The seven-member Expedition 66 crew started the last day of January working on a wide variety of research gear supporting biology, physics, and Earth science. Spacewalk tool work and vision tests were also on Monday’s schedule aboard the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn kicked off Monday servicing science components, flight hardware and life support gear. Barron started the morning inside the Kibo laboratory module installing a small satellite orbital deployer onto an experiment platform that will soon be placed into the vacuum of space. Marshburn also worked inside Kibo installing ice bricks to condition science freezers. Barron later replaced a robotic hand controller while Marshburn worked on water transfer tasks.
ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer once again wore the Metabolic Space medical monitoring device measuring his heart rate and breathing function while riding the station’s exercise bike. The astronaut from Germany also worked on the Mochii electron-scanning microscope then reloaded firmware supporting an array of wireless instrumentation.
NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari worked on pistol grip tools that spacewalkers use when removing or attaching bolts on the outside of the space station. He also joined Barron and Marshburn participating in vision tests checking for visual acuity using a standard eye chart. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took Monday morning off before spending the afternoon checking cable connections and assisting the cosmonauts with Russian hardware.
Spinal scans and cardiopulmonary measurements were the key research operations taking place aboard the International Space Station on Friday. The Expedition 66 crew also serviced spacesuits, life support gear, and a Russian science module.
Human research is fundamental to understanding how the body adapts to weightlessness with doctors seeking to keep astronauts healthy during long-term missions. Researchers look at the data using a variety of tools to understand the physiological changes the human body goes through in space.
NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Marshburn took turns scanning each other’s spines using the Ultrasound 2 device during the afternoon on Friday. The duo marked their lower back area and scanned the lumber spinal section with real time guidance from doctors on the ground.
Another experiment is using portable gear an astronaut can wear that measures heart rate and breathing function. Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) put on the vest-like medical monitoring device Friday morning and worked out on the exercise cycle for the Metabolic Space study.
Two NASA astronauts focused their efforts on maintaining space station hardware on the last day of the workweek. Flight Engineer Kayla Barron worked for several hours in the Quest airlock cleaning cooling loops and water lines inside a pair of U.S. spacesuits. NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari adjusted the station’s Internal Thermal Control System located behind an avionics rack in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.
Matthias Maurer, flight engineer from ESA (European Space Agency), printed samples from a handheld bioprinter for analysis back on Earth. The samples were printed to investigate how to develop tissues in microgravity to advance personalized medicine on Earth and in space.
The three other NASA Flight Engineers aboard the orbiting lab, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron, Mark Vande Hei, worked throughout the day on a variety of life support and science maintenance tasks. Chari was on plumbing duty draining and transferring fluids in station tanks. Barron serviced the lab’s exercise cycle before replacing components in the waste and hygiene compartment, the station’s bathroom. Vande Hei processed samples for DNA analysis for the Food Physiology experiment that documents how diet affects a crew member’s health during a long-term space mission.
The station’s commander, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, was back on exercise research on Thursday exploring how to maximize the effectiveness of working out in weightlessness. Russian Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov cleaned up the Zvezda and Poisk modules, returning them to a post-spacewalk configuration following his excursion with Shkaplerov on Jan. 19.
Space agriculture dominated the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today to learn how to sustain long-term crews far beyond low-Earth orbit. The Expedition 66 crew also had time set aside for ongoing life science work to help keep astronauts and Earthlings healthy.
NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron spent Wednesday afternoon servicing cotton plant cell samples for the Plant Habitat-5 space botany study. The experiment is investigating how microgravity affects cotton genetic expression possibly impacting plant regeneration on and off the Earth.
NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked on a similar botany study today nourishing Arabidopsis plants grown on petri plates. That study is exploring how plant molecular mechanisms and regulatory networks adapt to the weightless environment of space.
Commander Anton Shkaplerov from Roscosmos continued his exercise research today studying how to maintain the physical fitness of crew members in weightlessness. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov assisted the commander during the workout study and also swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.
A U.S. resupply ship completed its 24th International Space Station cargo mission after returning to Earth on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, back in space the Expedition 66 crew had hearing tests while working on a myriad of orbiting lab and science maintenance tasks.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon space freighter parachuted to a splashdown off the coast of Florida carrying over 4,900 pounds of science experiments and station hardware on Monday at 4:05 p.m. EST. The commercial cargo craft undocked from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Sunday at 10:40 a.m. completing a 32-days attached to the space station.
On Tuesday, three astronauts participated in a pair of different hearing studies. Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) kicked off his day working on the Audio Diagnostics study to measure how station noise levels impact an astronaut’s hearing. At the end of their day, NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Raja Chari took part in a hearing assessment as part of regularly scheduled exams.
