Advanced Tech, Biology Research in Between Spacewalks

This Wednesday, three small satellites will be deployed from the International Space Station. Here, a set of three CubeSats are ejected from the Japanese Small Satellite Orbital Deployer attached to a robotic arm outside the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory module on June 17, 2019. Image Credit: NASA
This Wednesday, three small satellites will be deployed from the International Space Station. Here, a set of three CubeSats are ejected from the Japanese Small Satellite Orbital Deployer attached to a robotic arm outside the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory module on June 17, 2019. Image Credit: NASA

The Expedition 61 crew is starting the workweek in between spacewalks and running a variety advanced space investigations. A set of small satellites is also being readied for deployment outside the International Space Station by midweek.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano are gearing up for another spacewalk set to begin on Friday at 7:05 a.m. EST. Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch spent an hour reviewing robotics procedures for Friday’s spacewalk. Meir then joined Parmitano and Morgan in the afternoon to study details supporting the second Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer repair spacewalk.

Morgan started his day setting up small satellites inside a deployer that will be ejected outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module on Wednesday morning. Parmitano practiced robotic rover technology that future space crews could use to explore a planetary surface before landing humans.

Koch tested the operation of a 3D bioprinter today without using actual cells for its potential to manufacture complex human organ tissue shapes in space. She also fed lab mice being monitored for therapeutic insights into Earth-bound ailments.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka collaborated Monday and researched how the human digestion system is impacted by microgravity. The duo then reviewed Soyuz MS-15 crew ship systems before working on a variety of life support maintenance.

Crew Focuses on Cosmic Repair Spacewalks, Practices Medical Emergency

Expedition 61 crewmates Christina Koch, Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov practice emergency response skills aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA
Expedition 61 crewmates Christina Koch, Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov practice emergency response skills aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA

The Expedition 61 crew is focusing on a complex series of spacewalks set to start soon to repair a cosmic particle detector. The orbital residents also conducted an emergency drill aboard the International Space Station today.

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan are familiarizing themselves with new spacewalking gear delivered aboard the Cygnus space freighter. The duo will use the new tools and hardware on a series of spacewalks to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal control system.

The spacewalks will highlight advanced repair techniques, including cutting and reconnecting fluid lines, never performed during a spacewalk. Parmitano and Morgan are set to venture outside the station on Friday Nov. 15 to begin the first of at least four spacewalks to upgrade the AMS, a device that searches for dark matter and antimatter.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch joined the upcoming spacewalkers today and reviewed tools and procedures for the excursions. The quartet then called Mission Control for a conference with experts on the ground about their spacewalking duties.

At the end of the workday, all six crew members, including cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka, practiced responding to an emergency simulation. The crew reviewed safety and medical gear, translated evacuation paths, practiced chest compressions (CPR) and coordinated communications.

The space station raised its orbit during the crew’s sleep period Thursday night when Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship fired its thrusters for six minutes and 45 seconds. Now orbiting a mile higher at its perigee, the orbital complex is at the correct altitude for Russia’s next resupply ship, Progress 74, to dock on Dec. 3 after it launches Dec. 1.

Crew Gearing Up for U.S. and Japanese Cargo Ship Activities

NASA astronaut Christina Koch performs science operations in the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Ring Sheared Drop human health and advanced materials investigation. Image Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Christina Koch performs science operations in the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Ring Sheared Drop human health and advanced materials investigation. Image Credit: NASA

A Japanese cargo vehicle will be departing the International Space Station and a U.S. vehicle beginning its trip there this Saturday. The Expedition 61 crew is getting ready for both missions while staying busy with space research and lab maintenance.

Japan’s HTV-8 resupply ship, also known as Kounotori, will depart the orbiting lab at the end of the week and complete a 34-day cargo mission attached to the Harmony module. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are loading the craft today with trash and obsolete gear. Meir will back up fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch on Friday when she releases HTV-8 from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 1:20 p.m. EDT.

