The next crew to the launch to the International Space Station is at the Kennedy Space Center counting down to liftoff this week. Back onboard the orbiting lab, the seven-member Expedition 68 crew is busy conducting advanced space research to improve life for humans on and off the Earth.
Four SpaceX Crew-5 crew members arrived in Florida on Saturday ahead of their launch aboard the Dragon Endurance at noon EDT on Wednesday. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will command and pilot Endurance respectively. They will ride along with Mission Specialists Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos. The commercial crew quartet will dock to the forward port of the Harmony module 29 hours after launch to begin their station mission.
After the Dragon Endurance docks to the orbiting lab, another four station crew members will turn their attention to ending their mission and returning to Earth just over a week later. NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who have been living on the station since April 27, will help their Crew-5 replacements adjust to life on the station. The homebound astronauts will then undock inside the SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship and parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida.
In the meantime, Lindgren and Hines began Monday focusing on how living in space is affecting their muscles. The duo used an Ultrasound device and the Myotones device to scan and measure the biochemical properties of their leg, neck, and back muscles. Watkins nourished vegetables and took photos of the plants growing for the XROOTS space agriculture study taking place in the Columbus laboratory module. NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio swapped glass fiber samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Intelligent Glass Optics space manufacturing investigation. Station Commander Cristoforetti serviced samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that supports high-temperature thermophysical research in space.
The station’s two cosmonauts, two-time station visitor Sergey Prokopyev and first-time space flyer Dmitri Petelin, had their hands full on Monday keeping up with lab maintenance while continuing their station familiarization activities. Prokopyev inspected windows inside the Zvezda service module then set up Earth observation gear. Petelin worked on orbital plumbing duties before inventorying and restocking station docking hardware.
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