Science, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of Cargo and Crew Missions

Russia's ISS Progress 79 resupply rocket rolls out to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early in the morning on Oct. 25, 2021. Credit: RSC Energia
Russia’s ISS Progress 79 resupply rocket rolls out to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early in the morning on Oct. 25, 2021. Credit: RSC Energia

Life science and spacewalk preparations are just part of the busy schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The seven-member Expedition 66 crew is also gearing up for a Russian cargo mission and a commercial crew swap taking place over the next two weeks.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur joined Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) in the Columbus laboratory module for muscle scans and measurements. The duo started Monday morning taking turns using an ultrasound device scanning each other’s neck, back and leg muscles. They got back together Monday afternoon after exercise sessions and measured each other’s muscle tone, stiffness, and elasticity. The measurements are part of the Myotones study which may improve muscle rehabilitation on Earth and in space.

In the U.S. Quest airlock, NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei began configuring tools and organizing the module for an upcoming spacewalk. Kimbrough also collected and stowed his blood samples before moving on to light orbital plumbing work. Vande Hei checked carbon dioxide monitors then updated station inventory systems.

Kimbrough is also getting ready for his return to Earth next month with his SpaceX Crew-2 crewmates McArthur, Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He and McArthur have started packing their spacecraft, Crew Dragon Endeavour, that will return the quartet to Earth for a splashdown off the coast of Florida ending their six-and-a-half month space mission.

However, the station will soon host eleven crew members just one day after the SpaceX Crew-3 mission launches from Florida on Oct. 31 at 2:21 a.m. EDT. Flying aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance will be Commander Raja Chari, Pilot Thomas Marshburn, Mission Specialist Kayla Barron, all NASA astronauts, with Mission Specialist Matthias Maurer of ESA.

But first, there will be a cargo mission blasting off toward the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian ISS Progress 79 resupply ship will launch on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and dock on Friday at 9:34 p.m. to replenish the orbital residents. Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov are training for that mission today practicing for the unlikely event they would have to take remote command of the Progress 79. The pair from Roscosmos trained on the Zvezda service module’s tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU, that would take control during the Progress 79’s automated approach and rendezvous.

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