Cardiology, combustion and CubeSats filled Thursday’s research schedule as three Expedition 61 crewmates are one week away from returning to Earth. The Cygnus space freighter is also poised to depart the International Space Station on Friday and complete one more mission.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch is nearing the end of her 328-day mission aboard the orbiting lab. She will land in Kazakhstan Feb. 6 aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). Koch blasted off to join the station crew on March 14 while Skvortsov and Parmitano began their mission on July 20.
When Koch lands, her mission-stay will be the second longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut behind former astronaut Scott Kelly. He lived aboard the station for 340 continuous days.
NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan juggled a pair of experiments this morning. He ran the Hourglass study observing how simulated planetary materials behave during different gravity conditions. Next, he cleaned a furnace that exposes materials to high temperatures and levitates them to research their thermophysical properties.
Parmitano started his day on cardiology research before switching to fire safety studies. The station commander first scanned portions of his body with an ultrasound device. The biomedical study is helping doctors understand what happens to the heart and blood vessels in space. He then moved on and burned a variety of fabric and acrylic samples. Scientists are using the data to model how flames spread in space to improve fire safety procedures and products in space and on Earth.
The Cygnus space freighter is packed, closed and ready for one more mission after its robotic release from the Canadarm2 Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST. It will deploy eight CubeSats for communications and atmospheric research several hours after departing the orbiting lab. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir installed the CubeSats, packed inside the SlingShot small satellite deployer, on Cygnus’ hatch Thursday afternoon.