Crew Sets up for Earth and Radiation Studies Before Next Trio Launches

Western Libya
Middle school children programmed a space station camera to photograph this portion of the Sahara desert seen in western Libya in October. Credit: Sally Ride EarthKAM

The Expedition 50 trio orbiting on the International Space Station is conducting maintenance while getting ready for Earth observations and radiation exposure studies today. In Kazakhstan, three new crew members are waiting as their Soyuz rocket is prepared for launch.

Commander Shane Kimbrough started work on the U.S. segment’s Oxygen Generation System (OGS), which will undergo maintenance throughout the week. Today, Kimbrough tagged up with ground specialists and replaced a hydrogen sensor and will continue to work on OGS through Wednesday. The system is currently shut down due to a low voltage signature within the Hydrogen Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU) that contains the electrolyzing cell stack. The Russian Elektron system is providing oxygen for the crew at this time.

The two flight engineers, new cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov and veteran station commander Andrey Borisenko, are handing over a set of radiation detectors to Kimbrough. The NASA astronaut, who is on his second trip in space, will install the Radi-N2 detectors in the Destiny laboratory for a week to help doctors understand the radiation risk to crew health and develop protective measures.

Ryzhikov is also setting up a camera that will allow middle school students to photograph targets on Earth and downlink the imagery. The Sally Ride EarthKAM gear will be set up in the Harmony module’s Earth-facing hatch window and use internet-based tools to promote the learning process.

Another trio of Expedition 50 members is counting down to its Nov. 17 launch and two-day trip to the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Veteran station residents Peggy Whitson of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, along with first-time space flyer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, are in final training before they liftoff aboard the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft. This will be Whitson’s third station mission and Novitskiy’s second.

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