Mission Prep Heats Up Amid Science and Medical Studies

Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works with a science experiment within the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Credits: NASA
Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works with a science experiment within the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Credits: NASA

Today, the Expedition 65 crewmates aboard the International Space Station continued down their checklists in preparation for the next day’s planned mission activities — to include a port-relocation maneuver and the launch of a new module that will replace the Pirs Docking Compartment. Pirs has only a few days left in its 20-year length of service to the orbiting outpost, as it will soon be jettisoned, along with the Progress 77 cargo craft, on Friday for a destructive re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere.

Investigations in materials science continued in between maintenance and mission prep, with NASA astronaut Megan McArthur conducting runs of the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4, study. Using magnetic fields, the experiment studies the assembly of tiny structures from colloids and their mechanical responses to interaction with light and heat.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, meanwhile, worked with ULTRA Tweezers, an experiment that aims to gain understanding of an acoustic phenomenon theorized more than 30 years ago. The microgravity environment inherent to station will be particularly helpful in validating use of ultrasonic tweezers, or non-audible sound waves, to exert force on the objects they encounter.

Ongoing medical studies in eye health involved many of the crew members, with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and McArthur setting up the fundoscope for ocular examinations. These exams are remotely guided from medical experts on the ground and obtain images of the retinol surface, seeking any detectable changes to the astronauts’ eyes and vision.

Maintenance and housekeeping was a priority for another contingent of astronauts and cosmonauts. Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough continued an install with the newly deployed toilet system in Node 3 while his fellow crew member, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, obtained a potable bus sample from the Water Recovery System. The Russian cosmonaut duo of Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy continued with cargo transfer activities.

Many tasks were a prelude to the port relocation happening Wednesday, with Hoshide going over the final configuration, McArthur calibrating the Crew Dragon handheld gas detectors, and Pesquet reorganizing supplies in the Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Endeavour.

Tomorrow, Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will board Endeavour about 4:30 a.m. EDT and undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port a short time later, at 7:32 a.m. This fly-around will free up Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission.

On July 21, catch the port relocation first on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT. Four hours later, at 10:30 a.m., launch coverage begins for the Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Named Nauka, after the Russian word for “science,” the newest addition to station will hitch a ride to space on a three-stage Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Simulation and Station Maintenance Preface a Busy Week for the Crew

Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reviews procedures on a computer tablet for the InSPACE-4 physics study. Credits: NASA
Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reviews procedures on a computer tablet for the InSPACE-4 physics study. Credits: NASA

As the week kicked off, the Expedition 65 crew members spent much of their Monday fine-tuning procedures in anticipation of Wednesday’s port-relocation activity, which will free up the Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station. That vehicle is scheduled for launch Friday, July 30, as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.

Science also continued aboard the orbiting laboratory, with NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei conducting experiment runs throughout the day for Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4. This investigation studies the assembly of tiny structures from colloids using magnetic fields. Off the Earth and without the constraints of gravity, scientists are able to observe the assembly processes free from confining sample walls and sedimentation and to timescales not possible during simulation.

Vande Hei teamed up with fellow crewmate Shane Kimbrough to perform needed maintenance to the station’s toilet system, removing and replacing a hose for the assembly and completing a motor test and leak check. Station Commander Akihiko Hoshide, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut, along with NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, helped keep station experiments running optimally by removing two deployers from the Japanese Experiment Module Small Satellite Orbital Deployer and a hard drive from the Fluids and Combustion Facility, respectively.

Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, meanwhile, worked to transfer equipment for disposal to the Progress 77 cargo craft, which is set to undock — along with the Pirs Docking Compartment — from the International Space Station on Friday, July 23. A few hours later, Progress’ engines will fire in a deorbit maneuver to send the cargo craft and Pirs into a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Replacing Pirs, a module that has been part of the orbital outpost for the past 20 years, is the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) named Nauka, the Russian word for “science.” The MLM is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, July 21, on a three-stage Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Most pressing for the team in space was a comprehensive onboard training session and simulation for the upcoming Crew Dragon port relocation, which will set the stage for a historic first — when two different U.S. commercial spacecraft built for crew will be docked to the outpost at the same time.

See all these mission events on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Live coverage of the port relocation begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, July 21, with launch coverage of the MLM at 10:30 a.m. that same day. On Friday, July 23, coverage for the undocking of Progress 77 and Pirs beginning at 8:45 a.m. EDT Friday, July 23.

Crew Ends Week on Human Research and Space Physics

Russia’s ISS Progress 75 resupply ship is pictured with a Full Moon above the Earth’s horizon after undocking from the station. Credits: NASA
Russia’s ISS Progress 75 resupply ship is pictured with a Full Moon above the Earth’s horizon after undocking from the station. Credits: NASA

The work week is wrapping up with biology and physics aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 65 residents also maintained the upkeep of plumbing, computer, and power systems.

