Station Crew Remains Rooted in Science as the Week Kicks Off

Veggie Harvest
Charles Spern, project manager on the Engineering Services Contract, communicates instructions for the Veggie system to astronaut Joe Acaba aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA/Amanda Griffin

The Expedition 53 crew capped off last week’s investigations with fresh pickings of lettuce, cabbage and mizuna harvested from the Veg-03 investigation. There’s still some left, though, for the remainder of the vegetation will be allowed to grow and sprout new leaves. Since future long-duration explorers will expected to grow their own food to survive the harsh environment of space and Mars, understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important component to a robust astronaut food system.

Plants are still on the table for the crew, so to speak, as the week kicks off. Following last week’s successful assembly and installation of the Advanced Plant Plant Habitat facility into the EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack 5 (ER5), today the crew moved the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) Sensor Enclosure to ER5. The automated plant habitat facility will be used to conduct plant bioscience research aboard the International Space Station by providing a large, enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber.

The crewmates also set up the payload components for EarthKAM in Node 2 for a weeklong imaging session. Sally Ride EarthKAM allows thousands of students worldwide to photograph and examine Earth from a space crew’s perspective. Using the Internet, the students control a special digital camera mounted on the space station to photograph coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest from the incomparable viewpoint of space. Later, the varied topographies are shared online for the public and participating classrooms to observe.

Around noon EDT, Station Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA shared insights about living and working aboard the nation’s most unique U.S. National Laboratory with students from Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, California.

Pope Francis and Expedition 53 Crew Exchange Thoughts About Humanity’s Deepest and Oldest Questions

Pope Francis calls ISS
On a screen at right in NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Pope Francis speaks to the crew aboard the International Space Station on Oct. 26. Image Credit: NASA

In the middle of a workday where the Expedition 53 crew performed a routine emergency drill and additional ocular ultrasounds to map any eye changes, there was, most certainly, a higher (phone) call that actually came from more than 200 miles below the International Space Station at the Vatican: Pope Francis phoned in.

It was no ordinary ESA (European Space Agency) in-flight event. Though the Pope did ask the requisite question—what motivated them to become astronauts/cosmonauts—the conference delved quickly into deeper topics, like the crew’s thoughts of humankind’s place in the universe. Each crew member took turns speaking to Pope Francis through ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli of Italy, who translated.

Nespoli indicated that while he remains perplexed at humankind’s role, he feels their main objective is enriching the knowledge around us. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t. Part of space station’s ultimate mission is filling in those gaps and revealing the mysteries locked away in the cosmos.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky of Roscosmos told the Pope that it was an honor to continue his grandfather’s legacy aboard the orbiting laboratory. Ryazansky’s grandfather was a chief engineer of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite to launch to space. Ryazansky said he is now part of the future of humanity, helping to open frontiers of new technology.

Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA spoke candidly to Pope Francis, saying that one cannot serve aboard the space station and not be touched to their soul. From Bresnik’s unique vantage orbiting Earth, it is obvious there are no borders. Also evident: a fragile band of atmosphere protecting billions of people below.

Pope Francis said that while society is individualistic, we need collaboration—and there is no better example of international teamwork and cohesiveness than the space station. It is the ultimate human experiment, showing that people from diverse backgrounds can band together to solve some of the most daunting problems facing the world.

“The totality is greater than the sum of its parts,” Pope Francis observed.

At the end of the call, the Pope thanked his new friends, offered his blessings and asked that they, too, pray for him in return.

Expedition 53 Inspires the Next Generation, Learns More About How the Human Body Responds to Space

Commander Randy Bresnik
Commander Randy Bresnik addresses students in Kiev, Ukraine, during an in-flight event Oct. 25. Image Credit: NASA TV

