Trio Ready to Begin Space Mission Lasting till Mid-December

Soyuz MS-05 Rocket
The Soyuz MS-05 rocket stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

It is less than one day before three new International Space Station crew members start a 4-1/2 month mission in space. The trio from Russia, United States and Italy will launch aboard the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft Friday at 11:41 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy and astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli will dock to the Rassvet module having left Earth just six hours and 19 minutes earlier. After pressure checks the hatches will open and the crew will fly into their new home. They will join their Expedition 52 crewmates Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer.

Meanwhile, space research continues apace as scientists on the ground and the crew observe microgravity’s effects on humans, plants and animals. Research on the station also runs the gamut of physics, technology, earth observations and more, benefitting life on Earth and future crews in space.

All three crew members orbiting Earth today once again explored a lower body suit that has the potential to reverse the headward flow of body fluids in space. Whitson then studied new methods to manage liquid and gas mixtures on spacecraft life support systems. Fischer began setting up gear for an upcoming Japanese plant experiment.


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Two Days and Counting After Crew Rocket Rolls Out to Pad

The Soyuz MS-05 rocket
The Soyuz MS-05 rocket is vertically raised into launch position two days before its scheduled launch from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft that will launch three new crew members to the International Space Station has rolled out to its launch pad in Kazakhstan. The rocket was carted slowly by train from its processing facility to the pad and vertically raised to its launch position at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy will command the Soyuz when it launches Friday at 11:41 a.m. EDT. He will be flanked by flight engineers Randy Bresnik from NASA and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency. The trio will take a six-hour, 19-minute ride from Earth to the station’s Rassvet module. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities live beginning at 10:45 a.m.

The three Expedition 52 crew members living on the space station now are moving right along with ongoing human research. Veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson continued exploring therapies that target only cancer cells. Flight Engineer Jack Fischer swabbed his mouth and body for a study tracking microbes in space. Station Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin worked life support maintenance and sampled the station’s air for a quality check.


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Crew Tests Lower Body Suit to Protect Vision; Soyuz Rocket Rolls Out Wednesday

Astronaut Peggy Whitson
Astronaut Peggy Whitson looks at the Earth below from inside the seven-windowed cupola.

One of the effects of living in space is the tendency of fluids to shift upward towards an astronaut’s head. This results in the common “puffy face” appearance astronauts experience when they escape Earth’s gravity. However, the more serious effects observed on orbit could include eye and vision damage.

The three Expedition 52 crew members are exploring a unique device that reverses some of these headward fluid shifts and could counter changes to vision in space. Peggy Whitson of NASA tried on the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit today with assistance from Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer joined the commander and conducted brain/ear fluid pressure tests and eye exams on Whitson.

Back on Earth, three new Expedition 52-53 crew members will see their Soyuz MS-05 rocket roll out to its launch pad Wednesday. The trio from the United States, Russia and Italy will blast off inside the Soyuz rocket Friday at 11:41 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Randy Bresnik of NASA, Sergey Ryazanskiy from Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency will live on the orbital complex until mid-December.


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Launch Preps in Kazakhstan; Cancer Therapies Researched on Station

Expedition 52-53 crew with Soyuz rocket
Expedition 52-53 crew members (from left) Paolo Nespoli, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Randy Bresnik, stand in front of the Soyuz rocket that will launch them to space. Credit: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

A new International Space Station crew is less than a week away from beginning a 4-1/2 month mission living and working in space. The trio from the United States, Russia and Italy is in Kazakhstan counting down to a Friday launch at 11:41 a.m. EDT inside the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy will command the Soyuz vehicle during the six-hour, 19-minute ride from Earth to the station’s Rassvet module. He will be flanked by crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA and astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency. NASA TV will cover the launch and docking activities live.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 52 crew orbiting Earth now explored how microgravity impacts cancer therapies. The trio also worked on various maintenance tasks throughout the orbital lab.

New space research aboard the station is providing insights that may accelerate development of drugs that target only cancer cells. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson peered at cells today through a microscope for the cancer study that started in April this year. Results may create more effective treatments for cancer patients on Earth.

Jack Fischer of NASA moved a variety of science gear around and cleaned a mouse habitat. He also swapped out a hard drive for an experiment that measures the composition of meteors orbiting and entering Earth’s atmosphere.


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Crew Conducts Research to Mitigate the Human Body’s Response to Spaceflight

Sprint investigation
Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer assess spaceflight-induced changes in muscle volume with the Sprint study.

The crew of Expedition 52 wrapped up an intensive week of research on Friday, concentrating on studies in the field of human health and performance.

On Thursday, the crew conducted their second ultrasound for the Sprint investigation, which studies the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training to minimize the loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular fitness during long-duration space excursions. Using meticulous thigh and calf scans through remote guidance from the ground team, these results will help determine what changes astronauts are experiencing in microgravity and how best to manage those fluctuations for future missions.

Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer today will gather and transfer Fluid Shifts hardware to the station’s Russian segment in preparation for Fluid Shifts Chibis (Lower Body Negative Pressure) operations that begin on Monday. Fluid Shifts investigates the causes for lasting physical changes to astronaut’s eyes—a side effect of human space exploration in a microgravity environment. It’s theorized that the headward fluid shift in space-faring explorers contributes to these changes. In response, a lower body negative pressure device is being evaluated to see if it can perhaps reverse this fluid shift. As an added bonus, what investigators glean from this study may contribute to the development of countermeasures against lasting changes in vision and prevention of eye damage.

The Expedition 52-53 crew that will lift off to the International Space Station within a week is finalizing preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, along with astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli, are slated to launch July 28 at 11:41 a.m. EDT for a six-hour journey to the orbiting laboratory. NASA TV will cover all the activities, so tune in.