NASA and its international partners take advantage of the weightless environment of the orbiting lab to gain new insights unattainable due to Earth’s gravity. They use the knowledge from the long-term microgravity research to improve conditions for humans on and off the planet.

A new study recently delivered to the station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour is exploring how the immune system adapts to microgravity. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur set up hardware and samples for the Celestial Immunity investigation inside the Life Science Glovebox today. Results may provide new vaccines and medicines for diseases on Earth and increase the potential for commercialization of space.

McArthur also joined fellow NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei logging their meals on a computer to help researchers understand the nutritional requirements for astronauts. Vande Hei spent most of Friday on maintenance replacing life support system components and swapping fuel tanks in the Combustion Integrated Rack.

Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) partnered with Vande Hei for some of the life support work on Friday. Pesquet also transferred the AstroPi science computer to the Columbus laboratory module after joining NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough for orbital plumbing work in the Tranquility module. Additionally, Kimbrough spent a few hours installing power equipment and routing cables inside Tranquility before collecting and stowing his urine samples for later analysis.

Station Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency started Friday in the Kibo laboratory module retrieving sample cartridges from the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace. The three-time space traveler finally wrapped up the workday turning off the Astrobee robotic free-flyers and consolidating crew provisions.

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, also a three-time space visitor, worked on Russian communications gear and power tools before exchanging samples for a semiconductor crystal study. Roscosmos Flight Engineer and first-time space flyer Pyotr Dubrov spent the day on plumbing and ventilation tasks in the station’s Russian segment.

Astronauts Study how Space Affects Immune System, Exercise

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is pictured inside the Kibo laboratory module with the Astrobee free-flying robotic assistants. Credits: NASA
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is pictured inside the Kibo laboratory module with the Astrobee free-flying robotic assistants. Credits: NASA

Human Research and space physics topped the science schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The seven-member Expedition 65 crew also spent Thursday servicing a variety of life support gear.

The new Celestial Immunity study underway aboard the orbiting lab this week is looking at how the human immune system is affected by long-term weightlessness. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei started the day readying blood cell samples for the human research experiment inside the Life Science Glovebox (LSG). In the afternoon, NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur thawed the samples, placed them in a centrifuge, and inoculated them inside the LSG located in the Kibo laboratory module.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide joined Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet for a long-running space workout study today. The duo took turns attaching sensors to themselves then pedaling on an exercise cycle. The exercise study measures an astronaut’s aerobic capacity and the effort required to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks.

A space physics experiment is looking at the production of semiconductor crystals aboard the orbiting lab. Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos swapped hardware for the study taking place inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Results may improve the quality of semiconductors to benefit industries on Earth.

Maintenance is key to ensuring life support systems and science hardware stay in tip-top shape on the station. The crew is constantly monitoring and servicing lab hardware with support from mission controllers on the ground.

Cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov worked throughout Thursday checking out fans and navigation hardware in the station’s Russian segment. Vande Hei, McArthur, and Pesquet partnered together and replaced components in the U.S. segment’s oxygen generation system throughout the day.

Day Before Soyuz Relocation, Astronauts Continue Studies on Microgravity’s Influence

Two Russian spacecraft are seen docked to the International Space Station as it orbited 269 miles above southern Argentina. At left is the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that will soon undock from the Rassvet module and relocate to the Poisk module, making room for three new crew members due to launch April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. At right is the aft end of the Progress 77 cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment. Credits: NASA
Two Russian spacecraft are seen docked to the International Space Station as it orbited 269 miles above southern Argentina. At left is the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that will soon undock from the Rassvet module and relocate to the Poisk module, making room for three new crew members due to launch April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. At right is the aft end of the Progress 77 cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment. Credits: NASA

A day before Expedition 64 relocates the Soyuz MS-17 to another port on the International Space Station, the seven-person crew continued studies on the effects of microgravity on humans, plants, and materials, along with a couple outreach events.

NASA astronaut Victor Glover took part in two media events, each accompanied by a different crewmate. First up, Glover and Kate Rubins spoke with Fox 11 “Good Day L.A.” about living and working aboard the space station. About two hours later, Glover joined Shannon Walker for an outreach event with U.S. Rep. Norma Torres of California, where they answered questions submitted by students.

Glover teamed up again with Rubins for an eye ultrasound. Receiving guidance from the ground, Glover served as operator for Rubins’ examination. Spaceflight, especially for prolonged missions, can affect vision and eye health. These ongoing checks provide invaluable data for researchers and test the accuracy and functionality of the portable medical equipment station crews rely upon — tools that will prove even more critical as explorers venture farther from Earth.

