Cosmonauts Swap Command Today Before Trio Comes Home

Expedition 54 Crew Members
Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin (far left) hands over command of the station to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (far right). In the background (from left) are astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin handed over control of the orbital laboratory today to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov during a traditional Change of Command ceremony. Misurkin is returning to Earth tomorrow with NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei after 168 days in space.

Landing day begins Tuesday when Misurkin, Acaba and Vande Hei say farewell, enter their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and close the hatches at 2:50 p.m. They will don their Sokol launch and entry suits, check for air and pressure leaks and undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. The Expedition 54 trio will then parachute to a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST (Wednesday at 8:31 a.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV will broadcast all the landing activities live starting at 2:15 p.m.

Expedition 55 officially begins when Misurkin and his crewmates undock. Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is staying behind as commander until June 3 with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

A new crew training in Russia is getting ready to replace the Earth-bound station residents in late March. Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are preparing for their March 21 launch to the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will greet their new crewmates March 23 after docking to the vacated Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Astronauts Open BEAM and Prepare for Crew Departure

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei pose for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew members continued preparing for their return to Earth next week. A pair of astronauts also opened up BEAM today to stow a robotic hand and to check for contaminants.

Commander Alexander Misurkin joined his Soyuz MS-06 crewmates Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and reviewed their procedures for next week’s descent into Earth’s atmosphere. The trio also familiarized themselves with the sensations they will experience flying through the atmosphere and feeling gravity for the first time after 168 days in space.

Misurkin will hand over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on Monday at 2:40 p.m. EST. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will then close the hatch to their Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. and undock from the Poisk module 6:08 p.m. The trio will then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:32 p.m. NASA TV will cover all the landing activities live.

Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai will stay behind on the station with Shkaplerov as commander officially becoming the Expedition 55 crew when their crew mates undock next week. They will be joined March 23 by new Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. The trio will launch March 21 and were in Red Square in Moscow today for traditional ceremonial activities.

Today, Tingle and Kanai opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and stowed a degraded robotic hand, or Latching End Effector (LEE), that was attached to the Canadarm2. The LEE was returned inside the station after last week’s robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo also sampled BEAM’s air and surfaces for microbes.

Station Gets Ready for Crew Swap During Ongoing Human Research

Progress resupply ship and Earth's limb
A docked Russian Progress resupply ship dominates the foreground as Earth’s limb is illuminated during an orbital night pass.

As one crew is packing up for its return back to Earth another crew is training for its launch to the International Space Station. During the month long crew swap activities, human research is still ongoing aboard the orbital laboratory today.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin is getting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft ready for its undocking Feb. 27. He and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei will then take a three-and-a-half-hour ride back to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space.

They will be replaced by three new Expedition 55 station residents who are in Star City, Russia taking final crew qualification exams today. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will command the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft that will launch March 21 carrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the space station two days later.

Today’s research onboard the station is exploring the physiological changes that take place inside the human body while living and working in space. Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai collected blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis as part of the Biochemical Profile and Repository studies. Kanai later checked and tested gear that will measure blood flow in the brain for the new Cerebral Autoregulation experiment.

Station Trio Preps for Homecoming as Life Science Continues

Expedition 54 Crew Members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba
Expedition 54 crew members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba work with combustion science gear inside the space station’s Destiny laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew mates are in the final week of their mission and are packing up for a return to Earth. They and the rest of the crew also researched botany and biomedical science to support future crews on longer missions further into space.

Commander Alexander Misurkin is readying the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that will return him and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba back to Earth Feb. 27 after 168 days in space. He and Vande Hei trained for next week’s descent using a station simulator and reviewed potential return hazards.

Acaba spent his morning stowing botany samples in a science freezer for the Plant Gravity Perception study. That experiment is observing how plants detect gravity and light in the early stages of growth. The home-bound astronaut then spent the afternoon packing personal gear inside the Soyuz MS-06 space ship.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai attached electrodes to his chest area, wore a leg cuff and performed an ultrasound scan today. He worked in conjunction with doctors on the ground for the Vascular Echo study that looks at blood vessels and the human heart and how they change in space and on Earth.

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov continues to unload cargo today from the new Progress 69 resupply ship that arrived last week. NASA astronaut Scott Tingle stowed rodent habitats and worked on combustion science gear.

Spacewalkers Making Quick Work of Major Tasks

Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai
Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei (attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm) and Norishige Kanai are working ahead of today’s spacewalk timeline.

Approximately two and a half hours into today’s spacewalk, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai completed the second major task of today’s spacewalk. They moved an aging, but functional, Latching End Effector (LEE) from its temporary storage outside the Quest airlock to a long-term storage location on the Mobile Base System, which is used to move the arm and astronauts along the station’s truss structure.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are providing live coverage of the spacewalk.

The spacewalkers are now more than an hour ahead of the timeline and moving on to work through some extra tasks. Vande Hei will begin a regular maintenance task to grease the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk.

Vande Hei is wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Kanai’s suit has no stripes. Views from a camera on Vande Hei’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Kanai’s is labeled with the number 17.

Station Prepping for Spacewalk After New Cargo Ship Arrives

Spacewalker Mark Vande Hei
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured during a spacewalk that took place Jan. 23, 2018, to begin maintenance work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The Expedition 54 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk Friday morning and beginning the work to unload a newly-arrived cargo delivery.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are completing their spacewalk reviews and readying their spacesuits and tools ahead of Friday morning’s excursion. The duo is scheduled to turn their spacesuits batteries on to internal power at 7:10 a.m. EST signifying the start of a planned six and a half hour spacewalk.

