Biomedicine and Physics Research During Crew Departure Preps Today

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Capillary Structures experiment
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Capillary Structures experiment studying how to manage fluid and gas mixtures for more reliable life support systems in space.

Biomedicine and physics topped the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 59 crew also checked out U.S. spacesuits while preparing a Russian crew ship for return to Earth next week.

NASA is preparing for human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The astronauts aboard the orbiting lab are helping scientists keep crews healthy and engineers design safer, more advanced spacecraft.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques started Tuesday morning collecting blood, urine and body swab samples for the Standard Measures study. They stowed the samples in a science freezer for later analysis to help doctors understand how humans respond to microgravity.

The Genes In Space-6 (GIS-6) experiment had another run today inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Christina Koch of NASA set up the Biomolecule Sequencer to sequence DNA samples during the morning. The DNA research seeks to understand how space radiation mutates DNA and assesses the molecular level repair process.

She and Saint-Jacques also took turns resizing U.S. spacesuits and swapping out components. Mission managers are planning more spacewalks later this year for battery and science hardware maintenance.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent most of Tuesday running the Capillary Structures study to observe how fluid and gas mixtures behave inside structures designed for microgravity. Today’s operations demonstrated fluid flows with potential applications for advanced life support systems in space.

Commander Oleg Kononenko continues inventorying gear and trash for packing inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. He will complete a 204-day mission with McClain and Saint-Jacques when they parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on June 24 scheduled for 10:48 p.m. EDT (June 25 8:48 a.m. Kazakh time).

Final Week for Station Trio as Science Continues Unabated

The Expedition 59 crewmembers
The Expedition 59 crewmembers gather for a portrait inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Front row from left are David Saint-Jacques, Oleg Kononenko and Anne McClain who are returning to Earth June 24. In the back are Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are beginning their final week aboard the International Space Station and readying their spacesuits and Soyuz crew ship for the return to Earth. The orbital residents also continued a variety of human research activities amidst the deployment of tiny satellites today.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are set to return to Earth June 24 with Commander Oleg Kononenko at the helm of the Soyuz MS-11 crew craft. The homebound residents checked their Sokol launch and entry suits for leaks today. The trio also tested sensors that will monitor the crew’s blood pressure during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

McClain also packed personal items she will take back to Earth with her. Kononenko and Saint-Jacques practiced Soyuz descent procedures the crew will use on its way to a landing in Kazakhstan. The threesome have been living aboard the space lab since Dec. 3 and will have accumulated 204 days on orbit when they complete their mission next week.

Science continues unabated aboard the orbital lab with the crew exploring a wide variety of phenomena to help NASA plan missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Payload specialists on the ground also remotely operate many of the hundreds of experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch started Monday researching how microgravity affects perception and orientation. Today’s experiment session required Koch to perform simple tasks wearing a neck brace and virtual reality goggles while free-floating inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module.

Four small satellites, or CubeSats, were ejected this morning outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA monitored and photographed the CubeSats deployed for technology demonstrations. The first set of CubeSats deployed were from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Japan as part of the BIRDS-3 mission. The last CubeSat was from Singapore. All four arrived at the station April 19 aboard the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter.

Today’s Advanced Research Goes From Free-flying Robots to Anti-Gravity Pants

Astronaut Anne McClain checks out the new Astrobee hardware
NASA astronaut Anne McClain checks out the new Astrobee robotics hardware earlier this year inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module.

Robotics, combustion and human research were the primary focus of today’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 59 crewmembers also checked out U.S. spacesuits and specialized pants designed to counteract some of the effects of living in microgravity.

Astrobee, a tiny cube-shaped free-flying robotic assistant, is being tested aboard the orbital lab for its sighting and motion abilities. Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) set up Astrobee for more mobility tests today inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The device may support routine maintenance tasks and lab monitoring capabilities. Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter delivered Astrobee to the station April 19.

The safe observation of how fuels and materials burn in microgravity takes place in the space station’s Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). The research takes place in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and may help engineers design more fuel-efficient spacecraft engines and safer, less flammable environments. NASA astronaut Christina Koch replaced a burner and igniter tip in the CIR to maintain continuing combustion research operations.

Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA attached cuffs to her legs and sensors to her chest for a series of blood pressure checks and ultrasound scans today. The Vascular Echo biomedical study from CSA, ongoing since March 2015, analyzes an astronaut’s cardiovascular system for conditions such as arterial stiffness.

U.S. spacesuits continue to be serviced after a set of three spacewalks that took place earlier this year. Astronaut Nick Hague cleaned the suit’s cooling loops, cycled their pressure valves and tested water samples inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin have been training this week to use the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. The Russian suit, also known as Chibis, counteracts the upward fluid shifts in the human body caused by microgravity. This may alleviate the head and eye pressure reported by astronauts. An easily recognizable symptom of these fluid shifts that all crews experience is “puffy face.”

