Housekeeping and Maintenance Punctuate Last Full Day of Expedition 58

From left, Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague show solidarity before their upcoming launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
From left, Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague show solidarity before their upcoming launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA

The last full day of Expedition 58—before the launch, docking and consolidation of crews to become Expedition 59—was mostly spent on housekeeping items for the continued, successful operation of the International Space Station. 

NASA astronaut Anne McClain floated through the Tranquility and Zvezda service modules, deploying acoustic monitors. She paused in the U.S. lab at an EXPRESS rack to install communications gear and perform additional maintenance. David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency also worked with EXPRESS today, moving Space Automated Bioproduct Labs from rack-1 to rack-2. This miniature laboratory within the larger orbiting laboratory supports life science research, hosting microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, algae, fungi, viruses, etc.), small organisms, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants for evaluation in space.  

Expedition Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos replaced fuel bottles on the Combustion Integrated Rack, which allows the crew members to conduct fluids and combustion studies in microgravity. 

Today in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, were certified for flight by the Russian state commission and held their final news conference.  

Tomorrow, the soon-to-be station residents will hitch a ride aboard a Soyuz MS-12 for blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT on, coincidentally, 3/14. After a relatively speedy six-hour flight, the Soyuz is expected to dock to station’s Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking. 

The events will unfold live on NASA TV, with launch coverage beginning at 2 p.m. and docking coverage at 8:15 p.m., respectively. After a brief break, tune in at 10:30 p.m. for the hatch opening and welcome, which will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six—including three NASA astronauts. And, just in time for Women’s History Month, this launch marks the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts.  

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Before Launch and Spacewalks, Science Reigns Supreme Aboard Orbiting Lab

The Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
On March 12, 2019, the Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA

As the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the Expedition 59 crew to the International Space Station Thursday was erected on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 resumed research and routine maintenance after their off-duty day Monday. 

NASA astronaut Anne McClain conducted botany work with the VEG-03 experiment, which builds on what scientists have initially learned about harvesting vegetation in space with VEG-01. This time around, testing will demonstrate plant growth with a new batch of crops, including red romaine lettuce, extra dwarf Pak Choi, red Russian kale and wasabi mustard. McClain also spent time on life-support system upkeep in the Kibo lab module and maintenance in the U.S. lab on an EXPRESS rack—hardware integral to providing structural interfaces and support for science experiments with power, data, cooling, water and other items needed for successful operations. 

In the Quest airlock, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques completed additional prep work for upcoming spacewalks slated for March 22, 29 and April 8 by scrubbing cooling loops and performing leak checks on the spacesuits. After resupplying the Human Research Facility-2 rack, Saint Jacques added input to a questionnaire for Behavioral Core Measures, an investigation that seeks to create a standardized toolkit to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders that could occur with longer space missions. 

Meanwhile, Commander Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos ticked off additional maintenance tasks by cleaning panels in the Zvezda service module and performing fluid transfers to the Progress 71 resupply ship. 

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Station Crews Take a Breather in Anticipation of Launch on March 14

A view from the International Space Station taken Feb. 21, 2019.
A view from the International Space Station taken Feb. 21, 2019. Image Credit: NASA

This Monday, the Expedition 58 crew is taking a well-deserved break after a busy week prior wrapping up SpaceX’s inaugural flight of Crew Dragon to the International Space Station during Demonstration Mission-1, an uncrewed flight test. The vehicle departed station for a splashdown off the Florida Space Coast at 8:45 a.m. EST Friday, bringing NASA even closer to sending astronauts into space from American soil. 

The Expedition 59 crew, which will soon get their turn in orbit, is taking time to relax and review their launch day flight plan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On March 14, Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are set to blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT and dock less than six hours later to the Rassvet module at the orbiting laboratory. Research investigations will get a boost in productivity with their arrival, which will bring the full crew complement to six. All launch and docking events will be carried live on NASA TV. 

Tomorrow, the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the new crew crawls to the launch pad at Baikonur as Expedition 58 resumes science studies. 

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Making Space for SpaceX Crew Dragon, Spacewalk Prep and Science

Expedition 58 welcomes Crew Dragon
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Konenenko welcome the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station after a successful docking on March 3, 2019, ushering in the era of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Image Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 58 capped off its busy weekend with additional outfitting for the SpaceX Crew Dragon, which had only completed its hard dock to the International Space Station yesterday morning as part of the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test.

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay at the orbiting laboratory. This work included installation of the intramodule ventilation system, which helps cycle air from Crew Dragon to station. The crew members ticked off additional items from their checklist, also installing window covers and checking valves before taking part in a welcoming ceremony for the visiting vehicle at 10:45 a.m. EST Sunday, which aired on NASA Television.

