Station Boosts Orbit, Crew Studies Space Effects on Eyes

Expedition 51 Crew Meal Time
Expedition 51 crew members share a meal inside the Unity module. From left are Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer and Commander Peggy Whitson.

The International Space Station raised its orbit today to get ready for a June crew departure. The first of two orbital reboosts comes just a week after two new crew members arrived to begin their mission with Expedition 51.

Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet will return to Earth June 2 ending the Expedition 51 mission. Expedition 52 will begin and veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin will stay behind with NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer waiting for the next crew arrival on July 28.

The current orbiting crew of five Expedition 51 crew members continued more biomedical research and eye checks today. The crew underwent a series of ultrasound scans and eye tests to learn how living in space affects vision. The astronauts are subjects of ongoing studies to help NASA plan missions farther out in space for longer periods of time.

One symptom of living in space for long periods is the pressure that builds up behind astronauts’ eyes due to the upward flow of fluids. Doctors are seeking to counteract this flow after some astronauts have reported vision problems during and after their long-term missions.


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First 4K Live Stream from Space and Eye Studies for Crew

NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer
NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer talk live to panelists at the National Association of Broadcasters using 4K ultra-high-defintion streaming technology for the first time.

NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer live-streamed a broadcast from space today using 4K ultra-high-definition technology for the first time. The duo called down to the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas to demonstrate the advanced technology and promote space science and filmmaking.

Expedition 51 worked throughout Wednesday on a variety of microgravity research and spaceship unpacking. The five crew members also conducted vision checks while their newest pair continued getting up to speed on International Space Station systems.

French astronaut Pesquet joined Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy for ultrasound scans and eye exams in the morning. The two crewmates are participating in a study to understand and offset the headward fluid shifts in space that are known to affect vision.

Pesquet got together at the end of the day with Whitson and Jack Fischer for more eye checks with guidance from doctors on the ground. Whitson also studied how astronauts adapt to touchscreen interfaces. Fischer spent a few hours swapping sample cartridges in a high-temperature furnace lab facility.

Veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin continued offloading cargo from the new Soyuz MS-04 crew ship. Pesquet also transferred new science and crew supplies from the Cygnus resupply ship. Yurchikhin and Fischer are continuing to adapt to living and working aboard the station having been in space less than week.


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President Calls Station as Crew Unloads Gear from New Ships

The President Calls the Space Station
President Donald Trump, joined by astronaut Kate Rubins, left, and First Daughter Ivanka Trump, talks with station crew members Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer from the White House Oval Office in Washington. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. record today for most cumulative time living in space, surpassing astronaut Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days set during his four spaceflights. She passed Williams’ mark at 1:27 a.m. EDT.

President Donald Trump called the International Space Station Monday morning and congratulated Whitson on her record-breaking career. Whitson and her newest crewmate NASA astronaut Jack Fischer discussed NASA’s research in space and its plans to go to Mars in the 2030’s.

Before today’s presidential call the Expedition 51 crew members joined together to review their roles and responsibilities in the unlikely event of an emergency aboard the International Space Station. If necessary, they could put on safety gear, evacuate the station into their docked Soyuz vehicles and quickly undock for a ride back to Earth.

The crew is also unloading gear today from two new spaceships that arrived last week. Veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin has been transferring cargo from the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft he piloted to a docking last Thursday. Whitson and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet are working to offload new science experiments and crew supplies that arrived Saturday morning aboard the Cygnus resupply ship.


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Cygnus Bolted to Station for Three Month Stay

April 22, 2017: International Space Station Configuration
Four spacecraft are parked at the station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship, the Progress 66 cargo craft and the Soyuz MS-03 and MS-04 crew vehicles.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 8:39 a.m. EDT. Crew will ingress the spacecraft later today. The spacecraft will spend about three months on station before it is released in July for a destructive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, disposing of several thousand pounds of trash.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 51 and 52. Some of the research on board includes:

  • In microgravity, cancer cells grow in 3-D, spheroid structures that closely resemble their form in the human body, enabling better tests for drug the efficacy. The ADCs in Microgravity investigation tests drugs designed as targeted cancer therapies called antibody-drug conjugates, developed by Oncolinx.
  • The Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA) investigation originally was operated successfully aboard the station in 2002. Updated software, data acquisition, high definition video and communication interfaces will help advance understanding of the processes involved in semiconductor crystal growth. Investigations such as the CLYC Crystal Growth experiment will be conducted in the SUBSA Furnace and inserts. High-quality crystals are essential to a variety of applications, and a microgravity environment can produce better quality crystals.
  • The Thermal Protection Material Flight Test and Reentry Data Collection (RED-Data2) investigation studies a new type of recording device that rides alongside a spacecraft as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere, recording data about the extreme conditions it encounters. Scientists, so far, have been unable to monitor those conditions on a large scale, and a better understanding could lead to more accurate spacecraft breakup predictions, better spacecraft designs, and materials capable of better resisting the extreme heat and pressure during the return to Earth.

Prior to re-entry in late July, the Cygnus spacecraft will also host the third Spacecraft Fire Experiment, or SAFFIRE, to study how fire burns in microgravity. Data from these experiments will help inform the development of future crew spacecraft.

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station. To subscribe or unsubscribe to this list, please email heo-pao@lists.nasa.gov.


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Cygnus Captured After Four-Day Delivery Mission

Cygnus Final Approach
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft approaches its 10 meter capture point where the Canadarm2 grapples resupply ship. Credit: NASA TV

Using the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2, Expedition 51 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Commander Peggy Whitson successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft at 6:05 a.m. EDT. The space station crew and robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 7:30 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning.

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.


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Crew Welcomes New Members and Waits for Cargo Mission

Space Station Configuration
There are three spaceships docked at the International Space Station including two Soyuz crew ships and one Progress cargo ship.

