Astrobee is a new experimental program that uses three small free-flying assistants and is due to begin operations soon. Saint-Jacques installed the Astrobee docking station in the Unity module where the cube-shaped robotic helpers will be able to attach themselves in the future. The autonomous free-flyers may be able to help astronauts with simple duties and enhance monitoring abilities on the orbital lab.

Commander Oleg Kononenko spent Friday morning exploring how crew activities and the Earth’s magnetic field impact the structure of the space station. The experienced cosmonaut moved into the afternoon replacing dust filters before researching space navigation techniques.

Research into How Space Impacts Humans and Physics Continues

NASA astronaut Anne McClain
NASA astronaut Anne McClain works inside the Kibo laboratory module designed and built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The three residents onboard the International Space Station today worked with a diverse array of science hardware. The trio continues to explore what living in space is doing to their bodies and helped scientists promote healthier humans in space and on Earth.

Astronauts have reported increased head and eye pressure during long-duration space missions. The Expedition 58 crew is researching that phenomenon today to help doctors reverse the upward fluid shifts that affect space residents.

One solution being studied is a special suit that draws fluids such as blood and water toward the lower body to prevent swelling in the face and elevated head and eye pressure. Astronaut Anne McClain tried that suit on today and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques used an ultrasound device to scan the activity. Commander Oleg Kononenko assisted the duo inside Russia’s Zvezda service module.

Afterward, McClain glided to the opposite end of the station in Japan’s Kibo lab module to work on the Two-Phase Flow fluid physics experiment. She set up and installed the research hardware inside Kibo’s Multi-purpose Small Research Rack. The experiment may enable engineers to design advanced thermal management systems for use on Earth and in space.

Saint-Jacques returned to biomedical studies today collecting and stowing more breath, blood and urine samples for later analysis. The ongoing research is helping scientists understand the long-term space impacts to bone marrow, red blood cells and the overall human physiology.

Saint-Jacques finally reviewed instructions to install a docking station on Friday for new cube-shaped, free-flying robots that will arrive at the station later this year. The Astrobee autonomous assistants may free up more science time for astronauts and allow mission controllers better monitoring capabilities.

Crew Studies Human Body and Checks Cooling Systems

David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Kononenko of Expedition 58
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques (right) of the Canadian Space Agency becomes a barber aboard the International Space Station and trims Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko’s hair with clippers attached to a vacuum hose.

Wednesday saw the Expedition 58 crew explore the inner workings of the human body in space and maintain cooling systems aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain spent all day setting up cooling gear inside the U.S. Destiny lab module and Japan’s Kibo lab module. She drained and refilled water pumps inside the Fluid System Servicer and the Internal Thermal Control System. The life support systems help cool the station’s atmosphere and dispel heat generated by electrical systems.

Microgravity’s impact on the human physiology was the focus of Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques’ day. The Canadian Space Agency astronaut collected and stowed his breath, blood and urine samples for a variety of human research experiments. The research is supporting the long term-collection of human biological samples and observing bone marrow and blood changes.

Saint-Jacques also conducted ultrasound scans in the Zvezda service module for the Fluid Shifts study with assistance from Commander Oleg Kononenko and doctors on the ground. That research is seeking to reverse increased head and eye pressure that occurs in space.

Kononenko started Wednesday servicing Russian life support systems. The four-time station resident then spent the afternoon on more space research studying motion coordination, radiation exposure and crew psychology.

Exercise Research and Biology Hardware Checks Aboard Orbital Lab

NASA astronaut Anne McClain
NASA astronaut Anne McClain is surrounded by exercise gear, including laptop computers and sensors that measure physical exertion and aerobic capacity, during a workout session.

The Expedition 58 crew explored space exercise and checked out biology hardware today aboard the International Space Station. The space residents supplemented their research activities and kept the orbital lab systems in tip-top shape.

Daily exercise in space is important so astronauts can fight muscle and bone loss caused by living in weightlessness. Doctors are seeking to optimize workouts for crews to stay in shape for strenuous activities like spacewalks, returning to Earth and adjusting to gravity.

Anne McClain of NASA contributed to that research today strapping into an exercise bike while attached to breathing tubes and sensors. Scientists measured her breathing and aerobic capacity to understand the effects of microgravity on pulmonary function and physical exertion.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques worked on a pair of incubators throughout Tuesday. He disconnected hardware in the Kubik incubator that houses small biology studies in the Columbus lab module. Afterward, he glided into the Kibo lab module and set up a carbon dioxide meter inside the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory supporting a wide variety of life sciences.

The commander, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, worked primarily in the station’s Russian segment beginning the day working on life support gear. The highly experienced cosmonaut then moved onto space navigation research before charging the emergency phone inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft.

Spacesuits, Life Science and Robotic Assistant Work Start the Week

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency takes pictures of the Earth below from inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola.

Spacesuit work, robotic assistants as well as exercise and biology studies took up the majority of the Expedition 58 crew’s schedule on Monday. The rest of February at the International Space Station will be primarily science work before March ramps up with crew and cargo missions and spacewalks.

Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack and set up protein crystal samples inside a specialized microscope for photographing. The research is supporting a series of Biophysics experiments exploring potential pharmaceutical benefits for humans on and off Earth.

