Human research took precedence aboard the International Space Station today as the Expedition 58 crew explored how astronauts adapt to living in space. The orbital residents also performed more ordinary roles as computer technicians and plumbers.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain is studying today the fluid shifts from an astronaut’s lower body to the upper body and how they pressure the head and eyes during a spaceflight. She collected her blood samples for the long-running experiment, spinning them in a centrifuge before stowing the samples in a science freezer.
Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques measured his blood pressure beginning operations with the new Bio-Monitor system from the Canadian Space Agency. The wearable device monitors an astronaut’s physiological data in real-time with minimum interference to crew activities.
Commander Oleg Kononenko worked on Russian maintenance in the orbital lab before inspecting and photographing windows in the Russian modules. He wrapped up the day on a pair of ongoing Earth observation studies photographing natural and man-made phenomena.
The unlikely emergency scenarios the crew trains for include events such as depressurization, ammonia leaks and fires. Responses include quickly donning safety gear, closing a module hatch to isolate pressure and ammonia leaks, extinguishing a fire and evacuating the station aboard the Soyuz crew ship.
McClain then moved on to cable and parts work on the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) that can house a variety of smaller experiments. She wrapped up the day photographing Saint-Jacques as he installed neutron detectors for an experiment to understand how space radiation impacts astronauts.
Kononenko worked today on the Electromagnetic Levitator that exposes materials to extremely high temperatures to explore their thermo-physical properties in the microgravity environment. The four-time station cosmonaut later went on to routine maintenance on life support systems in the orbital lab’s Russian segment.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is back on Earth after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday night loaded with critical space research and International Space Station hardware. Four spaceships remain parked at the orbital lab including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship from the United States.
Today, the three-member Expedition 58 crew is exploring a wide array of microgravity science to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. The orbital residents also worked on life support systems and upgraded computer hardware.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain set up a specialized microscope in the morning for the Biophysics-5 study to research the production of protein crystals. Afterward, she deactivated Dragon communications gear then swapped out hard drives on several laptop computers.
Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and replaced optics gear inside the flame and soot research device. He later swapped a hydrogen sensor inside the Oxygen Generation System before inspecting and cleaning some of its parts.
A pair of tiny internal satellites, better known as SPHERES, were set up by Commander Oleg Kononenko today inside the Kibo laboratory module. High school students write algorithms and submit them in a competition to control the SPHERES to demonstrate spacecraft maneuvers and formation-flying for future space missions.
Astronaut Anne McClain monitored the activities from the cupola and watched Dragon perform a series of departure burns as it separated itself to a safe distance from the orbital lab. Integrated operations between mission controllers in Houston and SpaceX controllers in California stop when Dragon reaches a point about one kilometer away from the station.
SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon after it parachutes to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Monday at 12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m. Sunday Pacific time) then tow it to port in southern California. This will be the first nighttime splashdown and recovery for the Dragon with plenty of moonlight to track its entry.
The commercial cargo vessel is taking home a variety of critical space research that will immediately be picked up by NASA engineers and distributed to scientists across the nation. Station hardware will also be extracted for analysis, refurbishment or discarding.
The next Dragon mission to the space station will be its first uncrewed demonstration mission designated SpaceX DM-1. The Commercial Crew Program’s first launch is currently targeted for February and will demonstrate ground systems, orbit to docking activities and landing operations.
To take advantage of calmer sea states in a different location in the Pacific Ocean, SpaceX and the International Space Station Program agreed to move the departure of the SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon cargo craft from the station from early Sunday morning to late Sunday afternoon, setting up the first night splashdown and recovery of a Dragon vehicle.
Dragon’s hatch will be closed Sunday morning, and the spacecraft will be detached from the Harmony module around 3 p.m. EST Sunday.
Ground controllers will now release Dragon from the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. NASA TV coverage of the operation without commentary will begin at 6:15 p.m. NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain will monitor the release from the station’s cupola.
Dragon’s deorbit burn to begin its descent back to Earth is now scheduled at approximately 11:19 p.m. with splashdown scheduled at around 12:10 a.m. Monday (9:10 p.m. Pacific time) just west of Baja California.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft had its stay extended at the International Space Station a few more days. Mission managers observed inclement weather at Dragon’s splashdown site in the Pacific Ocean and decided against Dragon’s return to Earth today.
Meanwhile, Dragon’s hatch remains open and the Expedition 58 crew is tending to time-sensitive experiments targeted for return and analysis back on Earth. The Canadarm2 robotic arm has the Dragon firmly in its grips while the cargo vehicle is still attached to the Harmony module.
Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to uninstall Dragon from Harmony on Saturday afternoon then slowly maneuver the U.S. space freighter to its release position. The Canadarm2 will then be commanded to release Dragon Sunday at 3:36 a.m. EST as astronaut Anne McClain monitors from the cupola. NASA TV will broadcast the departure live without commentary starting Sunday at 3:15 a.m.
Today, the three space station residents are back on science and maintenance duties with Dragon poised for a weekend departure. McClain of NASA is checking out and preserving the space research meant for return inside Dragon.
Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency assisted McClain first thing Thursday morning. He then moved on to the Vascular Echo study scanning his leg’s femoral artery with an ultrasound device to understand how living in space affects the cardiovascular system.
Back on Earth, NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station.NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.
The three Expedition 58 crew members have finished packing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft with science experiments and hardware today. Final preparations for the vehicle’s departure are now on hold while teams wait for favorable weather in the splashdown area for Dragon’s return.
Dragon was scheduled for departure early Thursday morning from the International Space Station but mission managers made the decision to delay departure. Managers are assessing the backup release date of Sunday, Jan. 13 for Dragon’s return to Earth.
Robotics controllers maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm Wednesday and grappled Dragon while it was still attached to the Harmony module. Prior to Dragon departure, they will remotely uninstall Dragon from Harmony and slowly guide it to its release position.
Astronaut Anne McClain will be in the cupola when robotics experts command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon finalizing its mission at the orbital lab. She’ll monitor its departure while her crewmates Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques work on their daily science and maintenance tasks.
Dragon, which arrived at the station Dec. 8, will orbit Earth a few more hours on its own before reentering the atmosphere. It will parachute to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California where SpaceX personnel will retrieve the space freighter. They’ll deliver it to shore where NASA engineers will extract the precious cargo for immediate shipment to investigators around the country for analysis.
The crew will shut the hatch to Dragon Wednesday and disconnect power cables. Then robotics controllers will take over, uninstall Dragon from Harmony overnight and maneuver it into release position. McClain will be in the cupola Thursday monitoring Dragon when it is released from the Canadarm2 around 4:35 a.m. EDT.
After its departure, Dragon will orbit Earth a few more hours before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon and return it to port where NASA engineers will extract the precious cargo for immediate shipment to investigators around the country.
Astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are wrapping up final transfers of completed science experiments in Dragon today. The duo is loading science samples from several experiments for return to Earth, where they will quickly be delivered to investigators around the country for analysis.
Engineers on the ground are testing communications and control gear that will be used to monitor and command Dragon after its release from the station. Robotics controllers are also powering up the Canadarm2 robotic arm today to grapple Dragon before its removal from the Harmony module.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is in its final week attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Meanwhile, robotics experts on the ground and the crew aboard the lab are working a wide variety of science activities today.
The Dragon space freighter has nearly completed its cargo mission to replenish the orbital laboratory after delivering over 5,600 pounds of science and supplies Dec. 8. Dragon will return to Earth Jan. 10 for retrieval in the Pacific Ocean loaded with completed science experiments and used hardware for analysis.