After receiving a command from ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, Dragon will undock at 5:05 p.m. from the zenith port of the station’s Harmony module and fire its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, controllers will command a deorbit burn. After re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will make a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida. NASA TV will not broadcast the deorbit burn and splashdown. Updates will be posted on the agency’s space station blog.
A U.S. cargo craft is being loaded with hardware and sensitive research samples for analysis on Earth before it departs the International Space Station today. The Expedition 68 crew members also had time on Monday for biomedical activities and lab maintenance ensuring the crew and the station continue operating in tip-top shape.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is poised to complete a 43-day stay attached to the station when it undocks from the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 5:05 p.m. EDT today. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, and Frank Rubio along with Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are finalizing the loading of about 4,400 pounds supplies and science experiments inside the Dragon. NASA TV’s live coverage of Dragon’s undocking and departure begins at 4:45 p.m. on NASA’s website and the agency’s app.
The crew will close Dragon’s hatch about an hour-and-a-half before its departure today. Dragon will then orbit Earth until Wednesday when it reenters Earth’s atmosphere and parachutes to a landing off the coast of Florida for retrieval by SpaceX and NASA support personnel. NASA TV will not air Dragon’s return to Earth.
The quartet also split its day collecting and stowing a variety of samples as part of ongoing human research studies. The astronauts began the morning gathering their saliva samples and placing them in science freezer for later analysis. The foursome, with assistance from specialists on the ground, wrapped up the day drawing blood samples that will be examined back on Earth to understand how living long-term in space affects the human body.
The space station’s three cosmonauts focused mainly on orbital maintenance throughout Monday. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin serviced an assortment of life support and electronics components. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina charged video camera batteries and photographed electronics hardware inside the Zarya module.
The Expedition 68 crew will go into the weekend packing a U.S. resupply ship before it departs the International Space Station on Monday. In the meantime, the seven orbital residents concluded the work week researching a variety of space phenomena, maintaining advanced science hardware, and wrapping up three days of eye exams.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft will complete a 43-day mission at the orbital lab when it undocks from the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 5:05 p.m. EST on Monday. NASA astronauts Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Frank Rubio will join astronaut Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and spend Saturday and Sunday loading Dragon with critical research samples from completed station experiments for analysis on Earth after it splashes down off the coast of Florida. NASA TV will begin live coverage of Dragon’s undocking and departure at 4:45 p.m. on NASA’s website and the agency’s app.
However, the station’s four astronauts spent Friday servicing advanced research gear and conducting microgravity experiments. Three NASA astronauts also concluded several days of vision tests as Mann scanned the retinas of Cassada and Rubio using standard medical imaging hardware found in an optometrist’s office.
Mann researched ways to generate nutrients on demand by manipulating genetically engineered microbes. Cassada tended to tomatoes growing for a space botany study. Both experiments are informing ways NASA and its international partners can sustain crews on missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos worked on several science projects at the end of the week as he tested a 3-D printer, explored futuristic spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques, and studied ways international crews and mission controllers can communicate better. Flight Engineers Dmitri Petelin and Anna Kikina took turns attaching sensors to themselves measuring their heart activity then downloading the data to researchers on Earth for a long-running cardiac study.
Space science and spacesuits dominated the Expedition 68 crew’s work day aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. The orbital lab will also see the departure of a U.S. cargo ship early next week.
Sustaining crews farther away from Earth is a key objective as NASA and its international partners plan human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The BioNutrients-2 investigation taking place on the station seeks to provide nutrients in flight for astronauts to reduce reliance on visiting cargo missions. Food stowed for long periods of time also tends to lose its nutritional value. NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Nicole Mann took turns today servicing and photographing genetically engineered yeast samples incubated in the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory for the study that could provide adequate nutrition on demand quickly using a minimal amount of equipment.
Mann also partnered with Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) resizing a pair of spacesuits, also known as Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs. Mann also installed lithium-ion batteries in the EMUs that power the spacesuit life support systems. The suits are being readied for an upcoming spacewalk planned to continue upgrading the station’s power generation system.
