Wide Range of Space Science Keeps Crew Busy

This picture from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew tackled a wide range of advanced space science today as NASA’s first commercial astronauts near their departure. Robotics, genetics and fluids were just a portion of today’s research schedule as the International Space Station residents work with scientists helping to improve conditions for astronauts and Earthlings.

Flight Engineer Doug Hurley checked on AstroBee, a set of free-flying robotic assistants onboard the station, preparing it for a student programming competition later this year. Fellow NASA astronaut Bob Behnken studied how weightlessness forms water droplets to promote water conservation and improve water pressure in faucets and shower heads.

The duo continued packing their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle ahead of their scheduled departure and splashdown this weekend. NASA TV is broadcasting manager briefings, the crew news conference, the undocking and return to Earth live.

Commander Chris Cassidy checked the DNA profiles of microbe samples swabbed from station surfaces. Cassidy identified the bacteria living on the station using the portable, off-the-shelf technology familiar in laboratories and classrooms.

Earth observations were the prime research focus in the Russian side of the orbiting lab today. Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner used specialized imaging hardware to look at Earth’s upper atmosphere and photograph areas to identify catastrophes and hazards.

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