Time Perception, Immersive Exercise, and Nanoparticles Rule the Day

Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide, pictured inside the Columbus laboratory module, wears virtual reality goggles for a time perception study.
Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide, pictured inside the Columbus laboratory module, wears virtual reality goggles for a time perception study.

Wednesday’s activities aboard the International Space Station remained focused on science and maintenance. In preparation of Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module docking to the outpost the following day, July 29, Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy located and gathered equipment to set up temporary ventilation for the 43-foot long, 23-ton module. Live coverage of tomorrow’s event begins at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet took turns participating in a study that explores how astronauts perceive time in microgravity, which can impact physical and cognitive performance. Pesquet, along with NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Shane Kimbrough, continued operations for the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4. This physics study investigates ways to produce high-quality protein crystals in microgravity to benefit pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries on Earth.

Astronauts exercise two hours a day to help compensate for the loss of bone and muscle mass from living and working in weightlessness. However, their daily workout can quickly become repetitive in the closed and unchanging environment, leading to lack of motivation. The Immersive Exercise project aims to break the monotony with virtual reality (VR). In support of the first experiment session, Pesquet retrieved all the equipment and successfully completed the session by exercising on the bike with a VR headset.

Space gardening is key to sustaining human spaceflight as NASA and its international partners plan future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur and Kimbrough continued to work on the Plant Water Management study, an investigation that demonstrates how to operate hydroponics in microgravity. The duo conducted operations, set up, and configured hardware for the botany study that, eventually, may also improve watering systems on Earth.

Meanwhile, two astronauts worked on maintenance activities. Hoshide replaced holder and installed cartridges on the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) developed by JAXA. The ELF is a facility for materials science that melts levitating materials with a very high melting point, measures their properties, and solidifies them from a super-cooled state by taking advantage of the microgravity environment. In addition, Pesquet added ice bricks into the ESA-built Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer, or MELFI, for the space station. The ice bricks provide cooling, or incubation, to the samples stored inside double-cold bags, which are insulated stowage bags used to transport samples to and from the orbiting laboratory.

Crew Members Carry Out Hardware Installations and Complete Science Experiments

Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is pictured inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module working on maintenance activities.
Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is pictured inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module working on maintenance activities.

Following the successful undocking of the Russian Progress 77 cargo spacecraft with the Pirs docking compartment yesterday, the Expedition 65 crew aboard the International Space Station continued to work on science and maintenance on the station.

Today, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei focused on hardware installation of Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) helmet assembly. He installed and inspected the helmet lights and the Rechargeable ExtraVehicular Activity Battery Assembly, or REBA. He also spent time installing a high-definition camera for the EMU helmet. Commander Akihiko Hoshide assisted Vande Hei with the hardware installation.

In preparation for science operations later this week, NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur prepared the Maintenance Work Area and set up the Plant Water Management (PWM) test stand for the PWM 3 & 4 investigations, which demonstrate passive measures for controlling fluid delivery and uptake in plant growth systems.

Other science experiments included ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet manually injecting algae on Cell Science-04 cassettes as part of the Cell Science-04 algae injection operations. In addition, Hoshide and Pesquet took turns on experiment runs for the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4. This investigation looks into the assembly of tiny structures from colloids using magnetic fields and could shed light on how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials.

The crew, including Hoshide, Vande Hei, Kimbrough, McArthur, and Pesquet, filled out questionnaires as part of the Human Research Facility Veg study, which focuses on the overall behavioral health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space — like the various plants grown aboard the orbiting outpost thanks to other microgravity investigations.

Ahead of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Hoshide and Kimbrough completed additional training to familiarize themselves with Starliner rendezvous and monitoring procedures.

On Thursday, July 29, the space station is set to receive a new module in the form of Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), which is scheduled to dock to the station at 9:24 a.m. EDT. Named Nauka, after the Russian word for “science,” MLM launched on July 21 and will serve as a new science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock for future operations.

Crewmembers Finish Science Experiments

Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency is pictured inside the Columbus laboratory module setting up hardware for the GRIP experiment.
Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency is pictured inside the Columbus laboratory module setting up hardware for the GRIP experiment.

The Expedition 65 crew capped off this week’s research activities aboard the International Space Station by making headway with various science experiments related to human health and materials performance.

Russian flight controllers continued systems testing Friday on the new Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module as it heads toward the International Space Station for a scheduled docking next week.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet finished the third part of three GRIP tasks. For the experiment, Pesquet performed a set of movements in the supine position. The GRIP experiment studies the long-duration spaceflight effects on the abilities of human subjects to regulate grip force and upper-limbs trajectories when manipulating objects during different kinds of movements.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut, reconfigured the Cell Biology Experiment Facility – Left (CBEF-L), which is used to conduct space plant research. CBEF-L is an upgraded version of an original facility aboard the space station and provides new capabilities and resources, such as a full high-definition video interface, ethernet, 24 power supply, and a larger-diameter centrifugal test environment.

Hoshide, Pesquet, and NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, and Megan McArthur also took turns undergoing eye exams using a remote ultrasound device. Some astronauts have reported experiencing vision changes during and after spaceflight, and the exams provide insight into how spaceflight affects the eye health of crews throughout the mission.

Kimbrough and McArthur continued conducting runs for the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4. For the investigation, the pair took turns distributing particles within the sample vial and activated research equipment. InSpace-4 studies the assembly of tiny structures from colloids using magnetic fields and could shed light on how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials.

Additionally, McArthur had a chance to complete a Robotic On-Board Trainer for Research (ROBoT-r) session as part of the Behavioral Core Measures experiment. The purpose of the study is to reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions during extended spaceflight missions. Sessions are completed monthly, starting within two weeks of an astronaut’s arrival on station.