The duo is also on robotics training today preparing for the 12th Cygnus resupply mission from Northrop Grumman. Meir, with Koch as her backup, will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus when it arrives Monday Nov. 2, at 4:10 a.m. The Cygnus cargo craft, named SS Alan Bean for the Apollo and Skylab astronaut, launches Saturday from Virginia at 9:59 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the spaceship launch and arrival activities to the station live.

Morgan started his workday setting up a laptop computer for science operations in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility. After some life support maintenance, he moved on to botany research before finally moving a science freezer from one research rack to another.

Commander Luca Parmitano spent a few moments Monday afternoon checking samples for the Ring Sheared Drop human health and advanced materials investigation. The ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut also joined Morgan during the morning and reviewed spacewalk repair procedures for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka started the morning photographing Russian spacewalk hardware. The duo then split up as Skvortsov tested spacecraft simulation software while Skripochka inspected Russian segment surfaces for moisture and corrosion.

Space Biology, Human Research Day Before Spacewalk

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) are suited up in U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock for the first of five planned spacewalks that took place on Oct. 6, 2019. Image Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) are suited up in U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock for the first of five planned spacewalks that took place on Oct. 6, 2019. Image Credit: NASA

Two astronauts will suit up Friday morning for the second spacewalk in a series of five this month to upgrade International Space Station power systems. In the meantime, the duo and the rest of the Expedition 61 crew are staying on top of ongoing microgravity research today aboard the orbiting lab. 

NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch split their time today between researching space biology and preparing for tomorrow’s spacewalk. Morgan observed and photographed protein crystals in a microscope to support cancer research. Koch explored sequencing the DNA of microbes living on the station. 

The duo also worked inside the Quest airlock to ready their spacesuits, tools and tethers before they exit into the vacuum of space Friday at 7:50 a.m. EDT. They will continue swapping out the station’s large nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries. NASA TV begins its live coverage at 6:30 a.m. 

Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Jessica Meir set up an exercise cycle for an aerobic fitness test today. Meir strapped herself on the bike while attached to a variety of sensors for an hour-and-a-half exercise session. Flight surgeons use these evaluations to determine an astronaut’s physiological health before, during and after a flight. She also studied how blood flow to the brain adjusts in microgravity. 

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka continued testing a unique negative pressure suit for its ability to reverse the space-caused upward flow of fluids such as blood in astronaut’s bodies. The veteran station pair also worked on a variety of Russian life support and communications systems.

Slime and Cancer Research Before Japan Cargo Ship Arrives Saturday

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Credit: NASA

A Japanese space freighter is on track to deliver more than four tons of cargo to the International Space Station on Saturday morning. The Expedition 60 crew is preparing for its arrival while also researching a variety of microgravity phenomena.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are practicing on a computer the techniques they will use to maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm and capture the HTV-8 resupply ship on Saturday. The duo will be in the cupola monitoring the cargo craft’s approach when Koch will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-8 at 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) started his morning playing with slime for the Non-Newtonian Fluids in Microgravity experiment. Koch and Morgan joined him for the fun research being filmed for students on Earth to excite them about space research.

New station resident Jessica Meir of NASA began her day observing and photographing protein crystal samples in a microscope. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Meir and the station’s other new crewmates, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates, joined the rest of the station crew to review their roles in the event of an emergency. All nine crewmembers practiced evacuating the station, communications and using safety hardware during the afternoon.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague are less than a week away from returning to Earth after 203 days in space. They are finalizing packing and readying their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for the undocking on Oct. 3. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

Biological, Materials Sciences and Inspiration Reign Supreme at End of Workweek

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 60 devoted their Friday to working on groundbreaking scientific research aboard the International Space Station, as well as inspiring the Artemis generation during a downlink hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation. 

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan of NASA took the mantle of fielding selected questions from 39 middle school classrooms nationwide during the space-to-Earth call at 10:55 a.m. EDT. The downlink, hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation at the Kentucky Science Center, allowed classes that are part of the National STEM Scholar Program to get a firsthand look at what it’s like to live and work in microgravity, with the crewmates providing anecdotes from their time in space. 