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins continued closing out spacesuit tools and equipment used during the previous Saturday spacewalk he and Glover completed to service the orbiting laboratory’s cooling system and communications gear. The veteran astronaut also swapped out a crystal growth chamber in support of the Industrial Crystallization Facility (ICF). The ICF is used for growing crystals in space that are not possible on Earth — specimens large enough for commercial use. These crystals are not only interesting to look at, but integral to the research and development of new materials.

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s) astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, was engrossed in an investigation that studies fast-growing plants, called Asian Herb in Space. Future space travel, especially to destinations like Mars, will rely on plants for sustenance, traditional medicine, and flavor. This experiment will add to the growing body of research on plant growth, plus provide new information on the formation of aroma compounds in herbs.

Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos cultured various types of cells with the Kaskad investigation, while his counterpart, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov, was focused on setup and preparation for the Soyuz relocation activity.

On Friday, March 19, viewers can watch the Soyuz MS-17 undock and take a spin in the orbital neighborhood, so to speak, and later reattach to the Poisk module, which will free up the Rassvet port for the docking of Soyuz MS-18. Live coverage of the maneuver on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will begin at 12:15 p.m. EDT. Undocking from Rassvet is anticipated at 12:38 p.m., with redocking at Poisk targeted for 1:07 p.m.

The new vehicle, MS-18, will embark to the station after a planned April 9 launch, carrying NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov.

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.

Maintenance Tasks Feature Prominently Mid-Week for Expedition 64

NASA astronaut and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins is pictured during a spacewalk on March 13, 2021, servicing communications gear on the outside of the International Space Station's Columbus laboratory module. Credits: NASA
NASA astronaut and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins is pictured during a spacewalk on March 13, 2021, servicing communications gear on the outside of the International Space Station’s Columbus laboratory module. Credits: NASA

The crew of Expedition 64 took time to catch up on maintenance tasks for the International Space Station during a week bookended by some major activities: a spacewalk including NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins the previous Saturday and a Soyuz relocation maneuver coming up on Friday.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker worked with Astrobee, a technology demonstration starring small, free-flying cube-shaped robots, for the Astrobatics investigation. Like the name implies, the handy robots demonstrate what kind of acrobatics they are capable of performing using robotic manipulators to execute “hopping,” or self-toss maneuvers, as a means of propulsion. The increasingly complex moves attempted within the safe confines of the orbiting laboratory show what future robotic explorers may be capable of doing not only for advanced human space exploration missions, but as mechanical assistants to the astronauts.

In the Russian segment, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov tested space station circuitry while Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov conducted an eye examination — part of an ongoing effort track changes that occur to the shape of the crew members’ eyes during and after extended stays in microgravity.

Hopkins, along with crewmate Kate Rubins, performed additional upkeep for the spacesuits used during the latest excursion outside the station — this the fifth spacewalk of 2021. The pair stowed spacewalking tools and took care to scrub and disinfect the tubing that moves water throughout the suits.

Another duo hard at work aboard the orbiting outpost — Glover and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) — performed maintenance to the Water Recovery System-1 Rack to regain functionality of its water-processing capability, also switching out a smoke detector in the midst of their efforts. The pair later returned the T2 treadmill to its normal configuration.

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.

Crew Furthers Human Research While Prepping for Soyuz Relocation

The Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that carried the Expedition 64 crew to the International Space Station on Oct. 14, 2020, is pictured Oct. 18, 2020, docked to the Rassvet module. Credits: NASA
The Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that carried the Expedition 64 crew to the International Space Station on Oct. 14, 2020, is pictured Oct. 18, 2020, docked to the Rassvet module. Credits: NASA

In between ongoing investigations to further our understanding of how spaceflight impacts the human body, the Expedition 64 crew devoted time to brushing up on procedures to relocate the Soyuz MS-17 to another port on the International Space Station — a reconfiguration maneuver that hasn’t been done since August 2019.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of Roscosmos, as well as NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, reviewed the timeline and operations plan to accomplish the port relocation, which will free up the Rassvet port for the docking of Soyuz MS-18. That vehicle will carry three Expedition 65 crew members to the orbiting laboratory after launch April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov. Live coverage of the Soyuz flight around the space station may be seen beginning at 12:15 p.m. EDT Friday, March 19, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Later, Rubins joined fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover in the Kibo laboratory module to field questions from students during a Senate Youth Forum event involving multiple members of Congress, allowing participants a glimpse of some of the cutting-edge research being performed around the clock in space.

Glover also teamed up with crewmates Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker to work with Myotones, a study that observes how long-term exposure to a spaceflight environment influences the biochemical properties of muscles — qualities like muscle tone, stiffness, and elasticity.

Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), meanwhile, worked to unfreeze samples as part of the Ribosome Profiling investigation. This experiment uses a state-of-the-art technique to decode gravity’s role in gene expression, and will one day help scientists understand how space impacts age-related changes in astronauts.

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.

After a Saturday Spacewalk, an Emergency Drill and Hardware Maintenance Fills the Crew’s Schedule

On March 13, 2021, NASA spacewalker and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover works to route cables and complete tasks that were deferred from previous spacewalks during this year’s fifth spacewalk in support of space station maintenance. Credits: NASA
On March 13, 2021, NASA spacewalker and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover works to route cables and complete tasks that were deferred from previous spacewalks during this year’s fifth spacewalk in support of space station maintenance. Credits: NASA TV

After a weekend that included the 237th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance for the International Space Station, featuring spacewalkers and NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins, the Expedition 64 crew members got back to the business of science, switching out hardware and working around a comprehensive emergency drill on Monday.

Running through the emergency drill, the crewmates practiced their roles during various emergency scenarios, such as who would manage the procedures, gather equipment, and close hatches, all while maintaining constant communication with teams on the ground in Mission Control.

NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker performed post-spacewalk recharge maintenance to the Extravehicular Mobility Unit suits used in Saturday’s excursion, stowing them for later use.

Astronaut Kate Rubins worked to set up experiment hardware for Transparent Alloys, an ESA (European Space Agency) investigation focusing on microstructure evolution by comparing the effects of Earth’s gravity to microgravity, pinpointing the correlation in particle size, growth dynamics, and fluid flow.

Meanwhile, Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) spent time removing and replacing hardware — the Artificial Vision Unit — in the station’s cupola, where the crew often spends time observing natural Earth phenomena from their unique vantage approximately 250 miles above.

The crew wrapped up their workday with the Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM), installing instrument hardware and taking photo documentation. Air quality in crewed spacecraft is important for astronaut health and comfort, and the APM measures the concentration of both small and large particles in the air. Captured data will eventually be used to create a detailed mapping of the air quality aboard the space station, shedding light on the sources of different air particles and how they behave in this one-of-a-kind laboratory off the planet.

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.

Expanded Crew Syncs Schedule and Steps Up Space Research

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of JAXA is pictured inside the cupola with the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle visible behind his left shoulder. Credits: NASA
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of JAXA is pictured inside the cupola with the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle visible behind his left shoulder. Credits: NASA

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew has synched up its schedule following a busy week that saw the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission and a Russian spacewalk.

The International Space Station’s four newest crew members are fitting in a variety of space research today. The quartet also continues to get up to speed with station systems and procedures.

Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover, the SpaceX Crew Dragon commander and pilot, respectively, researched how their dexterous manipulation is affected by microgravity. The Grip study may influence the development of future space systems and interfaces as NASA plans missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, now on his third space mission, set up the Avatar-X robotic camera experiment then worked on a specialized incubator that can generate artificial gravity. NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, who last served aboard the station in 2010, installed an air-particle monitor in the Tranquility module and later continued her ceramic manufacturing research.

The two Expedition 64 cosmonauts, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, cleaned their Russian Orlan spacesuits today following Wednesday’s spacewalk. The duo spent six hours and 48 minutes readying the station’s Russian segment for the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins collected radish leaf samples being grown inside the Advanced Plant Habitat. Rubins then switched over to lab maintenance, checking water tanks and filters in the Destiny laboratory module’s life support rack.

Station Gets Ready to Welcome Commercial Crew

The insignias of the Expedition 64 and SpaceX Crew-1 missions.
The insignias of the Expedition 64 and SpaceX Crew-1 missions.

The Expedition 64 crew is getting ready to welcome four new crew members to the International Space Station this weekend. The orbiting trio is also gearing up for a Russian spacewalk that will take place soon afterward.

The SpaceX Crew-1 mission, with Commander Michael Hopkins, Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, is scheduled to launch to the station on Saturday at 7:49 p.m. EST. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, with the U.S. and Japanese quartet aboard, will dock to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter on Sunday at 4:20 a.m.

The four Commercial Crew astronauts suited up today and practiced their countdown procedures inside the Crew Dragon at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.

Meanwhile, on the station, NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins configured a laptop computer for operations with the Crew Dragon vehicle after it arrives on Sunday. Rubins also cleaned up inside the Harmony module, stowing cargo to accommodate the new crew.

The two cosmonauts aboard the station, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, are getting ready for their first spacewalk scheduled for Nov. 18 at 9:30 a.m. The Roscosmos duo took turns exercising on a treadmill today for a cardiovascular assessment as part of their spacewalk preparations. Afterward, the pair installed lights, cameras, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries on their Orlan spacesuits.