New SpaceX Crewmates Wrap Up First Workweek Aboard Station

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew. Credits: NASA
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew. Credits: NASA

The Expedition 63 crew and its two newest crewmates aboard the International Space Station wrapped up the workweek studying a wide range of space phenomena.

Commander Chris Cassidy began Friday setting up optical communications gear aboard the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The new broadband hardware will demonstrate transmitting large amounts of data back and forth from the station to the ground. Afterward, the NASA astronaut swapped out test samples for an experiment taking place inside the Materials Science Laboratory.

New station Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are still in a handover period as they wrap up their first work week in space. The astronauts familiarized themselves today with medical kits, the food pantry, communication systems and safety procedures. They also continued researching space bubbles in microfluids and unpacked Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship, which arrived six days before they did.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner kept up this week’s research as they photographed natural and man-made impacts on Earth and monitored the station’s radiation environment. The duo also continued inspecting the orbiting lab’s Russian modules while videotaping their station activities for Earth audiences.

Advanced Station Science Benefiting Humans

The International Space Station's two newest crew members, NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the orbiting lab shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credits: NASA
The International Space Station’s two newest crew members, NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the orbiting lab shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credits: NASA

The five-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station continues exploring how microgravity phenomena may benefit humans on and off Earth.

Commander Chris Cassidy started off Thursday working on the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a device that heats materials to very high temperatures and measures their thermophysical properties. The unique furnace may provide scientists insights into synthesizing and producing new materials. The veteran astronaut then spent the afternoon servicing U.S. spacesuit components ahead of a series of spacewalks planned for June.

New NASA Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken spent Thursday servicing space botany hardware and exploring bubbles in fluids. Both astronauts temporarily disassembled a plant habitat to access and replace environment control system gear. The duo also studied how bubbles affect microfluids to help produce oxygen on a spacecraft and deliver drugs though skin patches.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, worked throughout the orbital lab on Thursday ensuring ongoing research and maintenance operations.

Ivanishin was inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory swapping fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to enable safe fuel and flame science. He also worked on cargo transfers inside the Progress 74 resupply ship. Vagner inspected surfaces inside the Russian portion of the space station. In the afternoon, the first-time space flyer set up a video camera to record crew activities for audiences back on Earth.

Crew Studies DNA and Space Flames Before Cargo Ship Launch

Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir. Image Credit: NASA
Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir. Image Credit: NASA

The three-member Expedition 62 crew is getting ready for a resupply mission scheduled to launch to the International Space Station no earlier than Thursday, Feb. 13, at 4:06 p.m. EST due to an unfavorable weather forecast in the next few days and the time required to address a ground support issue. The crewmates from the United States and Russia also ran advanced space science experiments while maintaining orbital lab systems.

NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir split their time today between robotics training and microgravity research. The two U.S. astronauts used a computer to practice the techniques they will use to capture the Cygnus space freighter Saturday, Feb. 15.

Morgan will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus. Meir will back him up and monitor the Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous. Ground controllers will take over the Canadarm2 after Cygnus’ capture and remotely install the cargo craft to the Unity module.

Morgan started his day sequencing DNA for the Genes in Space-6 experiment. The experiment places microbial samples inside the hand-held Biomolecule Sequencer to demonstrate the feasibility of space-based DNA sequencing. Results could boost astrobiology research on not just the space station, but also future spacecraft and planetary bodies.

Meir also spent a portion of Monday researching how flames spread in space. She burned a variety of fabric and acrylic samples inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Confined Combustion study. The research will inform the design and development of fire safety products and procedures for humans on Earth and in space.

Commander Oleg Skripochka spent his day in the Russian segment of the station. The veteran cosmonaut primarily serviced life-support gear before checking components on the Progress 74 cargo craft and updating an inventory database.

Boeing Crew Ship Preps for Launch as Crew Studies Space Biology

Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir pose for a portrait in the entryway into the cupola. Image Credit: NASA
Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir pose for a portrait in the entryway into the cupola. Image Credit: NASA

Boeing is ramping up for the launch of its first commercial crew vehicle to the International Space Station this week. The Expedition 61 crew is preparing for the new U.S. crew ship’s arrival while working human research and space biology today.

Boeing is targeting 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, for the launch of its first CST-100 Starliner crew ship to the orbiting lab. It will dock to the forward-facing port of the Harmony module on Dec. 21 and return to Earth on Dec. 28. This will be an uncrewed orbital flight test of Boeing’s new spaceship and sets the stage for launching crews once again from the United States.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch activated communications gear that will link up with the Boeing Starliner when it arrives Saturday. The C2V2 device (Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles) transmits telemetry from the approaching spacecraft to crew and ground controllers. The C2V2, used by the U.S. Dragon and Cygnus resupply ships, also enables an astronaut to remotely control a spacecraft if necessary.

ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started Monday with hearing checks. The duo set up gear for the Acoustic Diagnostics study that measures hearing before, during and after a mission and assesses the noisy environment aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir began her day on an exercise bike for a study measuring her aerobic and cardiovascular output. She then joined Koch in the afternoon feeding lab mice and cleaning their habitats.

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support and lab maintenance today. Skvortsov synchronized computers and cameras to station time and serviced an oxygen generator. Skripochka also checked out Russian laptop computers and radiation detection gear.

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.