Space botany and CubeSats were the dominant research theme Friday as the Expedition 64 crew looks ahead to its first spacewalk in November.
NASA and its international partners are exploring ways to sustain healthy crews on space missions farther away from Earth. Growing food on spacecraft and space habitats is critical if astronauts are going to successfully explore the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, who was also a scientist before being recruited as a NASA astronaut, put on her green thumb today and installed new components inside the Advanced Plant Habitat. The botany research gear resides in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module and allows scientists to observe how plants grow and thrive in microgravity.
Rubins also spent some time Friday reviewing an upcoming CubeSat deployment that will take place outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. She will be readying several tiny satellites that will provide insights into oceanography, weather, ship and aircraft tracking, as well as GPS and satellite communication technologies.
Two cosmonauts are getting ready for a spacewalk targeted for Nov. 18 on the outside of the International Space Station’s Russian segment. Commander Sergey Ryzhikov joined Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on Friday and began setting up the Poisk module where they will stage their tools and suit up for the planned six-hour excursion. The duo will be primarily be servicing external station hardware and science experiments during their mission’s first spacewalk.
The three-member Expedition 64 crew is helping scientists understand how to keep astronauts healthy and maintain spacecraft systems on long-term exploration missions. The trio aboard the International Space Station also cleaned lab ventilation systems and worked on orbital plumbing tasks.
Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA had a regularly scheduled health check up this morning and measured her temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. Afterward, she serviced computer components that support the European Physiology Module which enables neuroscientific, cardiovascular, and physiological studies.
Research into space exercise is ongoing inside the station as doctors around the world study how to keep crew members in good shape while living and working in weightlessness. Once again, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov attached variety of sensors to themselves and worked out Thursday morning providing insights into how their bodies react to physical activities in space.
Ryzhikov then moved on to Russian plumbing work and transferred urine from the station into tanks located on the Progress 76 resupply ship. Kud-Sverchkov was in the Zvezda service module during the afternoon working preventive maintenance on the ventilation system’s fans and filters.
The Expedition 64 crew continued this week’s run of space physics and human research aboard the International Space Station today. The orbital trio also spent the day servicing laptop computers and life support systems.
During Wednesday morning, Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA installed material samples inside the Handhold Experiment Platform (HXP) that will soon be exposed to the harsh environment of space. She then placed the Japanese external experiment platform inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock. From there the Japanese robotic arm will grapple the HXP with the samples inside and install it outside Kibo. Scientists observe the materials over time to understand how space radiation and extreme temperatures affect a variety of samples, impacting the design of future spacecraft and advanced materials.
Rubins then moved onto fluid physics during the afternoon, setting up hardware for the Drop Vibration experiment. Engineers may be able to take advantage of the results to design advanced fuel, water, and air systems on spacecraft.
Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos began wrapping up operations for a Russian immune system study. After collecting his saliva samples, he stowed the experiment’s hardware and transferred science data for later analysis. He also participated in a space exercise study to maintain a crew member’s health during long-term missions.
During the morning, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov took part in the same exercise study as his fellow cosmonaut. The veteran cosmonaut then explored ways to improve interactions among international crews and mission control teams. Ryzhikov also upgraded software on a variety of laptop computers and checked airflow sensors throughout orbiting lab’s Russian segment.
Physics and biology research filled the majority of the science schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew also put on their technician caps and worked hardware, including life support gear and air conditioning systems.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins swapped out sample containers Tuesday morning on an experiment platform that can be placed outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Scientists use experiments installed on the outside of the station to understand how space radiation and extreme temperatures affect a variety of materials. Results may improve the design of future spacecraft and the production of stronger, safer materials on Earth.
Rubins then spent the afternoon working on hardware maintenance servicing life support hardware and science gear. She first swapped batteries and chips inside ammonia measurement kits, then installed a pair of portable science freezers inside the Kibo and U.S. Destiny lab modules.
Immune system studies continued throughout Tuesday in the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov processed their own blood and saliva samples in the morning and evening to understand how spaceflight stresses the immunity of a crew member.
Ryzhikov, the station commander on his second space mission, also refilled freon bottles to maintain the orbiting lab’s air conditioning system. Kud-Sverchkov cleaned ventilation fans and filters before checking radiation readings and smoke detectors.
The Expedition 64 trio is nearing its second full week aboard the International Space Station and is beginning the work week with a host of biomedical studies today. The three station crew members will also bring in the 20th year of continuous human habitation of the orbital lab on Nov. 2.
Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov with Commander Sergey Ryzhikov started Monday collecting mass measurements before splitting up for the rest of the day. After waking up, they attached themselves to a device that applies a known force to a crew member and uses the resulting acceleration to calculate an astronaut’s mass in microgravity.
Ryzhikov then joined Kud-Sverchkov for a variety of studies exploring how their bodies are adapting to microgravity. The Russian duo logged their meals and drinks throughout the day for an investigation that seeks to understand bone loss in space. The pair also worked on an experiment to improve exercise techniques to sustain long-term space exploration missions. Kud-Sverchkov later collected and stowed his saliva samples for a study looking at how the human immune system adapts to microgravity.
On Nov. 2, Rubins with fellow crewmates Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will be part of 20 years of humans continuously orbiting Earth aboard the station. They are the 64th long-term crew to live and work on the orbiting lab. The first crew to board the station was Expedition 1 on Nov. 2, 2000, with Commander William Shepherd of NASA with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins began her day replacing batteries in devices that detect smoke and compounds in the station’s atmosphere. She then serviced a variety of research hardware including Spectrum which images proteins in fluorescent light. Rubins then worked on a device that applies a known force to a crew member and uses the resulting acceleration to calculate an astronaut’s mass in microgravity.
Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov had a light duty day Friday. The two-time resident of the orbiting lab spent some time dusting and cleaning crew quarters before replacing components in the Russian toilet.
First-time space flyer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov inspected Russian hardware today including a food warmer and an onboard control system. The cosmonaut Flight Engineer also configured a pair of laptop computers with assistance from mission specialists on the ground.
The solar arrays have successfully deployed on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft that is on its way to deliver nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations, technology demonstrations, commercial products, and other cargo to the International Space Station after launching at 9:16 p.m. EDT Thursday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival to the orbiting laboratory will begin Monday, Oct. 5 at 3:45 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus, while Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos monitors telemetry during rendezvous, capture, and installation on the Unity module’s Earth-facing port. NASA TV coverage of the spacecraft’s installation will begin at 7:30 a.m.
This delivery – Northrop Grumman’s 14th contracted cargo flight to the space station and the third under its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract with NASA – will support dozens of new and existing investigations.
Included aboard Cygnus for delivery to the space station are:
Improving how we ‘go’ in space
A new toilet is headed to the space station. Its features improve on current space toilet operations and help NASA prepare for future missions, including those to the Moon and Mars. The Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) demonstrates a compact toilet and the Urine Transfer System that further automates waste management and storage. The smaller footprint of the UWMS supports a possible increase in the number of crew members aboard the space station, as well as planning for future exploration missions.
Energy and water from waste
The investigation Elucidating the Ammonia Electrochemical Oxidation Mechanism via Electrochemical Techniques at the ISS (Ammonia Electrooxidation) examines a process for ammonia oxidation in microgravity. An electrochemical ammonia removal system could serve as an innovative water recovery system on long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars and provide vital drinkable water in remote and arid areas on Earth.
Adding radishes to the space salad
A new crop of vegetables is headed to the space station. While previous experiments have grown different types of lettuces and greens aboard the orbiting laboratory, the Assessment of Nutritional Value and Growth Parameters of Space-grown Plants (Plant Habitat-02) investigation adds radishes to the mix, cultivating seeds to see how different light and soil conditions affect growth. Findings could help optimize growth of the plants in space, as well as provide an assessment of their nutrition and taste.
Identifying targeted cancer treatments
The Leveraging Microgravity to Screen Onco-selective Messenger RNAs for Cancer Immunotherapy (Onco-Selectors) investigation tests drugs based on messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNA) for treating leukemia. In normal gravity, the drugs to be tested are onco-selective, meaning they can distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones. Researchers expect any drugs that also demonstrate this trait in microgravity could make good candidates for safer, more effective, and affordable medicines to treat leukemia and other cancers. This could improve survival rates for thousands of people every year.
Spacewalks in virtual reality
The International Space Station Experience (ISS Experience) is creating an immersive virtual reality series documenting life and research aboard the space station. Partnering with the ISS National Lab and TIME, a team from Felix and Paul Studios launched a customized 360-degree camera to the space station in December 2018 that crew members have used to record a few hours inside the station every week. Felix and Paul and partner NanoRacks further modified an additional camera to withstand the extreme conditions of space and are launching for use in filming a spacewalk. The new camera will be mounted to the Canadarm2 to capture a spacewalk from start to finish as well as footage of Earth and the exterior of the space station.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through NASA’s Artemis program.
In addition to science and research, this launch will also support commercial space endeavors. Estée Lauder’s New Advanced Night Repair serum will be photographed in the space station’s iconic cupola window as part of NASA’s efforts to enable commercial activities at the space station and develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy. The imagery will be used on the brand’s social media platforms. These opportunities can help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses.
Three Expedition 64 crew members are sleeping in today following the departure of their Expedition 63 crewmates the day before. Back on Earth, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner have begun the flight back to their home space agencies.
The International Space Station is quiet today as Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov rest after preparing their crewmates for the short ride to Earth on Wednesday. The trio will resume their normal schedule on Friday and begin revving up advanced space science to improve life for humans on and off the Earth.
The next crew to visit the orbiting lab is targeting early to mid November to launch aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft from Florida. Four Commercial Crew astronauts, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker of NASA with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, are planned to live and work on the station until Spring.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed on Earth at 10:54 p.m. EDT in Kazakhstan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 7:32 p.m.
Cassidy now has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.
After post-landing medical checks, the crew will split up to return home; Cassidy will board a NASA plane back to Houston, and Vagner and Ivanishin will fly home to Star City, Russia.
Remaining aboard the station is the three-person crew of Expedition 64 with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and station commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. Upon the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission targeted to launch in November, the station’s long-duration crew will expand to seven people for the first time with the addition of NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
NASA Television and the agency’s website are now broadcasting live coverage of the return to Earth of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft carrying the trio is expected to make its deorbit burn at 10 p.m. to set the spaceship on its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere for a landing in Kazakhstan at 10:55 p.m.
While on station, Cassidy contributed to hundreds of experiments, including a study of the influence of gravity on electrolytic gas evolution, a complex electrochemical process with multiple applications on Earth and in space. Electrolysis generates bubbles that can be used to create pressure differentials in microfluidic devices, such as skin patches, used to deliver medications. Microgravity makes it possible to single out bubble growth and study its effect on the process.
Cassidy and Behnken completed four spacewalks, totaling 23 hours and 37 minutes, to upgrade station batteries. The final spacewalk was the 10th for both astronauts, making them two of only four only U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks. Cassidy now has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.
Cassidy also worked with Astrobee, cube-shaped, free-flying robots that may one day assist astronauts with routine duties, and conducted research for the Onco-Selectors experiment, which leverages microgravity to identify targeted cancer therapies.
Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.