After lunch, McClain spent the rest of the afternoon emptying and refilling water in the U.S. spacesuit cooling loops. She also verified the spacesuits’ ability to transfer high-speed data during usage. NASA is currently targeting the end of March to begin a trio of maintenance spacewalks.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques strapped himself into an exercise bike today to measure his breathing and aerobic capacity. He attached breathing tubes and sensors to himself to help doctors understand the effects of microgravity on pulmonary function and physical exertion.

In the afternoon, he set up a docking station where tiny free-flying robots can mount themselves in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Powered by fans and guided by a vision system, the Astrobee autonomous assistants may free up more science time for astronauts and allow mission controllers better monitoring capabilities.

Astronauts Release U.S. Spacecraft from Station

Cygnus Released from Canadarm2
The Cygnus is pictured moments after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft was released from the Canadarm2 at 11:16 a.m. EST and has departed the International Space Station. After an extended mission to deploy several CubeSats in multiple orbits, Cygnus is scheduled to be deorbited on Feb. 25 to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

Expedition 58 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency used the station’s robotic arm to release the craft, dubbed the “SS John Young”, after ground controllers unbolted the cargo vehicle from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module earlier this morning.

This Commercial Resupply Services contract mission delivered dozens of new and existing investigations as Expedition 58 contributes to some hundreds of science and research studies. Highlights from the new experiments include a demonstration of 3D printing and recycling technology and simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust.

The Refabricator is the first-ever 3D printer and recycler integrated into one user-friendly machine. Once it’s installed in the space station, it will demonstrate recycling of waste plastic and previously 3D printed parts already on-board into high-quality filament, or 3D printer “ink.” This recycled filament will be fed into the printer as stock to make new tools and parts on-demand in space. This technology could enable closed-loop, sustainable fabrication, repair and recycling on long-duration space missions, and greatly reduce the need to continually launch large supplies of new material and parts for repairs and maintenance. The demonstration, which NASA’s Space Technology Mission and Human Exploration and Operations Directorates co-sponsored, is considered a key enabling technology for in-space manufacturing. NASA awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract valued to Tethers Unlimited Inc. to build the recycling system.

The Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) investigation will explore how planets, moons and other objects in space formed by simulating the high-energy, low-gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, and then study the shape and texture of the resulting pellets.

The Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 (PCG-16) investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson’s disease, and improving our knowledge of its structure may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. LRRK2 crystals grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.  This investigation is sponsored by the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth.

Cygnus launched Nov. 17, 2018, on an Antares 230 rocket from Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops, and arrived at the station Nov. 19 for the company’s 10th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.

This was the seventh flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the fourth using Northrop Grumman’s upgraded Antares 230 launch vehicle featuring new RD-181 engines that provide increased performance and flexibility.

Cygnus Ready for Friday Departure and CubeSat Deployments

The Cygnus space freighter
The Cygnus space freighter is maneuvered by the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after its arrival and capture at the International Space Station on Nov. 19, 2018.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is just a day away from completing its tenth mission to the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 crew is training today for Cygnus’ robotic release on Friday and preparing it for one more mission afterward.

Cygnus is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm today still attached to the Unity module. Robotics controllers will uninstall Cygnus from Unity early Friday and remotely maneuver the space freighter to its release position.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain will take over the robotics controls as David Saint-Jacques from the Canadian Space Agency backs her up inside the cupola. She will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into space at 11:10 a.m. EST Friday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of Cygnus’ release starting at 10:45 a.m.

The two astronauts practiced the release of Cygnus today and finished the installation of the Slingshot small satellite deployer inside the spacecraft. Slingshot will eject a set of CubeSats from Cygnus once the cargo vessel reaches a safe distance from the station about eight hours after its release.

Friday’s Cygnus departure will leave a pair of Russian spacecraft docked to the station including the Progress 71 cargo craft and the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship. Two more spaceships are due to visit in March including a demonstration version of SpaceX’s first crew Dragon and the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft with three new Expedition 59-60 crew members.

Mind and Body Studies as Crew Finalizes Cygnus Packing

Astronaut Anne McClain of NASA
Astronaut Anne McClain of NASA peers into a microscope and takes photographs for the Protein Crystal Growth-16 experiment that is exploring therapies for Parkinson’s disease.

The astronauts onboard the International Space Station continued exploring today how living in space affects their minds and bodies. The Expedition 58 crew also researched fluid physics and prepared a resupply ship for its departure.

Anne McClain of NASA collected blood and urine samples this morning for the Repository physiology study. She spun the samples in a centrifuge then stowed them in a science freezer. She later took a cognition test in support of the Lighting Effects experiment that seeks to improve health and wellness.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques along with McClain answered a pair of questionnaires in support of the Standard Measures and Behavioral Core Measures psychology studies. He also wrapped up a physics study observing the mechanics of fluids in hardware that represents a spacecraft fuel tank.

McClain will be in the cupola Friday at 11:10 a.m. EST and release the U.S. Cygnus resupply ship from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Saint-Jacques will back her up Friday and monitor the cargo vessel’s departure. The duo is finalizing packing, will install a small satellite deployer in Cygnus then close the hatches on Thursday.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos worked on power supply and battery maintenance in the Zarya module. The long-serving cosmonaut also researched crew psychology and studied radiation exposure.