Hague and Morgan, along with NASA astronaut Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano of (European Space Agency), further investigated the effects of spaceflight on rodent residents with Rodent Research-17, evaluating the changes caused by microgravity to their immunity, cells, bones and musculature. These findings will bolster discoveries for new therapies — both in space and back on Earth. 

Koch also performed experiment maintenance, installing a sample cartridge into the Cryo Chiller within an Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) locker. This unique chiller provides rapid freezing capability in support of biological sciences, as well as temperature-controlled transfer to and from the space station on visiting vehicles. 

Hague and Koch captured cinematic recordings of Morgan working on the Microgravity Crystals experiment for ISS Experience, a virtual reality series will educate to Earth audiences on what Expedition crew members do each day in support of operations and research. The experiment will illustrate how microgravity can be helpful in learning about diseases on Earth through the crystallization of a membrane protein integral to tumor growth and cancer survival. While the crystallization of this protein has yielded unsatisfactory results in gravity, Microgravity Crystals leverages the absence of gravity for extensive protein crystallization work onboard, significantly increasing the likelihood of successful crystal growth. Forthcoming results may support the development of cancer treatments that target the protein more effectively, and with fewer side effects. 

Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos joined his American teammates in conducting routine eye ultrasounds. Since long-duration space missions have been shown to cause severe and lasting physical damage to some astronauts’ eyes, continued monitoring of eye health is necessary to mitigate any noticeable effects for the crew. 

New Station Crew Continues Preparations for Launch as Expedition 60 Enjoys Off Day

In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 61 crew member Jessica Meir of NASA runs through procedures Sept. 11 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft during an initial Soyuz vehicle fit check. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov
In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 61 crew member Jessica Meir of NASA runs through procedures Sept. 11 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft during an initial Soyuz vehicle fit check. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

The crew of Expedition 60, consisting of Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos; NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano; and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, took much-needed respite during an off-duty day aboard the International Space Station. Tomorrow, investigations furthering scientific research in support of crew health and extended travels to destinations deeper in the solar system will resume.

On Earth, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, along with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, are at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, finalizing pre-launch training and preparations for their launch on Sept. 25 aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Yesterday, they ran through procedures and completed the necessary fit check, spacesuits donned, within the Soyuz vehicle. Today, they took part in ceremonial activities, such as raising the flags of Russia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, along with backup crew members Tom Marshburn of NASA, Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos and spaceflight participant Sultan Al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates.

Decoding Human Biology at Top of Task List for Station Residents

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA playfully demonstrates how fluids behave in the weightless environment of microgravity aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA playfully demonstrates how fluids behave in the weightless environment of microgravity aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Expedition 60 is in the midst of a busy week aboard the International Space Station, even with yesterday’s launch scrub of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo vehicle. While JAXA teams are meeting to discuss a forward plan and assess launch opportunities, mission operations and scientific investigations are moving forward in orbit.   

Half the crew —NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan ESA (European Space Agency) crewmate Luca Parmitano— spent part of their day reviewing spacewalk procedures and training for an upcoming series of spacewalks to upgrade batteries during a maintenance activity for the outpost. 

Morgan also assisted NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos with additional work in support of Fluid Shifts, again evaluating a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit as a potential countermeasure for explorers having trouble maintaining adequate blood pressure during phases of egress and landing. 

Koch, meanwhile, performed necessary maintenance for the Rodent Research-17 experiment, temporarily relocating the rodent occupants to clean out the habitats and restock them with new food bars. This investigation evaluates the physiological, cellular and molecular effects of microgravity, testing the theory that the cosmic environment can accelerate aging. As researchers gain a better understanding of immune, bone and muscle disease processes, new therapies in space and on Earth can beneficially result. 

Parmitano rounded out the busy day by performing a self-guided ultrasound for the ground team in support of the Vascular Echo study, which examines changes in blood vessels and the heart in astronauts. It’s been observed that Expedition crew members return to Earth with stiffer arteries than they had before going into space. This experiment will provide insight into potential countermeasures to maintain crew health and improve quality of life for everyone … including those of us on Earth.