Mid-week, the crew of Expedition 53 completed tasks to investigate the various ways microgravity affects the human body and shared the benefits of the International Space Station with students in Kiev, Ukraine, during a Public Affairs in-flight event.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA spoke with U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch live on NASA TV, and she moderated questions from Ukrainian and U.S. Embassy students eager to hear more on what it takes to be an astronaut aboard the orbiting laboratory. Bresnik spoke of his extensive training regimen before embarking on his mission, but reiterated that working together cohesively with a team and getting along with others ranked at the top of needed skills for an explorer. Bresnik also touted fellow crewmate Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA’s upcoming project on Friday: harvesting lettuce (five kinds, no less) that has been growing in space. He reminded the students that seeds may be a key component to deep space missions due to their small space requirements, making them perfect for packing into a compact spacecraft. Growing food is also the most sustainable option for crews hoping to live on the Red Planet for an extended period of time. Before closing out the event, Bresnik told the students to always nurture their thirst for knowledge, as it’s a trait that can be found among all astronauts and cosmonauts.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Paolo Nespoli took part in Day 2 of the 11-day study for Astronaut’s Energy Requirements for Long-Term Space Flight (Energy), an investigation zeroing in on the side effects of space travel. Today, he collected water samples from the station, continued with urine collection and stowed the deployed Pulmonary Function System equipment. The crew, as a whole, logged their food and drink consumption, furthering beefing up critical data for investigators. Physicians will examine metabolic rates, urine content and bone density to determine energy requirements for even longer missions in deep space. Since astronauts often lose body mass during extended stays for reasons that remain unclear, specifics about the crew’s metabolism and activities, as well as other conditions, help ensure they are properly nourished for their demanding schedules in zero-g.

A small amount of Freon (about 100 milliliters) leaked out from a small nanosatellite poised to be launched from Kibo on Friday. There is no risk to crew health and safety and no risk to station hardware. Teams remain on track to deploy this nanosatellite Friday.

Culmination of Spacewalks Leads into Studies on Crew Health and Performance

aurora borealis
A spectacular aurora borealis, or “northern lights,” over Canada is sighted from the International Space Station near the highest point of its orbital path. Image Credit: NASA

After a trio of spacewalks this month, including the final one conducted last Friday by Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA, the Expedition 53 crew returned to a schedule of full-time science this week.

Today, the crew explored how lighting aboard the International Space Station affects their performance and health. One such investigation is called Lighting Effects, which studies the impact of the change from fluorescent light bulbs to LEDs. By adjusting intensity and color, investigators on the ground will use crew feedback to determine if new lights can improve crew circadian rhythms, sleep and cognitive performance.

Blood and urine samples were also collected and stowed in the Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, marking Flight Day 30 for the Biochemical Profile and Repository experiments. Specific proteins and chemicals in the samples are used as biomarkers, or indicators of health. Armed with a database of test results, scientists can learn more about how spaceflight changes the human body and protect future astronauts on a journey to Mars based on their findings.

Expedition 53 is also preparing a microsatellite carrying an optical imaging system payload for deployment. Its operation in low-Earth orbit will attempt to solidify the concept that these small satellites are viable investigative platforms that can support critical operations and host advanced payloads.

Expedition 53 Spacewalk Successfully Comes to an End

Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA completed a 6 hour, 49 minute spacewalk at 2:36 p.m. EDT. The two astronauts installed a new camera system on the Canadarm2 robotic arm’s latching end effector, an HD camera on the starboard truss of the station and replaced a fuse on the Dextre robotic arm extension.
 
The duo worked quickly and were able to complete several “get ahead” tasks. Acaba greased the new end effector on the robotic arm. Bresnik installed a new radiator grapple bar. Bresnik completed prep work for one of two spare pump modules on separate stowage platforms to enable easier access for potential robotic replacement tasks in the future. He nearly finished prep work on the second, but that work will be completed by future spacewalkers.
 
This was the fifth spacewalk of Bresnik’s career (32 hours total spacewalking) and the third for Acaba (19 hours and 46 minutes total spacewalking). Space station crew members have conducted 205 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 53 days, 6 hours and 25 minutes working outside the station.
 

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Expedition 53 Embarks upon Third and Final Spacewalk in October Series

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 7:47 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about 6.5 hours. Live coverage is available on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA will replace a camera light assembly on the Canadarm2 latching end effectors (LEE) that spacewalkers installed on the Canadarm2 robotic Oct. 5. They will also install an HD camera outside the station among other tasks in the 205th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in station history.

