International Crew Researching Life Science Ahead of New Year

The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is pictured Dec. 24 as the space station orbited over the border of the African nations of Mali and Algeria.

After a Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Thursday, the Expedition 54 crew is wrapping up the final work week of 2017 orbiting Earth and conducting science. The six astronauts and cosmonauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duty and family conferences before taking New Year’s Day off.

The Progress 67 (67P) resupply ship finished its stay six-and-a-half month at the station’s Zvezda service Thursday at 8:03 a.m. EDT. Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov packed the 67P full of trash the closed its hatches before it automatically undocked. It will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and safely burn up over the south Pacific Ocean.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai took his turn on the exercise bike today for a study researching physical exertion in space. Doctors measure the astronauts breathing and other parameters during exercise to ensure they have the strength to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks and even emergency procedures.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA was harvesting plants for the Advanced Plants Experiment-05 (APEX) and stowing the botany samples in a science freezer for further analysis. Scientists are exploring how plants respond to microgravity and observing molecular and genetic changes.

The life science studies help mission doctors keep astronauts healthier and stronger while living in outer space. Also, NASA is planning longer human missions beyond low-Earth orbit and learning how to keep crews self-sustainable.

Finally, three U.S. astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut on the orbital laboratory will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times as they orbit Earth once every 90 minutes. That is 16 sunrise and sunsets 250 miles above Earth. The crew will take the day off, share a meal and reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

New Crew Gets Used to Space as Cargo Craft Prepares to Depart

Expedition 54-55 prime crew members
Expedition 54-55 prime crew members (from left) Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Scott Tingle of NASA.

The International Space Station’s three newest crew members are beginning their second week familiarizing themselves with the orbital lab’s operations and systems. They and the other three Expedition 54 crew mates are also busy today with cargo operations, space science and station maintenance.

Also, a Russian cargo craft is departing the station tonight after a six-and-a-half month stay docked to the Zvezda service module. The Progress 67 cargo craft will undock from Zvezda tonight at 8:03 p.m. EST then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to burn up over the south Pacific Ocean.

Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and first-time astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA are in their second week in Earth orbit and getting used to life in space. The new space residents, who arrived Dec. 19, have time set aside in their schedules to adjust to life and work in weightlessness.

Two-time station resident Joe Acaba from NASA worked throughout Wednesday gathering items for stowage inside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship. Kanai assisted Acaba with the pre-packing duties readying the cargo for return to Earth inside Dragon on Jan. 13.

Tingle strapped himself into an exercise bike this morning breathing into a tube for a study measuring physical exertion in microgravity. In this long-running experiment, doctors are researching ways to ensure astronauts stay fit and healthy in space to maintain mission success.

With Christmas Around the Corner Crew Researching Why Cells Change in Space

Expedition 54 Crew Portrait
The Expedition 54 crew members (from left) are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei, Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Six Expedition 54 crew members will spend Christmas orbiting Earth sharing a traditional meal and opening goodies delivered on recent cargo missions to the International Space Station. Veteran crew member Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is spending his third holiday season in space.

Meanwhile, advanced space science is taking place seven days a week on the orbital lab as the astronauts explore a variety of phenomena that can only be revealed in the microgravity environment. Human research is especially important as doctors learn how to keep space travelers healthy and strong during spaceflight.

The station’s newest Flight Engineers, Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA, collected and stored their blood samples this morning for the Cell-Free Epigenome experiment. The samples will be analyzed later on the ground for cellular changes that take place in crew members while living in space.

Astronaut Joe Acaba of NASA is testing new research hardware today for its ability to maintain cell cultures and enable cellular experiment work. Acaba swapped out gear inside the Bioculture System that is being validated as a long-term biological research facility.

Dragon Attached to Station for Month of Cargo Transfers

Dec. 17, 2017: International Space Station Configuration
Dec. 17, 2017: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon space freighter, the Progress 67 and 68 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-06 crew ship.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 8:26 a.m. EST.

The 13th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-13) delivered more than 4,800 pounds of supplies and payloads to the station. Among the research materials flying inside Dragon’s pressurized area, one investigation will demonstrate the benefits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a microgravity environment. Designed by the company Made in Space, and sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the investigation will attempt to pull fiber optic wire from ZBLAN, a heavy metal fluoride glass commonly used to make fiber optic glass. Results from this investigation could lead to the production of higher-quality fiber optic products for use in space and on Earth.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2018 and return to Earth with more than 3,600 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

Expedition 54-55 Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are on their way to the space station after a launch earlier today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday, Dec. 17 (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time). The trio will orbit the Earth for approximately two days before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module, at 3:43 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19. NASA TV coverage of the docking will begin at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

For more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.

New Crew Launches on Two Day Trip to Station

New Crew Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station
Three Expedition 54 crew members launched aboard the Soyuz MS-07 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The Soyuz MS-07 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday, Dec. 17 (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time). At the time of launch, the space station flew over south central Kazakhstan, northeast of Baikonur at an altitude of about 260 statute miles. Expedition 54-55 Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are now safely in orbit.

The trio will orbit the Earth for approximately two days before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module, at 3:43 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19. NASA TV coverage of the docking will begin at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

While the crew continue on their journey, flight control teams for the space station and SpaceX Dragon are proceeding toward rendezvous and grapple of the Dragon cargo spacecraft this morning. NASA Television coverage will resume at 4:30 a.m. for Dragon arrival. Capture is expected around 6 a.m. Installation of the Dragon to the Harmony module will begin a couple hours later. NASA TV coverage of installation is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

The Dragon launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Friday, Dec. 15, carrying more than 4,800 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations aboard the space station.