The Expedition 51 crew is waiting for a space delivery mission after welcoming two new crewmates Thursday. Two astronauts are training for a resupply ship’s arrival as two other crew members are getting used to their new home in space.

The Cygnus cargo craft will arrive at the International Space Station early Saturday after a four-day trip to deliver new science experiments and crew supplies. Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet with assistance from Commander Peggy Whitson will maneuver the Canadarm2 to reach out and capture Cygnus after its final approach. Finally, ground controllers will give the crew a break and remotely control the 57.7 foot robotic arm and install Cygnus to the Harmony module.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer is adapting to living in weightlessness for the first time, while his crewmate cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin is beginning his fifth mission in space. The pair joined Expedition 51 Thursday morning just six-hours, 10-minutes after blasting off from Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-04 spaceship. They will stay in space until September before returning back to Earth with record-setting astronaut Whitson.

New Crew Ready for Launch as Cygnus Races to Station

Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer
Expedition 51 crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin (left) and Jack Fischer give a “thumbs up” as they pose for pictures April 14 in front of their Soyuz booster rocket. Credit: NASA/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin

Two Expedition 51 crew members are in quarantine today at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, getting ready for their liftoff Thursday morning. Meanwhile, new science gear and crew supplies are on orbit right now and headed for the International Space Station this weekend.

Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin is getting ready for his fifth mission to the space station on Thursday. He will ride to space with NASA astronaut and first-time space flier Jack Fischer aboard the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft. The duo will launch at 3:13 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and take a six-hour, ten-minute ride to the Poisk module’s docking port.

Two days after Yurchikhin and Fischer dock and join their Expedition 51 crewmates, the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft will arrive to resupply the orbital laboratory. Cygnus will deliver experiments supporting research into cancer-fighting drugs, semiconductor crystal growth and atmospheric reentry conditions.

Station Commander Peggy Whitson along with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet trained for the rendezvous and grapple of the Cygnus cargo ship Saturday morning. The duo practiced on a computer the robotic maneuvers they will use to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2.

U.S., Russian Rockets Rollout for Cargo and Crew Deliveries

Cygnus and Soyuz Spacecraft
The Cygnus spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket (left) and the Soyuz MS-04 rocket rolled out to their launch pads today.

Two rockets on opposite sides of the world rolled out to their launch pads today ready to blast off to the International Space Station. An American rocket rolled out to its pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A Russian rocket was carted by train and raised to its vertical position at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft is stacked atop the Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance and ready for its Tuesday launch at 11:11 a.m. EDT from Florida. The seventh contracted Commercial Resupply Services mission for Orbital ATK will deliver over 7,600 pounds science gear and crew supplies to the Expedition 51 crew. Cygnus is due to arrive Saturday morning for a robotic capture and installation to the Unity module.

Two new Expedition 51 crew members will be seated in the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft when it lifts off from Kazakhstan Thursday at 3:13 a.m. Just six hours and 10 minutes later the duo will dock to the Poisk module to begin a mission expected to last about 4-1/2 months.

Meanwhile, the orbiting trio of Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy are getting ready for the new arrivals and continuing space research. Whitson explored how the brain adapts to microgravity while Pesquet set up hardware to collect body fluid samples for later analysis. Novitskiy focused on systems maintenance in the station’s Russian segment.

Station Trio Works High-Flying Science and Maintenance

oleg Novitskiy and Peggy Whitson
Expedition 51 crewmates Oleg Novitskiy and Peggy Whitson pause for a portrait during a busy day aboard the station.

Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy juggled a wide variety of space science and human research Thursday. The Expedition 51 trio also switched roles from orbital scientists to high-flying technicians maintaining the systems of the International Space Station.

Whitson started the day testing her fine motor skills to help researchers understand space adaptation and potentially design future touch-based devices for astronauts. The commander then spent the afternoon on space plumbing and worked on the Water Recovery System that converts urine and sweat into clean drinking water.

Pesquet began his morning observing what happens to materials heated to extreme temperatures. The Electrostatic Levitation Furnace can reveal combustion properties and synthesize materials that are very difficult to produce on Earth. In the afternoon, he studied the different phases of metallic alloys in the Material Science Research Rack.

Novitskiy, who is on his second station mission, worked throughout the day on troubleshooting a computer issue in the Zarya cargo module. Towards the end of the day, he charged computer batteries inside the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft and flushed water tanks into the Progress 66 cargo craft.

Expedition 51 Ramps Up for New Crew and Cargo

Expedition 51 Crew Members Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer
Expedition 51 crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer pose in front of the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft they will launch in April 20. Credit: NASA/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin

The three Expedition 51 crew members aboard the International Space Station are waiting for a new cargo shipment and a new crew to arrive next week. The orbiting trio are also performing human research and working on U.S. spacesuits.

A pair of spaceships are due next week at the space station. The Orbital ATK Cygnus will launch April 18 on a four-day trip to deliver over 7,600 pounds science gear and crew supplies. On April 20, a pair of new Expedition 51 crew members will blast off in the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft on a six-hour ride to the station’s Poisk module.

Commander Peggy Whitson is continuing to explore how new lights installed in the station are affecting crew health and wellness. She is documenting her sleep patterns and participating in cognition and visual tests for the Lighting Effects study.

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet started his day conducting a Fine Motor Skills test. The study is helping scientists understand how astronauts adapt to touch-based technologies that could influence the development of mobile devices and spacecraft piloting interfaces.

Pesquet turned his attention to spacesuit maintenance Wednesday afternoon. He dumped cooling water and purged gas buildup from the water tanks inside the suits. The work is being done ahead of a planned May 12 spacewalk to replace an avionics box to control science experiments installed outside the station.