The International Space Station is hosting a robotic experiment that may help enable and refuel future missions to the moon and Mars. The Expedition 58 crew installed that hardware today then worked on a variety of life science, astrophysics and combustion science gear.
The Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) experiment will demonstrate transferring and storing fuels and coolants such as liquid methane and a cryogenic fluid in space. Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques installed the RRM3 hardware today inside Japan’s Kibo lab module airlock. The gear will be deployed outside Kibo then transferred to an external logistics carrier. Once there, the Dextre “robotic hand” will begin operations demonstrating fluid transfers with a set of specialized tools.
The two astronauts also split their time conducting maintenance on a pair of space incubators. McClain worked on a mouse habitat replacing filters inside Kibo’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility. Saint-Jacques swapped a carbon dioxide controller in the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL). SABL supports research into microorganisms, small animals, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants.
McClain also replaced a laptop computer hard drive dedicated to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 experiment. The experiment is housed on the station’s truss structure and searches for antimatter and dark matter in addition to measuring cosmic rays. She later cleaned up gear supporting gaseous flame studies inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.
Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are a month away from joining the three orbital residents aboard the space station. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia in final training before their March 14 launch to the orbital lab.