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Russian Cargo Craft Departs Space Station

Progress
An unpiloted Russian Progress resupply ship undocks from the International Space Station.

The unpiloted Russian Progress 66 cargo craft departed the International Space Station today after a five-month stay. Loaded with trash and other items no longer needed by the Expedition 52 crew, the Progress automatically undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment of the complex at 1:46 p.m. EDT. With its mission completed, the cargo craft, which first arrived at the complex on Feb. 24, used its engines to conduct a separation maneuver, allowing it to move to a safe distance away from the station.  

The Progress’ engines will execute a deorbit burn at 4:58 p.m. to enable it to drop out of orbit for its entry back to Earth where it will burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.  

The next Russian Progress resupply ship is scheduled to launch to the station in mid-October.


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In Orbit Today: Improving Longer-Duration Space Travel and Cancer Treatments

solar arrays
This angled image of space station solar arrays frames the Earth scene.

The Expedition 52 crew embarked on tasks Wednesday to further NASA’s eventual journey to Mars and aid researchers in understanding how to stimulate cancer-fighting drugs to target cancer cells—and cancer cells alone—in the human body.

The astronauts lent their opinions to a food questionnaire designed to explore if the current food available in the spaceflight food system would be acceptable for even longer-duration missions, like a Martian sojourn. Their input will help develop strategies to improve futuristic food systems in support of crew health and performance.

Of even greater magnitude to Earthlings approximately 240 miles below the orbiting laboratory is the work being performed with the Efficacy and Metabolism of Azonafide Antibody-Drug Conjugates in Microgravity (ADCs in Microgravity) investigation. The crew retrieved a BioCell Habitat, inoculation kits and ADC samples from a Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI), set up hardware inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) and inoculated the Multiwall BioCells using syringes. Later, the astronauts will repeat these steps with a second BioCell Habitat, which begins an 11-day experiment stretch. In the zero-g environment of space, cancer cells grow in spheroid structures that closely resemble how they form in the human body. This study may speed up the development of targeted therapies for cancer patients, increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment and while reducing unwanted side effects.

Expedition 52 is taking out the trash midday tomorrow when Russia’s Progress 66 (66P) uncrewed cargo craft departs the International Space Station for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean. The 66P is loaded with garbage and obsolete gear and will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Thursday at 1:46 p.m. EDT. The Russian resupply ship will orbit Earth for a few more hours before reentering Earth’s atmosphere harmlessly over the Pacific. NASA TV will not be covering the undocking activities.


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All About the Human, and New Crew at Launch Site

Expedition 52-53 crew
Expedition 52-53 crew members Paolo Nespoli (left), Sergey Ryazanskiy (center) and Randy Bresnik (right) arrive at their launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on July 16. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 52 astronauts furthered investigative data for NASA’s Human Research Program, collecting in-flight data and blood and urine samples over the weekend.

Today, the crew will take additional samples for the Biochem Profile, Repository and Cardio Ox investigations. An ultrasound was also used for the Cardio Ox study, which seeks to determine whether biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory stress are elevated during and after spaceflight, and whether this could result in an increased, long-term risk of the hardening of the arteries for space-faring explorers.

Also on tap is the Mag 3D cell culturing experiment. The crew will fixate the BioCells and insert them into the Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). The orbiting laboratory provides a way to manipulate and culture cells in 2D and 3D in space and on the ground, which can help isolate the effects of gravity in experiments and enable biological research previously deemed unfeasible in space.

The next crew to lift off to the International Space Station has arrived at its launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The experienced space travelers from Roscosmos, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are due to blast off inside the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft July 28 for a six-hour ride to the space station’s Rassvet module. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, with astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli, are scheduled to live and work in space until mid-December.


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New Science Gear Installed, Cargo Craft Packed for Disposal

Flight Engineer Jack Fischer
Flight Engineer Jack Fischer evaluates scientific hardware aboard the International Space Station.

Expedition 52 worked throughout Thursday installing new science gear to improve the research capabilities of the International Space Station. A cargo craft is also being loaded with trash and obsolete gear for disposal next week.

New network connections were installed on the main window of the Destiny lab module today. Flight Engineer Jack Fischer installed new equipment in the Window Observational Research Facility, or WORF, which hosts a variety of Earth sensing payloads to study the planet through a large window on the bottom of the Destiny Laboratory.

Peggy Whitson of NASA installed a carbon dioxide controller inside an incubator. The incubator is part of the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL) located in Destiny. SABL enables space research that provides insights benefiting pharmaceutical, biotechnology and agricultural industries.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin is getting the Russian Progress 66 (66P) cargo craft ready to take out the trash next week. The 66P will undock July 20 from the Pirs docking compartment packed with old and discarded items and burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.


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Crew Researches Exercise, Protein Crystals and High Temps

Pic of Earth and night sky
This long-exposure photograph of Earth and starry sky was taken during a night pass by the Expedition 52 crew aboard the International Space Station. The Japanese Kibo module and part of the station’s solar array are visible at the top.

A pair of astronauts explored new space exercise techniques today to stay healthy and fit on long duration missions. The crew also observed protein crystals and high temperatures to understand microgravity’s effects on humans and physical processes.

Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer strapped himself in to the space station’s exercise bike this morning with assistance from veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson. The work out study is researching the effectiveness of high intensity, low volume exercise to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in space.

Whitson, who has been living in space since November 2016, then moved on and set up gear for the Two Phase Flow experiment. That study is observing how heat transfers from liquids in microgravity to help improve the design of thermal management systems in future space platforms.

Fischer later checked out protein crystals through a microscope for an experiment researching radiation damage, bone loss and muscle atrophy caused by living in space. At the end of the day, he swapped out samples that were heated up inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace. The furnace is a facility that allows safe observations and measurements of materials exposed to extremely high temperatures.


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