Crew Packs Dragon With Science Before Tuesday Departure

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station on Dec. 8, 2019, as both spacecraft were orbiting 257 miles above Egypt and about to cross over the Mediterranean Sea.

The SpaceX Dragon is due to leave the International Space Station on Tuesday and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean loaded with critical science and station hardware for analysis. The Expedition 61 crew worked over the weekend and into Monday finalizing cargo transfers.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir, Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are carefully packing research samples including live mice inside Dragon for retrieval and analysis on Earth. Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will close the hatches and conduct leak checks before robotics controllers uninstall Dragon from the Harmony module on Monday night.

Most of the crew will be asleep as Parmitano monitors Dragon’s release from the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Tuesday at 5:03 a.m. EST. The U.S. space freighter will orbit Earth a few more hours before parachuting to a splash down in the Pacific around 10:41 a.m. NASA TV will be live broadcasting Dragon’s departure starting at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday. Splashdown will not be seen on NASA TV.

The two veteran cosmonauts stayed focused on their Russian task list of space science and systems maintenance today. Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov started the day on plumbing duty before cleaning fans and filters. Oleg Skripochka worked on heart research before inventorying station tool kits.

Dragon Delays Departure While Crew Studies Space Biology and Botany

Stars glitter in the night sky above an atmospheric glow
Stars glitter in the night sky above an atmospheric glow that blankets the city lights as the International Space Station orbited 259 miles above the Sudanese/Egyptian border before it crossed the Red Sea.

The Expedition 61 crew aboard the International Space Station is preparing to bid farewell to a U.S. space freighter.  The astronauts are also exploring what microgravity does to biology and botany to improve life for astronauts and Earthlings.

Station mission managers and SpaceX officials rescheduled the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship from the complex from Sunday night to early Tuesday due to a forecast of high seas in the Pacific Ocean splashdown zone. Dragon is now scheduled to be released on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 5:03 a.m. EST when the Canadarm2 robotic arm will set the craft free following its unbolting from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. Dragon will parachute to a splashdown southwest of Long Beach, California, Tuesday at around 10:41 a.m. loaded with station hardware and research results for analysis.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started Friday morning with Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) loading science freezers inside Dragon before next week’s departure. The freezers are packed with a variety of scientific samples that researchers will study to understand microgravity’s impact on a broad spectrum of biology and materials.

Mice, whose physiology is similar to humans, are being examined today to learn how to prevent muscle and bone loss in weightlessness. Doctors are studying ways to minimize the effects of spaceflight by observing the effectiveness of myostatin and activin in mice aboard the station. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch scanned and imaged the mice today in a bone densitometer measuring their bone mass.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan harvested moss today in the Kibo laboratory module collecting and stowing samples for further analysis. The Space Moss study, sponsored by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is exploring ways to grow strains of plants suited for the gravity conditions of spaceflight, the Moon and Mars.

Veteran cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka started their day videotaping and photographing life on the orbiting lab. The duo then split up servicing Russian life support systems, packing a Progress cargo craft and charging batteries in a Soyuz crew ship.