Crew Preps for Split, Studies Space Effects on Human Body

The aurora australis, or "southern lights," highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass
The aurora australis, or “southern lights,” highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass as the International Space Station orbited 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

The Expedition 59 crew will split up later this month when three International Space Station residents return to Earth. The other three crewmembers today practiced evacuating the orbiting lab in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Station Commander Oleg Kononenko will depart home with Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques inside the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship on June 24. The trio have been living in space since Dec. 3 and will have orbited Earth for 204 days after landing in Kazakhstan. The commander spent the day Thursday collecting cargo for stowage and readying the homebound Soyuz.

The three crewmembers that are staying behind conducted an emergency drill during the afternoon. Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin, Christina Koch and Nick Hague conducted an emergency simulation and rehearsed quickly entering their Soyuz lifeboat, undocking and descending to Earth.

Human research continued full speed ahead today to help doctors keep astronauts healthy in space. McClain and Hague once again collected their breath samples for the Airway Monitoring study. The experiment studies airway inflammation as crewmembers on space missions are at an increased risk of breathing free-floating dust and particles due to the microgravity environment. Results could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for successful long-term missions. Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans of his neck, gut, heart and leg throughout the day. The ground-assisted Vascular Echo scans give flight surgeons insight into an astronaut’s cardiovascular condition.

The crew also worked on robotics power cables and the installation of a small satellite deployer. Koch installed cables in the Unity module during the morning to provide backup power for the Canadarm2 robotic arm. McClain spent the majority of her day in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module installing hardware that will soon eject a set of CubeSats outside the station for research in Earth orbit.

The two cosmonauts, Kononenko and Ovchinin, spent some time in the morning exploring ways to counteract the effects of microgravity. The duo tested a unique suit that draws body fluids towards the feet to minimize head and eye pressure.

Station Biomedical and Behavioral Studies Informing Future Missions

The Earth's limb and the bright points of light of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter
The Earth’s limb and the bright points of light of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter were pictured July 2015 by astronaut Scott Kelly.

The Expedition 59 crew collected blood and breath samples today to test new biomedical gear and protect future astronauts going to the Moon and Mars. The orbital residents also participated in a pair of behavioral studies aboard the International Space Station.

The five-year-old Airway Monitoring study from the European Space Agency is analyzing exhaled Nitric Oxide in an astronaut’s breath to detect dust and other toxins. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain collected a series of breath samples for the health study today in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Future lunar or Martian astronauts could inhale dust collected in their habitats or on their spacesuits potentially inflaming their airways. Monitoring a crewmember’s airways could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for a successful long-term mission.

David Saint-Jacques collected blood samples during the morning and placed them inside the Bio-Analyzer from the Canadian Space Agency. The new device supports the Life Science Research System and rapidly analyzes molecular and cellular properties of biomedical samples aboard the space station.

Saint-Jacques and McClain later took turns jotting down their impressions of living in a confined space environment separated from family and friends. Crew inputs from the Behavioral Core Measures study could provide insights to doctors seeking a standardized method to measure and assess behavioral health in astronauts.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch started her day taking tests for the Standard Measures study that observes a variety of cognitive functions such as memory, attention and orientation. Later, she checked out spacesuit gloves then stowed hardware from the Capillary Structures life support systems study.

Health Checkups, Station Gardening and Space Science Fill Tuesday

The space station flies above the Gulf of St. Lawrence
(From bottom to top) The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter, the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and the Progress 72 cargo craft are pictured attached to the International Space Station as the orbiting complex flew 258 miles above the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Four Expedition 59 astronauts underwent periodic health checkups and regularly scheduled eye scans today. The International Space Station residents also had time set aside for space gardening, furnace work, crew ship packing and radiation checks.

Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch started Tuesday morning checking each other’s vital signs including temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate. They were followed shortly afterward by Flight Engineers Nick Hague and David Saint-Jacques.

In the afternoon, the Koch and Hague swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer (CMO) and used an ultrasound device to scan each other’s eyes. Saint-Jacques then took over as CMO and activated the optical coherence tomography gear to image the retinas of Koch and Hague. The ongoing eye exams help flight surgeons understand how long-term weightlessness affects vision and the shape of the eye.

McClain and Koch spent a few moments in the middle of their eye checks today thinning and watering plants for the Veg-04 botany experiment. The research takes place in a specialized greenhouse and explores the feasibility of a continuous fresh food production system in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module.

After the vital sign checks, Hague partnered up with McClain to reconfigure and install an advanced furnace in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The Electrostatic Levitation Furnace enables the observation of thermophysical properties and the synthesis of high temperature materials on the station.

Commander Oleg Kononenko continued readying the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship for its departure June 24 carrying him, McClain and Saint-Jacques back to Earth. Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin collected radiation sensors from the station’s U.S. side and downloaded measurement readings. The Russian duo also trained to operate a unique suit that counteracts microgravity and draws body fluids towards the feet to minimize head pressure.

Station Trio Prepping for June 24 Homecoming

The six-member Expedition 59 crew
The six-member Expedition 59 crew poses for a portrait inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus commercial space freighter dubbed the S.S. Roger B. Chaffee. Clockwise from bottom are cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Kononenko; NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague; Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are getting ready to end their stay at the International Space Station after six and a half months in space. Meanwhile, mission scientists continue exploring how microgravity impacts the human body.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques will flank Commander Oleg Kononenko inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft when they return to Earth on June 24. McClain videotaped herself in virtual reality talking about her first space mission today using a 360-degree camera in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The trio have been in space since Dec. 3.