Today, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko went over emergency procedures specific to Crew Dragon’s stay in orbit. While Crew Dragon is designed to remain docked to the space station for up to 210 days, this test of the spacecraft will be much shorter, ending early Friday morning. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m. on Friday, March 8—a little more than six hours after its separation from station.

While Kononenko was focused on the Plasma Kristall-4 experiment, which investigates the liquid phase and flow phenomena of complex plasmas, for this week’s runs, McClain and Saint-Jacques spent most of the day in the Quest airlock. The pair worked on their EMU [Extravehicular Mobility Unit] spacesuits, making sure their suits fit in advance of a series of spacewalks currently slated for late March and early April.

Saint-Jacques also made time in the day to connect with junior high school and college students in Hallifax, Nova Scotia, through a space-to-ground downlink where he shared his perspective of living and working aboard the world’s only microgravity laboratory.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Wraps Up Biomedical Studies; Films Station in Virtual Reality

Astronaut Anne McClain is pictured wearing a sensor on her forehead
Astronaut Anne McClain is pictured wearing a sensor on her forehead that is collecting data to determine how an astronaut’s “biological clock” changes during long-duration spaceflight. Image Credit: NASA

A pair of biomedical experiments are wrapping up today aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 58 crew began its weekend. The orbital residents are also filming a virtual reality (VR) experience and working on plumbing and life support hardware.

Anne McClain of NASA removed sensors from her head and chest this morning that collected data about her circadian rhythm, or “biological clock,” and how it is adapting off Earth. Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques stowed the wearable Bio-Monitor hardware that monitors an astronaut’s vital signs during normal activities with minimum interference.

McClain then set up a VR camera to film a first-person’s view aboard the orbital lab in an immersive, cinematic experience. She finished the workday with Saint-Jacques on orbital plumbing work in the Tranquility module.

The Combustion Integrated Rack received more attention today as Saint-Jacques replaced hardware in the fuel and flame research platform. He also assisted McClain with the VR camera installation, set up audio equipment and filmed an introduction.

Commander Oleg Kononenko also up video gear today in Japan’s Kibo lab module and held a conference with Russian students and educators. The veteran cosmonaut then spent part of the afternoon conducting maintenance on life support equipment in the station’s Russian segment.

Crew Ends Week Researching Space Physics, Biology and Time

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor checks on plants being grown for botany research aboard the International Space Station. NASA is exploring ways to keep astronauts self-sufficient as humans learn to live longer and farther out into space and beyond low-Earth orbit.
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor checks on plants being grown for botany research aboard the International Space Station. NASA is exploring ways to keep astronauts self-sufficient as humans learn to live longer and farther out into space and beyond low-Earth orbit.
A crew of three from around the world are heading into the weekend aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 57 trio from the United States, Russia and Germany studied a variety of space phenomena today including physics, biology and time perception.

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor joined Commander Alexander Gerst for eye checks first thing Friday morning. The duo then split up for a science-filled day and preparations for the next U.S. cargo mission.

Serena spent most of the day in the Japanese Kibo lab module mixing protein crystal samples and stowing them in an incubator for later analysis. She moved on to a little space gardening for the VEG-03 study before stowing gear that sequences ribonucleic acid, or RNA, from unknown microbes living in the station.

Serena also found time to set up a command panel for communications with a Cygnus cargo craft when it arrives to resupply the station Nov. 18. The resupply ship from U.S. company Northrop Grumman is being packed and readied for launch atop an Antares rocket Nov. 15 at 4:49 a.m. EST. from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Gerst spent over an hour in the European Columbus lab module today researching how astronauts perceive time in space including its physical and mental impacts. The German astronaut from ESA (European Space Agency) also configured a specialized microscope for more protein crystal observations.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos continued his week-long research exploring complex plasmas, or ionized gases produced by high temperatures. The Russian experiment may benefit space physics research and improve spacecraft designs. The cosmonaut also swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to maintain ongoing flame and gas research aboard the station.

Station crew investigates quality of space-faring life with studies on cabin air, food systems

Space Algae in Veggie facility.
Space Algae culture bags are pictured after installation in the Veggie Facility. Image Credit: NASA
Today, Expedition 56 crewmates balanced work on science investigations in between housekeeping duties aboard the International Space Station.

The crew retrieved samplers as part of the Aerosol Sampling Experiment that had been deployed the day before in Nodes 1 and 3. After connecting them to chargers, they were redeployed for a second round of sampling. The battery-powered samplers pull in air and collect particles through thermophoresis, a process in which different particle types exhibit different responses to the force of a temperature gradient. The collected cabin air particles are later returned to Earth so investigators can study them with powerful microscopes.