Bresnik is wearing the suit with red stripes, and helmet camera #18. Acaba is wearing the suit with no stripes, and helmet camera #17.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates on the station and crew activities. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

 

Final Spacewalk Preps Before November Cygnus Launch

Astronaut Joe Acaba and spacewalkers
Astronaut Joe Acaba (foreground) assisted crewmates Randy Bresnik (right) and Mark Vande Hei before they began a spacewalk on Oct. 10.

Four Expedition 53 crewmates huddled together and made final preparations the day before the third and final spacewalk planned for October. Meanwhile, NASA’s commercial partner Orbital ATK has announced Nov. 11 as the new launch date for its Cygnus cargo carrier to the International Space Station.

Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba are reviewing procedures and configuring tools before their spacewalk set for Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits and guide the duo as they work outside.

The spacewalk was originally set for Wednesday before mission managers replanned a new set of tasks due to a camera light failure. Bresnik and Acaba will now replace the camera light assembly on the Canadarm2’s newly installed Latching End Effector and install an HD camera on the starboard truss. The duo will also replace a fuse on Dextre’s payload platform and remove thermal insulation on two electrical spare parts housed on stowage platforms.

Orbital ATK is targeting the launch of its eighth Cygnus resupply mission to the station for Nov. 11. Cygnus will make a nine-minute ascent to space after launch, then begin a two-day trek to the station where it will be installed for a month-long stay after its capture by the Canadarm2.

Medical Training Ahead of Third Spacewalk

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba poses in between two U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock. He will wear one of those spacesuits on a spacewalk scheduled for Oct. 20, 2017.

The Expedition 53 crew trained for a medical emergency in space today after spending the morning on weekly housecleaning tasks. Afterward, two astronauts reviewed procedures and checked their tools ahead of Friday’s spacewalk.

Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin joined NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba for a routine training session to handle a medical emergency aboard the International Space Station. The trio reviewed medical hardware, chest compression techniques and individual roles and responsibilities.

Afterward, Acaba moved on to spacewalk preparations with Commander Randy Bresnik. The spacewalkers are due to begin a 6.5 hour spacewalk Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will cover the spacewalking activities live beginning at 6:30 a.m.

This will be the third spacewalk this month and consists of repackaged tasks that include the replacement of a camera assembly on the newly installed Latching End Effector, the installation of an HD camera on the starboard truss, the replacement of a fuse on Dextre’s payload platform and the removal of thermal insulation on two electrical spare parts housed on stowage platforms.

Astronauts Prep for Spacewalk and Check Science Gear

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured tethered to the outside of the U.S. Destiny laboratory module during a spacewalk on Oct. 10, 2017.

Two NASA astronauts are getting ready to go on their mission’s third spacewalk on Friday. In the midst of those preparations, the Expedition 53 crew also worked on science gear exploring a wide variety of space phenomena.

Commander Randy Bresnik is preparing to go on the third spacewalk this month with NASA astronaut Joe Acaba. Astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Mark Vande Hei will assist the spacewalking duo in and out of their spacesuits on Friday.

The spacewalkers will replace a camera light on the Canadarm2’s newly-installed Latching End Effector and install a high-definition camera on the starboard truss. Other tasks include the replacement of a fuse on Dextre’s payload platform and the removal of thermal insulation on two electrical spare parts housed on stowage platforms.

Bresnik started his day working on a specialized camera that photograph’s meteors entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Acaba finally wrapped up the day configuring a microscope inside the Fluids Integrated Rack.

Nespoli, from the European Space Agency, set up the new Mini-Exercise Device-2 (MED-2) for a workout session today. Researchers are exploring the MED-2 for its ability to provide effective workouts while maximizing space aboard a spacecraft.

Russian Spacecraft Delivers Station Supplies

Russian 68P Cargo Craft
The Russian 68P cargo craft is pictured just meters away from docking to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

Traveling about 252 miles over eastern China, the unpiloted Russian Progress 68 cargo ship docked at 7:04 a.m. EDT to the Pirs Docking Compartment of the International Space Station.

For more information about the current crew and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station