The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov opened the hatch to a new Progress cargo craft that arrived today at 5:38 a.m. The duo will start the work to offload a little over three tons of food, fuel and supplies from the resupply ship that will stay docked to the Zvezda service module until March.

Crew Waits for Russian Delivery Day Before U.S. Spacewalk

Soyuz and Progress spaceships
Russia’s Soyuz MS-07 crew ship (foreground) and Progress 68 cargo craft are seen docked to the Earth-facing ports of the International Space Station’s Russian segment. The Soyuz is docked to the Rassvet module and the Progress is attached to the Pirs docking compartment.

A Russian cargo craft is on its way to the International Space Station early Thursday as two astronauts get ready for a spacewalk on Friday.

The Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft is orbiting Earth today carrying three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 54 crew. The 69P is due to complete its delivery when it docks Thursday at 5:43 a.m. EST to the Zvezda service module’s rear port. NASA TV will broadcast the rendezvous and docking live starting at 5 a.m.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov will be inside Zvezda monitoring tomorrow morning’s automated docking of the 69P. The cosmonauts are brushing up on their robotics skills today in the unlikely event they would need to use the station’s telerobotically operated rendezvous unit to manually dock the resupply ship.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are checking their tools and procedures they will use Friday morning during a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system.

Vande Hei and Kanai are scheduled to set their spacesuit batteries to internal power at 7:10 a.m. signifying the official start of the U.S. spacewalk. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

Crew Waits for New Cargo Delivery Date Amidst Spacewalk Preps

International Space Station orbits above the
The Caspian Sea is pictured below the International Space Station as it orbited 253 miles above Earth’s surface. The station’s robotic arm (left) and solar arrays (right) are seen in the foreground.

A Russian Progress resupply ship to the International Space Station aborted its express delivery mission just a few seconds before launch early Sunday. The cargo vehicle will now launch on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 3:13 a.m. EST (2:13 p.m. Baikonur time) to send three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the station.

Live coverage will be provided on NASA TV and the agency’s website beginning at 2:45 a.m. Progress 69 will dock automatically to the station two days later at 5:43 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. NASA TV and web coverage will begin at 5 a.m.

Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 54 crew continued exploring how living in space affects plants, animals and humans. A pair of astronauts are also getting ready for a spacewalk to wrap up maintenance on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai wrapped up a study that took place last week exploring how mice injected with a muscle maintenance drug may help astronauts in space and patients on Earth. Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov researched how microgravity impacts the human digestive system and how much radiation the space station is exposed to.

Kanai and astronaut Mark Vande Hei are also reviewing procedures for their upcoming robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo configured spacewalk tools and charged up spacesuit batteries and cameras. NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Joe Acaba, who will assist the spacewalkers, also trained for their role as robotics controllers.

Europe’s Station Lab in Space 10 Years; Crew Studies Eyes and Muscles

Columbus Lab Module
ESA’s Columbus lab module is pictured (clockwise from top left) in the grips of the Canadarm2 before its installation at the station; being serviced during a spacewalk by astronaut Randy Bresnik; close-up of Columbus attached to the starboard side of the Harmony module; attached to Harmony.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is celebrating today the 10th anniversary of the launch of its Columbus lab module aboard space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. Now Columbus is one of three lab modules supporting hundreds of advanced microgravity science experiments. The other two modules are Destiny from NASA and Kibo from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

To commemorate today’s event, ESA’s former Director of Human Spaceflight Feustel Beuchl called up to astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei today and asked about the status of Columbus operations. Scientists Lars Karlsson and Alexander Stahn inquired about a pair of ESA-sponsored experiments researching airway inflammation and circadian rhythms.

Wednesday’s science onboard the station looked at how living in space affects vision and muscles. Two cosmonauts used special optical equipment to peer inside each other’s eyes this morning. The astronauts on the U.S. side of the orbital lab observed mice being treated with a drug to combat muscle weakening in space and on Earth.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov started their day checking the condition of their retinas using optical coherence tomography (OCT) gear. OCT uses light waves to measure and map the thickness of the retina’s layers. Results will help doctors understand how living in space long-term physically affects the eyes and vision.

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai were back in the U.S. Destiny lab module today studying a drug that may prevent muscle atrophy in space and help patients on Earth with muscle ailments. Mice living on the station for up to two months are treated with the muscle maintenance drug. The mice are returned to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for analysis to determine the drug’s effectiveness.

Europe Nears 10 Years at Station; Crew Studies Mice and Plants

NASA astronaut Rex Walheim works outside Europe’s new Columbus lab module shortly after it was installed in February of 2008.

The International Space Station program is getting ready to recognize the 10th year in space of its Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency (ESA). The Expedition 54 crew members, meanwhile, spent the day helping scientists on the ground understand the impacts of living in space.

ESA is getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of Columbus. The European lab module blasted off inside space shuttle Atlantis on Feb. 7, 2008, for a two-day ride to the station. Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm, removed Columbus from Atlantis’s cargo bay two days after its arrival and attached it the starboard side of the Harmony module.

A month after the installation of Columbus, ESA launched its first resupply ship to the station. The “Jules Verne” Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-1) lifted off March 9, 2008, atop an Ariane-5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. The ATV-1 then took a month-long ride for a series navigation tests before to automatically docking to the station.

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai continued studying mice on the space station for a drug study to potentially improve muscle health in microgravity and despite a lack of exercise. The rodents are housed in a special microgravity habitat for up to two months with results of the study helping scientists design therapies for humans with muscle-related ailments.

Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei set up botany gear in the Columbus lab module for the Veggie-3 experiment. The long-running plant study is exploring the feasibility of harvesting edible plants such as cabbage, lettuce and mizuna for consumption during spaceflight. Samples are returned to Earth for analysis.