The crew of Expedition 59 was hard at work today setting up a litany of science experiments and conducting maintenance to the International Space Station that will help further NASA’s goal of returning to the Moon.
Some unplanned maintenance to replace a failed Main Bus Switching Unit-3 (MBSU), which was completed this morning by robotics ground controllers through the use of the space station’s Canadarm2 and Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM), restored the orbiting laboratory to a nominal power configuration. Ordinarily, this intensive procedure would have required the station residents to perform an emergency spacewalk. However, swapping out the MSBU entirely through robotics work demonstrated that some of the capabilities explorers will need for the Moon and destinations beyond are being tested right now in low-Earth orbit.
Meanwhile, within the space station, Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch prepped investigations vital to the next generation of space explorers. McClain spent time setting up mass measurement hardware for Rodent Research-12, which will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. Koch stowed Fiber Optics Production hardware and checked Airway Monitoring experiment gear. Airway Monitoring will help ensure crew well-being by evaluating the occurrence and indicators of airway inflammation in the astronauts using ultra-sensitive gas monitors to analyze exhaled air.
In the Harmony module, NASA astronaut Nick Hague completed inventory and performed stowage work for the module’s Pressurized Mating Adapter-3. Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques worked with the Veggie PONDS experiment, adding water to the space botany gear. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity and demonstrating that reliable vegetable production is possible in space are important steps toward spacesuited boots on destinations like the Moon and Mars, where visiting vehicle visits to replenish the crew’s food supply will not be as regular as they are to the space station.
On the subject of visiting vehicles, commercial cargo provider SpaceX is poised to make its 17th resupply to the orbiting laboratory, with launch set for 3:11 EDT Friday, May 3. Dragon, which is filled with more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.