Wakata earlier joined NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada and continued packing the soon-to-depart SpaceX Dragon resupply ship. Dragon will complete a 43-day cargo mission and undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Monday at 5:05 p.m. EST. It will splash down off the coast of Florida packed with station hardware for inspection and finalized science experiments for analysis.
The orbiting lab’s three cosmonauts focused on their complement of microgravity research on Thursday benefiting humans on and off the Earth and providing insights on deep space exploration. Commander Sergey Prokopyev analyzed his blood samples using chromatography, a process for separating components of a mixture, then he studied how stress during a spaceflight may affect a cosmonaut’s immune system.
Roscosmos Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, wearing sensors, used a computer to explore how future crews may handle piloting spaceships or robots on planetary missions. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina pointed a camera outside a station window and photographed wildfires in South America. She then turned her attention to researching ways to improve communications between international crews and mission controllers from around the world.
Human research, space botany, and tiny satellites filled the research schedule aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday. The seven Expedition 68 crew members also split their day on maintaining lab systems and packing a U.S. cargo craft for departure.
It was the second day of operations for the GRIP study as NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada explored how dexterous manipulation is affected by living and working in weightlessness. He was seated once again inside the Columbus laboratory module performing computerized scientific tasks with a controller device. Researchers will use the data to help design intelligent spacecraft interfaces enabling human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio watered and photographed tomatoes growing for the Veg-05 space agriculture experiment. The main purpose of the botany investigation is to create a continuous fresh food production system to sustain astronauts traveling far beyond low-Earth orbit and decrease reliance on visiting cargo missions.
Science also takes place outside the orbiting lab with experiments attached to external platforms or small research satellites deployed from the station into Earth orbit. Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent the day installing a set of CubeSats into the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock. The nanosatellites will be staged outside in space then deployed into orbit on Friday to demonstrate a variety of technologies such as communications, propulsion systems, and Earth observations.
NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann partnered with Rubio during the afternoon continuing to load the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship with cargo ahead of its return to Earth next week. The duo, along with Cassada and Wakata, will accelerate its cargo activities going into the weekend finally loading sensitive research samples for analysis on Earth into Dragon before it undocks on Monday at 5:05 p.m. EST.
All four astronauts also had time set aside on Wednesday for vision tests using a standard eye chart commonly seen in an optometrist’s office. Doctors on Earth monitored the tests real-time checking the crew’s visual acuity, visual field, and contrast sensitivity.
The Expedition 68 crew kicked off the new year with an array of microgravity research aboard the International Space Station aimed at sustaining future crews farther away from Earth. The seven orbital residents from the United States, Japan, and Russia explored a wide variety of phenomena including space nutrition, dexterous manipulation, and microbe samples collected from inside the orbiting lab.
Providing adequate nutrition for crews is critical as NASA and its international partners plan expeditions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The BioNutrients-2 investigation is using genetically engineered microbes to provide nutrients, and potentially other compounds and pharmaceuticals, on demand in space. NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann nourished and incubated genetically engineered yeast samples for the study in the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory on Tuesday.
The way humans adapt to the lack of an up-and-down reference in weightlessness is also important as researchers study how astronauts grip and manipulate objects. NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada seated himself in a specialized chair in the Columbus laboratory module and performed different tasks using a controller device. Scientists may gain insights and use the observations to design intelligent spacecraft interfaces benefitting future astronauts as they venture into deep space visiting planets, moons, and asteroids.
Understanding the microbial environment on the space station is another vital activity to ensure healthy crews and safe, successful missions. NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio analyzed microbe samples on Tuesday morning that were collected from the station’s atmosphere and surfaces and grown in an incubator. Those samples will be returned to Earth next week on the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for additional analysis. Roscosmos Flight Engineers Dmitri Petelin and Anna Kikina performed their own analysis of a separate set of microbe samples adding to the knowledge of how bacteria and fungi adapt and thrive in microgravity.
Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tended to research samples being observed to understand bone regeneration on Earth and in space. Wakata later took a robotics test on a computer measuring his performance, behavior, and cognition while living in space. Station Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos set up an experimental 3-D printer to demonstrate the ability to print parts and tools supporting spacecraft and space habitat maintenance.