A set of free-flying robotic helpers buzzed around the International Space Station today for visual tests. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 trio conducted a variety of advanced space research and maintained the upkeep of the orbiting lab.
Astrobee is the name given to a trio of small cube-shaped, autonomous robots being tested on the station for its ability to help crews in space. Commander Chris Cassidy powered up the robotic assistants this morning and set them free inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Ground engineers are testing Astrobee’s visual and navigation system and watching video streamed from station cameras and from the devices themselves.
Cassidy then spent the rest of the afternoon tearing down the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment that is exploring technology to support water recovery, planetary surface processing and oxygen production. The research hardware observes gas and liquid flows that could inform the optimal design of chemical and biological reactors benefitting Earth and space industries.
Cardiac research is also a space research priority as doctors learn to keep astronauts safe and healthy during long-term exploration missions. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin attached sensors to himself Friday morning to monitor the adaptation of his blood circulation system for the Russian Cardiovector study. He then moved on to a technology investigation that observes the magnetic and dynamic forces the space station experiences on orbit.
Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner continued the weeklong power connection and life support systems checks. Vagner also was back on photography duty shooting Earth landmarks to help scientists forecast natural and man-made catastrophes.
Thursday’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station focused primarily on DNA and physics research including ongoing Earth photography sessions. The Expedition 63 trio also maintained life support gear and packed a Russian cargo ship.
The space environment affects a variety of biological and physical phenomena adapted and designed for Earth’s gravity and atmosphere. Organisms from microbes to humans experience a variety of critical changes in microgravity. Fuels, materials and a host of other physical conditions also go through a series of important modifications. NASA and its international partners study these effects to ensure the health of astronauts and safety of spacecraft planned for future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
DNA studies have been ongoing for years on the station to understand the long-term impacts of radiation and weightlessness on biology. This morning, Commander Chris Cassidy set up and checked out a DNA-monitoring device for the Genes In Space-6 experiment. The portable, handheld miniPCR-16 device, also used in Earth laboratories, provides insight into the repair mechanisms of DNA-damaged cells caused by space radiation.
Cassidy then turned his attention to unique materials that self-assemble and self-replicate with powerful implications for future space voyages. He set up a specialized microscope during the afternoon to observe particles suspended in fluids that self-organize into crystalline structures. The experiment takes place inside the Fluids Integrated Rack and explores the possibilities of 3D printing and additive manufacturing in microgravity.
The International Space Station’s advanced microgravity research systems continue to be serviced today ensuring innovative results and insights to benefit humans on and off the Earth.
The Kibo lab module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) contains an airlock used to transfer science experiments into the vacuum of space. Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy installed a variety of components and connected cables this morning that operate the airlock and control the pressure.
JAXA’s robotic arm grapples and maneuvers the experiments back and forth from the airlock to an external pallet. Air pressure inside the airlock is turned off and on as materials exposure investigations are installed outside Kibo or retrieved for analysis.
The Expedition 63 crew tended to a variety of science hardware Tuesday servicing the gear and updating software that operates the advanced research devices. Fitness tests and ongoing lab maintenance rounded out the schedule aboard the International Space Station.
A trio of science facilities supporting physics and biology investigations received hands-on attention throughout the day. Commander Chris Cassidy first connected a laptop computer to the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) and updated the software that runs the extreme temperature research device.
The veteran NASA astronaut also set up the Confocal Space Microscope, which observes cellular and tissue functions using fluorescence and spatial filtering techniques. Cassidy then replaced filters inside the Life Science Glovebox (LSG) which enables two crew members to conduct biology and technology research at the same time.
The ELF, among numerous other research facilities, is housed inside the Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency (ESA). The specialized confocal and wide-field microscope and the LSG reside in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo lab module. Columbus has been attached to the station since February 2008, while the three-part Kibo was installed over a period between March and July 2008.
Today was cosmonaut Ivan Vagner’s turn to take a fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill. The once-a-month physical evaluation sends data down to researchers collected from sensors attached to a crew member during the 90-minute exercise. Vagner also studied ways cosmonauts might pilot spacecraft and robots on future planetary missions.
Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin deactivated gear that observed Earth’s nighttime atmosphere in near-ultraviolet wavelengths. The three-time station resident then spent the rest of the day inspecting Russian life support gear.
The Expedition 63 crew started the workweek checking out hardware supporting life science, combustion research and ongoing Earth observations. A Russian cargo craft docked to the International Space Station is also being packed with old gear for disposal toward the end of the year.
The multitude of microgravity research that takes place every day on the orbiting lab, requires regular maintenance and monitoring by the crew or scientists on the ground. The ongoing research supports innovative applications and insights benefitting Earth and space industries.
On the Russian side of the space station, two cosmonauts focused on their slate of space research and lab maintenance.
Veteran Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin tested battery temperatures and connections then took a 90-minute fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill. During the afternoon, Ivanishin changed out dust filters before activating hardware that measures the Earth’s nighttime atmosphere in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.
Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, five weeks away from ending his first long-term space mission, joined Ivanishin for the morning battery inspections. Afterward, the first-time space flyer packed Russia’s Progress 75 cargo craft, docked to Zvezda’s rear port, with old and discarded station gear for disposal at the beginning of December.
The three-person Expedition 63 crew focused its attention today on Japanese science hardware and Russian cardiac studies. The International Space Station trio also serviced air conditioning and plumbing systems.
The Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) enables a multitude of space science taking place both inside and outside the orbital lab. Kibo has an airlock that the crew can place external experiments and even satellites for deployment into the vacuum of space.
Commander Chris Cassidy spent the first part of Thursday removing a commercial science payload from Kibo’s airlock. The NanoRacks External Platform supports a variety of research requiring exposure to the space environment. The automated science experiments look at different technologies and phenomena including robotics, physics, and microbiology that can benefit Earth and space industries.
Cassidy switched roles in the afternoon from space scientist to orbital maintenance man. The veteran NASA astronaut checked out spacecraft atmosphere monitor components and updated software supporting the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, the station’s restroom.
Ivanishin also replaced battery components before setting up advanced Earth photography gear. Vagner worked on fluid transfers throughout the station’s Russian segment then moved on and updated lab inventory files.
The Expedition 63 crew serviced a variety of International Space Station hardware today ensuring research, power and life support systems continue operating in good condition. Heart research and team psychology studies also filled today’s science schedule.
Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA wrapped up science rack swap work that he began on Monday. He finished moving and reinstalling three advanced science facilities, known as EXPRESS racks, in three different lab modules. The rack exchanges will support future experiments being delivered on an upcoming Cygnus resupply mission from Northrop Grumman.
Afterward, Cassidy collected water samples from the potable water dispenser for analysis on Earth and on the station. The veteran astronaut also inspected U.S. module hatches and replaced pipes in the orbiting lab’s restroom, known as the Waster and Hygiene Compartment.
Three-time space station cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin strapped himself on an exercise bike this morning for an assessment of his cardiac activity in space. First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner assisted Ivanishin attaching sensors to the test subject and monitoring his activities during the hour-long test.
The Russian duo then checked battery temperatures and connections before studying how international space crews interact with mission controllers around the world. Ivanishin went on to set up advanced Earth observation gear while Vagner worked on power system diagnostics.
Since its inception, the main focus of the orbiting lab has been research that is only possible in microgravity. Scientists take advantage of these unique insights to improve health and industry for humans on Earth and in space. A variety of specialized racks throughout the station’s laboratory modules host numerous science experiments revealing phenomena only seen in weightlessness.
A total of 11 refrigerator-sized EXPRESS racks are installed on the station supporting a multitude of experiments. The internationally sponsored studies are tended to by astronauts, remotely controlled by scientists on Earth, as well as programmed to run automatically.
Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin concentrated on life support maintenance tasks in the Russian segment of the space station. He replaced dust filters in the ventilation system in his side of the orbital lab before servicing an oxygen generator and a carbon dioxide filter.
The Expedition 63 crew kicked off the work week exploring space agriculture and spacecraft technologies. The trio also split the day on upcoming mission preparations and International Space Station maintenance.
Ongoing botany studies on the station have been teaching scientists, engineers and astronauts how to grow crops in space, so crews can feed themselves farther away from Earth. Future astronauts on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond will need to be self-sufficient with less support from mission controllers and resupply missions.
Commander Chris Cassidy set up the Advanced Plant Habitat during the afternoon for upcoming grow operations in the research facility. The controlled plant growth chamber automates the delivery of nutrients and light to support a variety edible plants for harvesting, analysis and tasting.
Cassidy is also gearing up for a U.S. resupply mission due to replenish the orbiting lab in early October. The NASA astronaut is sharpening his robotics skills on a computer to get ready to capture Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
A Russian technology experiment is using acoustics to locate micrometeoroid impacts on the space station. The two flight engineers, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, partnered during the morning checking hardware and downloading data that may pinpoint the location of high-speed particle hits on the outside of the space lab.
The cosmonaut duo then spent the rest of Monday servicing life support gear and updating computer systems.
Mission controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are returning to normal operations today after setting backup control centers at remote locations. The International Space Station support team returned to Houston after setting up remote operations earlier this week when Hurricane Laura neared the Texas-Louisiana border.
The three Expedition 63 crew members continued their standard science and maintenance tasks this week after orbiting above Laura and sending down video and imagery of the storm. This comes after a four-night stay in the station’s Russian segment during a test to locate the source of a minor cabin air pressure leak.
Today, Commander Chris Cassidy worked on swapping components on a U.S. oxygen generator. He replaced a hydrogen sensor then cleaned the critical life support device. Afterward, the NASA astronaut checked samples in the Materials Science Laboratory which processes experiments to discover new uses for a variety of materials such as metals, alloys, polymers, and more.
Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin worked Friday morning servicing communications gear inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. During the afternoon, the three-time station resident handed Russian radiation detection gear to Cassidy for deployment in the orbiting lab’s U.S. segment.