The Veggie facility amped up production with an additional six space algae culture bags installed by the astronauts for future studies. The Space Algae investigation will further NASA’s understanding of how plants respond and grow in spaceflight using state-of-the-art omics approaches. Algae may perceive microgravity as a physical stress, which can trigger the production of high-value compounds. Scientists plan to sequence whole genomes of the space-grown algal populations to identify genes related to growth in spaceflight and evaluate how their composition changes in low-Earth orbit.

In addition, the crew continued the organization, packing and loading of items slated for return on SpaceX’s Dragon early next month.

Space enthusiasts should tune in to NASA Television this week as the Saint Louis Science Center and NASA’s Stennis Space Center each host educational downlinks as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station. The Earth-to-space call with the Saint Louis Science Center happens July 18 at 12:20 p.m. EDT and will include summer campers ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Second to 10th graders participating in ASTRO CAMPs in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas will get their turn to engage with station residents about living and working in microgravity the following day, July 19, at 11:30 a.m. with Stennis hosting. Watch the events unfold live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.

While launch awaits, the science does not

Expedition 55 prime and backup crew
At the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, the Expedition 55 prime and backup crew members pose for pictures by a Soyuz model as part of their pre-launch activities. From left to right are prime crew members Ricky Arnold of NASA, Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and Drew Feustel of NASA, and backup crew members Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and Nick Hague of NASA.

As the International Space Station orbits Earth with three occupants already onboard, on the ground below in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, three more crewmates are engaged in activities leading up to a March 21 liftoff on a Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft to join them. (You can watch this launch live on NASA TV, with coverage beginning at 12:45 p.m. EDT.)

Today the future Expedition 55-56 crew members, NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, along with Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev, engaged with journalists for media day, sharing how they will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory. This crew will build on the trend of long-term increase in U.S. crew size from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated time for investigative research.

Meanwhile, off the Earth, the Expedition 55 crew reconfigured the JEM Airlock in support of an upcoming experiment: Materials on ISS Experiment – Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) payload operations. This study exposes sample plates containing a variety of surface materials to the harsh environs of space outside the station for varying durations. Data collected will inform satellite designers how different materials can degrade over time—a topic of great importance when it comes to designing and building spacecraft and structures to withstand a journey through the cosmos. 

On Friday, Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA will wrap up the week talking to science teachers—and lots of them—via an educational in-flight event with the National Science Teachers Association National Conference. During this downlink highlighting the Year of Education on Station, teachers from as far as the United Arab Emirates will pose their own burning questions for the astronaut and learn more about how to living—and working—is accomplished in microgravity.

Spacewalk and cargo preps punctuated with media outreach

Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle
From left, Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle take part in an in-flight media event aboard the orbiting laboratory. Image Credit: NASA TV

It’s a new day in space aboard the International Space Station, and three Expedition 55 crew members are prepping for an upcoming spacewalk and cargo-transfer activities while also sharing the wonders of our orbiting laboratory.

March 29 is the target date of the next U.S. spacewalk. To begin preparations for the excursion, the crew swapped out Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs, and began resizing the suits. Also on the task list: packing up suit parts intended for return to Earth with SpaceX CRS-14.

In addition, the crewmates spent time reconfiguring the European Physiology Module rack for the future installation of ESA’s ICE Cubes Facility (ICF). The ICF will provide commercial entities simplified, low-cost access to the space station with individual experiment cubes—small investigations that could make large impacts within the scientific community.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shared how space station benefits humankind off the Earth, for the Earth, during two in-flight Public Affairs events live on NASA TV. The first interview was with KYW-TV in Philadelphia, while the second was with NPR’s 1A Broadcast on WAMU Radio in Washington, D.C.

Later, a reboost is planned using the Progress 69P spacecraft to lift station to the correct altitude for a Soyuz 53S undock and landing early this summer.

Investigations this week set the stage for longer missions in space

Veggie experiment
The crew continued work with Veggie-03, watering the lettuce plants, documenting growth and selecting some for consumption. Image Credit: NASA

Kicking off the new week, the Expedition 55 crew aboard the International Space Station continued studies evaluating crew health, performance and sustainability for long-duration space missions.

For one such investigation, a crewmate set up Neuromapping hardware to perform tests for Flight Day 90, conducting strapped in and free-floating body configurations. This experiment studies whether long missions can cause changes to brain structure and function, motor control and multitasking abilities, as well as how long it would take the brain and body to recover from the possible effects. Previous anecdotal evidence supplied by astronauts suggests that movement control and cognition can be affected in microgravity.

The crew also continued work with Veggie-03, watering the lettuce plants, documenting growth and selecting some for consumption. Veggie-03 supports the concept that for future long-duration space missions, a fresh food supply can be grown in space to supplement the crew while far from home.

On the ground, Expedition 55-56, consisting of Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev and NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, checked off more reviews of launch day and rendezvous procedures in anticipation of a March 21 liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in a Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. They will join the crew already in orbit following a March 23 docking.