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.

Expedition 60 Studies the Keys to Survive and Thrive in Space

The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft
The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking. Credit: NASA TV

As the week near its close, the crew of Expedition 60 caught up on maintenance activities while also continuing science investigations integral for the future of space exploration to destinations further into the solar system. 

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano performed servicing to the EXPRESS Rack located in the Columbus lab of the International Space Station. The EXPRESS Rack is instrumental in supporting science experiments, providing structural interfaces for power, data, cooling water and more to facilitate investigations in microgravity. 

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continued examinations for Fluid Shifts, conducting remotely guided ultrasounds to track the movement of fluids within the body. Spread out over several weeks, the various measurements investigate if long-duration spaceflight can cause severe and lasting physical damage to an astronaut’s eyes. Aboard the orbiting laboratory, a Lower Body Negative Pressure device is being evaluated as a possible intervention for any harmful effects. 

Flight Engineer Christina Koch, meanwhile, spent time on Rodent Research habitat cleaning and feeding protocols. Such experiments, as a byproduct of learning how microgravity affects animals, provides relevant insight to human space exploration, basic biology and knowledge that can positively impact human health on Earth. 

Crew members performed scheduled maintenance on the Space Moss investigation — a plant-growth experiment attached to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator. Moss, tiny plants without roots, need only a small area to thrive, and thus have potential in space far beyond low-Earth orbit, like on future Moon or Martian bases. 

The countdown is on for cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin, who will wrap up packing the Soyuz MS-14 with gear before the spaceship returns to Earth Friday, Sept. 6. Viewers can watch NASA Television as it follows the undocking of the unpiloted vehicle, which begins at 1:45 p.m. EDT for a scheduled undocking at 2:14 p.m. The vehicle is anticipated to land at 5:34 p.m. in Kazakhstan, but with no NASA TV coverage. 

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.

Flurry of Science Investigations Preface Friday’s Soyuz Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station's "window to the world," the seven-windowed cupola. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola. Credit: NASA

As cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori ready for their Sept. 25 launch aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, tomorrow they will pause in their mission preparations for the ceremonial laying of the flowers at the Kremlin Wall. On Sept. 10, the same day the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to take off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for the International Space Station, the new crew will depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. 

Meanwhile, Expedition 60 crew members balanced their workload between preparing for upcoming vehicle activities from and to the space station and investigations that will give scientists deeper insight into the human body in space … and on Earth.  

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan performed eye exams in support of Fluid Shifts, which studies how fluid movement — from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels — can impact changes in vision and eye structures for astronauts, as well as uncomfortable cranial pressure during spaceflight. Morgan, along with crewmate Christina Koch of NASA, are also reviewing rendezvous and capture training for HTV-8, which will be robotically maneuvered to attach to the Harmony module in just over a week.  

Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) worked with the Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) investigation, completing cell sample transfers. BEST evaluates the feasibility of sequencing to identify unknown microbial organisms living aboard the orbiting laboratory. One added benefit, too, is the experiment furthers research in understanding how humans, plants and microbes adapt to microgravity.  

Housekeeping continued as cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin added more cargo to the Soyuz MS-14 for a return to Earth, sans crew, Friday, Sept. 6. 

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.

As Hurricane Dorian Churns Below, Expedition 60 Continues Investigations, Training Above

Astronaut Christina Koch of the International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Dorian outside the space station’s windows the morning of Sept. 2, 2019. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Christina Koch of the International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Dorian outside the space station’s windows the morning of Sept. 2, 2019. Credit: NASA

After a quiet, off-duty day for the crew of Expedition 60 on Labor Day, operations supporting science for long-duration human space exploration and upcoming spaceship movements ramped up on the International Space Station. 

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are busy packing the Soyuz MS-14 with return gear before the vehicle parachutes back to Earth — without crew inside — this Friday, Sept. 6. Then, days later, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to launch on Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Its four-day journey to the orbiting laboratory will deliver 6.5 tons of new supplies and cargo.  

NASA crewmates Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan continued prepping for the robotic capture of HTV-8, reviewing procedures to ensure a smooth installation of the spaceship to the Harmony module for its month-long visit.  

Koch also performed Main Bus Switching Unit (MSBU) maintenance with fellow astronaut Nick Hague, afterward using a laptop connected to the MSBU with special test cables for a functional checkout of the repaired unit.  

Science investigations continue in earnest, with Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) conducting VEG-04 operations and additional Veggie training, also capturing light measurements for the novel experiment that seeks to learn about the impact of light quality and fertilizer on leafy crops grown in microgravity. 

Morgan and Parmitano spent time setting up and recording for ISS Experience, which documents life and research operations aboard the space station in cinematic virtual reality. Meanwhile, Koch worked with Microgravity Crystals, removing crystal plates from the Space Automated Byproduct Laboratory (SABL) to observe and photograph the sample wells under microscope before returning them to the SABL. 

Extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian continues to churn in the Atlantic Ocean 250 miles below, with crew members getting an unparalleled view of the storm as it begins to move from an almost stationary position over the northwestern Bahamas. Now a high category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph with occasional higher gusts, it will continue to crawl northwestward at about 2 mph, with a slightly faster motion toward the northwest, or north-northwest, expected later today and tonight. The storm is expected to come perilously close to Florida’s east coast late today through Wednesday evening and skirt by Georgia and South Carolina’s coastlines Wednesday night and Thursday.