For more information about the SpaceX CRS-13 mission, visit www.nasa.gov/spacex.

For live coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.

Station Gets Ready to Swap Two Crews in Five Days

Expedition 52-53 crew members
Expedition 52-53 crew members (from left) Paolo Nespoli, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Randy Bresnik are suited up for a test run of their Soyuz undocking and landing.

The Expedition 53 crew is getting ready to split up Thursday morning before another crew begins its mission next week. Soyuz Commander Sergey Ryazanskiy will pilot his crew mates Randy Bresnik of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency in the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft back to Earth after 139 days in space. The trio is scheduled to undock from the Rassvet module at 12:14 a.m. Thursday and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 3:38 a.m.

New Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin will stay onboard the orbital laboratory with Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei of NASA until March. The trio have been onboard the station since Sept. 12 and will welcome a new set of crewmates next week when the Soyuz MS-07 crew ship arrives.

The next space travelers to board the station will be veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and new astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. They are the Expedition 54-55 crew and are in Kazakhstan in final training ahead of their launch Sunday at 2:21 a.m. Shkaplerov, flanked by Tingle and Kanai, will take a two-day trip inside the Soyuz to the station before docking Tuesday at 3:43 a.m. for a four-month stay at the station.

Dragon Prepares to Launch, Crew Prepares to Land This Week

Near-Full Moon
A near-full moon is seen Dec. 2, 2017, as the space station orbited above north Africa.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida counting down to its launch to the International Space Station Tuesday at 11:46 a.m. EST. Meanwhile, the six-member Expedition 53 crew is preparing to split up this week.

Today, Dragon sits atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station filled with nearly 4,800 pounds of crew supplies, station hardware and new research gear. After liftoff Tuesday morning, it will take a near three-day trip to the space station.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will be inside the cupola at the robotics controls Friday morning watching Dragon’s approach and rendezvous. When Dragon reaches a point 10 meters away from the orbital lab, the duo will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon at about 6 a.m. Afterward, ground controllers will take over Canadarm2 and install the commercial cargo craft to the Harmony module where it will stay until Jan. 13.

In between Dragon’s launch and capture, three space station crew members will be going home. Crew mates Randy Bresnik of NASA, Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency are packing up the Soyuz MS-05 spaceship for a return to Earth Thursday at 3:38 a.m. The trio will have accumulated 139 days in space and traveled almost 59 million statute miles when it parachutes to a landing in Kazakhstan. NASA TV will broadcast all the space action this week.

Crews Prepare to Swap Places as Station Eyes California Wildfires

California Wildfires
Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik aboard the International Space Station took this photo of the California wildfires in the Los Angeles on Dec. 6, 2017.

Two International Space Station crews are preparing to swap places at the orbital lab next week. In the midst of the crew swap activities, Commander Randy Bresnik also sent down dramatic photographs of the wildfires in California.

The Expedition 52-53 trio is getting its Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft ready for a three-and-a-half hour ride back to Earth on Dec. 14 after 139 days in space. Sergey Ryazanskiy, the Soyuz Commander, will lead his crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency to a parachuted landing on the steppe Kazakhstan.

Next, the Expedition 54-55 trio will blast off Dec. 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft and take a two-day trip to its new home in space. Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran cosmonaut from Roscosmos, will lead the flight to the station flanked by first-time astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Back on orbit, Bresnik shared pictures he took on social media of the wildfires threatening the greater Los Angeles area in southern California. He wrote on his Twitter account, “Thank you to all the first responders, firefighters, and citizens willing to help fight these California wildfires.”

More wildfire photos can be viewed on the NASA portal and Flickr.

Station Ramps Up for December Cargo and Crew Swaps

Expedition 54-55 Crew Members
The next crew to visit the International Space Station was in Moscow last week posing in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral for traditional ceremonies. From left are Anton Shkaplerov from Roscosmos, Scott Tingle from NASA and Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

A pair of commercial resupply missions are coming and going this week at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, a new crew has arrived at its launch site to prepare for a Dec. 17 liftoff to the orbital laboratory. All missions to and from the station this month will be televised live on NASA TV.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba are brushing up on their robotics skills today ahead of this week’s release of the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship. Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 on Tuesday to detach Cygnus from the Unity module. While still attached to the Canadarm2, Cygnus will be used for a series of communications tests to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Then on Wednesday, the two astronauts will be in the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus into Earth orbit at 8:10 a.m. EST.

Just two days later on Friday, the SpaceX Dragon will launch at 1:20 p.m. from the Kennedy Space Center where it will begin a two-day trip to the space station. Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli is cleaning up a pair of modules today to make way for the nearly 4,800 pounds of crew supplies and research gear Dragon is delivering to the station. Dragon is due to arrive Sunday at 6 a.m. when it will be captured by Vande Hei and Acaba once again operating the Canadarm2.

Three Expedition 53 crew members are due to return to Earth Dec. 14 after 139 days in space. Nespoli, Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik and Soyuz Commander Sergey Ryazanskiy will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz MS-05 spaceship.

The homebound trio will be replaced shortly after that when the Expedition 54-55 crew launches Dec. 17 for a two-day ride to its new home in space. Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will blast off with two first-time astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to begin a four-month tour on the orbital laboratory. The crew has arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is in final launch preparations.