Spacewalk Prep and Science Punctuate Launch Day for HTV-8

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s uncrewed cargo transfer craft, called HTV, will deliver supplies and new investigations to the International Space Station.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s uncrewed cargo transfer craft, called HTV, will deliver supplies and new investigations to the International Space Station. Here, the HTV-7 resupply ship is pictured after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the space station orbited above the Pacific Ocean some 311 miles west of Baja California. Credit: NASA

Ten years after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) mission, today the HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft will launch from the Tanegashima Space Center to the International Space Station. While launch is scheduled for 5:33 p.m. EDT, NASA Television will start its coverage at 5 p.m.  

Days after, on Saturday, Sept. 14, Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approaches from below. Robotics flight controllers will then take over the operation of the arm to install HTV-8 to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, where it will spend a month attached. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station. 

Aboard the orbiting laboratory, preparations to receive the craft continue, with Koch and Morgan completing training to grapple the vehicle. They also performed several approaches with the Canadarm2 to simulate HTV capture. 

Expedition 60 crew members worked on experiments that will give researchers on the ground insight into plant germination in a microgravity environment, supporting the possibility of plant growth on the Moon or Mars for human consumption or other purposes. NASA astronaut Nick Hague took additional photo documentation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Palm Tree Growth Experiment, which observes and documents the root development of the Date Palm in space — and plant vital to the UAE ecosystem. 

Hague also assisted Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos with the Fluid Shifts investigation, using a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit to evaluate its feasibility as a countermeasure for postflight orthostatic intolerance, or the inability to maintain blood pressure while in an upright position. Though fluid loading and compression garments show promise in preventing this phenomenon, neither has proven completely effective for all phases of landing and egress; thus, research continues. 

Parmitano spent time recording an introduction for ISS Experience, previewing upcoming activities for the station crew. Filmed over many months, this cinematic virtual reality series will showcase living and working aboard the space station for viewers on the ground. He also worked with Rodent Research, powering down and stowing the habitat in a storage locker for later use. 

The crew also ramped up extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, preparations, gathering and configuring tools for an upcoming spacewalk that will upgrade batteries on the outside of the orbiting laboratory. 

Meanwhile, approximately 250 miles below, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori flew from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to finalize pre-launch training for a Sept. 25 launch on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft to the space station. 

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

Day Before HTV-8 Launch, Crew Studies Effects of Microgravity on Space-faring Humans

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

The International Space Station is abuzz as preparations heat up for the launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft from the Tanegashima Space Center tomorrow, Sept. 10. Launch is slated for 5:33 p.m. EDT, and can be seen live on NASA Television.  

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan spent more time practicing 30-meter approach and capture runs, followed by their own evaluations, in preparation for HTV-8’s arrival days later on Saturday, Sept. 14. The vehicle will be loaded with more than four tons of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware for the space station residents.  

In the Kibo module, Morgan spoke to media out of Morgantown, West Virginia, referencing not only of NASA’s future with the Artemis program, but also the work currently underway that will benefit life on Earth and expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. Morgan referenced his early morning tasks with Fluid Shifts and his first spacewalk just weeks before, when he and NASA astronaut Nick Hague installed International Docking Adapter to usher in a new era of commercial visiting vehicles that will launch from American soil.  

Science investigations that will help develop countermeasures for humans exploring deep space, and for longer durations, rounded out the busy Monday. Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and crewmates Koch and Hague conducted eye exams aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since it is known that living and working in microgravity can induce vascular changes, as well as head and eye pressure, these measurements will help medical experts and scientists on the ground track crew health as Expedition 60 continues. Furthering research for Fluid Shifts, all other crewmates, with the exception of Koch and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, conducted venous ultrasounds in support of ongoing studies into vascular and fluid movement within space-faring human bodies. 

Parmitano, meanwhile, worked to close out Space Moss, an experiment that helps decode how microgravity affects the growth, development, gene expression and photosynthetic activity of tiny, rootless moss plants growing within the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator on the orbiting laboratory.  

Back on Earth, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori are set to depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tomorrow after spending the week prior taking part in ceremonial activities and mission briefings leading up to their mission start on Sept. 25, when they launch into space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. 

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