Saint-Jacques and Kononenko began gathering items to take back home inside their Soyuz crew ship. The duo collected personal items such as shoes and clothes as well as tools and trash that will be soon be stowed aboard the Soyuz for the ride to Earth.

Saint-Jacques also researched ways to supplement crew nutrition during future long-term space missions, such as missions to the Moon and Mars. Food stowed for long periods can lose nutritional value. The BioNutrients-1 study is exploring manufacturing nutritional compounds in space to maintain healthy crews for successful missions.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague started Monday morning by drawing blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge before stowing them in science freezer. Doctors on the ground will analyze the samples to detect critical changes to a crewmember’s physiology while living in space. The pair also participated in visual acuity tests using an eye chart in the afternoon.

Three-Day Weekend for Astronauts as Cosmonauts Study Space Exercises

The Mediterranean, north Africa, Italy and Greece
This view from the International Space Station looks from northeast to southwest, from Greece, Italy and across the Mediterranean Sea to Libya. The Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft is pictured in the foreground.

Four Expedition 59 astronauts are taking a three-day weekend aboard the International Space Station after packing a U.S. space freighter for return to Earth. The two cosmonauts focused on exercise studies, physics research and life support maintenance on the Russian side of the orbiting lab.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Anne McClain and Nick Hague and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques are relaxing today following last weekend’s SpaceX Dragon cargo loading and closeout activities. The quartet spent the first part of the week cleaning and stowing hardware after Dragon returned to Earth Monday full of completed experiments and station gear for analysis.

Station Commander Oleg Kononenko attached sensors to Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin today monitoring his vital signs during an exercise study to determine the most effective workouts in space. Ovchinin cleaned up afterward then researched plasma crystals, or highly charged micro-particles that form self-organized structures in microgravity. The duo also checked life support systems, configured communications gear and inspected the structural integrity of the station’s Russian segment.

BEAM Opens for Tests; Crew Studies Biotech and Fluid Physics

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague assembles and installs the Water Storage System inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The International Space Station’s BEAM opened up today for environmental sampling and cargo stowage activities as NASA continues to test the commercial module.  The Expedition 59 crew also explored biotechnology and fluid physics to improve Earth applications and space habitability.

Astronauts Anne McClain, Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques checked out BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, today to sample the air for microbes and stow spare hardware inside. BEAM had its stay at the station’s Tranquility module extended in November 2017 after a successful installation and expansion in the spring of 2016. The soft material module is providing extra storage space at the orbiting lab and additional technology demonstrations that may inform future missions.

After the BEAM work, McClain sampled algae grown inside the Photobioreactor to explore the viability of closed, hybrid life-support systems in space. Koch wrapped up a study observing how fluids slosh and wave in space to improve satellite fuel systems and increase knowledge of Earth’s oceans and climate.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent the majority of Thursday installing Water Storage System components in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The space plumbing work consisted of installing a variety of hoses including power and data cables to the main Potable Tank Assembly.

Commander Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin started the morning taking breath and blood pressure measurements for a cardiopulmonary study. Next, they tested communication systems in the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship and spent the rest of the afternoon on a variety of Russian science and maintenance activities.

Eye and Artery Scans, Robotics and Fluid Studies for Earth and Space Benefits

The six-member Expedition 59 crew
The six-member Expedition 59 crew gathers for a portrait inside of the vestibule between the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Harmony module the day before the commercial space freighter’s departure.

The International Space Station residents continued exploring today what living off the Earth for long periods is doing to their body. The Expedition 59 crew also researched ways to improve life in space and even filmed a virtual experience aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch took turns serving as Crew Medical Officer during a round of ultrasound eye exams Wednesday morning. The duo scanned the eyes of Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques ahead of their homecoming June 24. Astronauts have reported vision issues during and after their missions. The eye imaging helps doctors understand how microgravity impacts the cornea, lens, optic nerve and the shape of the eyeball.

Saint-Jacques once again had his blood pressure checked and arteries scanned with an ultrasound device to investigate how weightlessness affects the cardiovascular system. Arterial stiffness has been observed in space and the study may help offset the negative effects improving life in space and on Earth. The astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency also recorded a virtual reality video of his biomedical activities for later viewing on Earth.

McClain monitored a small cube-shaped robot called the Astrobee and tested its ability to float around the Kibo laboratory module autonomously. Engineers are assessing the free-flying device’s potential to perform routine maintenance duties and provide additional lab monitoring capabilities.

Koch wrapped up the day in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module setting up a fluid physics study that has been observing sloshing and waves on the station since 2016. The Fluidics study uses a motorized instrument to slosh fluids in tanks with video and data downlinked to researchers on the ground. Results could optimize the design of satellite fuel systems and increase the understanding of Earth’s oceans and climate.