Over in the Russian segment of the station, Commander Anton Shkaplerov participated in a human research study to determine the effectiveness of exercising in weightlessness. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov assisted the commander during the exercise study then worked on European Robotic Arm computer systems inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.
SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 4:05 p.m. EST off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 24th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft carried more than 4,900 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth.
Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the experiments to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, allowing researchers to collect data with minimal sample exposure to Earth’s gravity.
Some of the scientific investigations that Dragon will return to Earth include:
Last light: A state-of-the-art light imaging microscope, the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) will return after about 12 years on the station. LMM, sponsored by NASA’s Division of Biological and Physical Sciences, made it possible to observe and record the way matter is organized and moves on the microscopic level, and supported ground-breaking colloid research, plant studies, and thermophysics experiments.
Tiny structures, assemble: The InSPACE-4 physics study is returning samples that could provide insight into how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials, including medical diagnostics and thermal shields for Earth and space applications.
Cell signaling in microgravity: The ESA (European Space Agency) investigation Cytoskeleton contributes to understanding of how the human body responds to microgravity. The study could support development of countermeasures to help astronaut crew members maintain optimum health on future space missions.
A U.S. space freighter is due to return to Earth today after undocking from the International Space Station on Sunday morning. Back on the orbiting lab, the seven-member Expedition 66 crew researched space agriculture and physics.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is due to end its mission today returning to Earth over 4,900 pounds of science experiments and station hardware for analysis and inspection. Dragon had undocked from the station on Sunday at 10:40 a.m. EST.
Dragon will fire its braking engines Monday afternoon dropping the cargo craft out of orbit and back into Earth’s atmosphere. The U.S. spacecraft will parachute to a splashdown off the coast Florida at 4:05 p.m. EST. NASA TV will not broadcast the cargo craft’s return to Earth and splashdown activities.
Meanwhile, space science continued on the orbital lab as the crew explored a wide variety of microgravity phenomena today. A pair of botany studies kept NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron busy with the duo investigating how to grow crops in space and how microgravity affects cotton genetics. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer installed hardware for the Fluidics experiment to study how to optimize fuel systems for spacecraft.
Maintenance is always ongoing aboard the station ensuring the crew stays healthy and lab systems operate successfully. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei started the day tearing down and stowing unused life support gear then photographed payload racks to document their current configurations. NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn worked throughout the day on U.S. spacesuit batteries and chargers.
A SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 10:40 a.m. EST.
Dragon will now fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station. Controllers will command a deorbit burn Monday, Jan. 24. After re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will make a parachute-assisted splashdown about 4:05 p.m., off the coast of Florida near Panama City. NASA TV will not broadcast the splashdown but the agency will provide updates on the space station blog.
Dragon launched Dec. 21 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, arriving at the station less than 24 hours later. The spacecraft delivered more than 6,500 pounds of hardware, research investigations and crew supplies.
The spacecraft is filled with more than 4,900 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo to return to Earth to complete SpaceX’s 24th commercial resupply services mission for NASA.
Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, will send commands at 10:35 a.m. for Dragon to undock from the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station and exit the area of the space station to begin its return to Earth.
Dragon will initiate a deorbit burn Monday, Jan. 24 to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere then make a parachute-assisted splashdown about 4:05 p.m., off the coast of Florida. NASA TV will not broadcast the splashdown but the agency will provide updates on the space station blog.
The five astronauts representing the Expedition 66 crew had an off-duty day on Friday while the two cosmonauts continued their post-spacewalk activities. A U.S. resupply ship is also on track to depart the International Space Station on Saturday.
Mission controllers have given the go for the Cargo Dragon, packed with science experiments and station hardware, to undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 10:40 a.m. EST on Saturday. Dragon will then parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida early Monday morning for retrieval by SpaceX recovery personnel. NASA TV will cover only the undocking and departure activities live on the NASA app and the agency’s website beginning Saturday at 10:15 a.m.
The four U.S. astronauts and one European astronaut aboard the orbiting lab relaxed today ahead of final cargo packing operations inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle on Saturday. NASA astronaut Kayla Barron along with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer will begin Saturday loading frozen research samples into Dragon. Following that, NASA Flight Engineers Thomas Marshburn and Raja Chari will ensure all the Dragon cargo has been secured for a safe return to Earth before finally closing the hatch.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will uninstall protein crystal samples, grown on the station and studied for the Advanced Nano Step experiment, then stow them inside the Cargo Dragon. Scientists on the ground will analyze the samples to learn how to develop new materials and drugs in space and the impacts of weightlessness on biochemistry.