An uncrewed Russian Progress 77 carrying just over one ton of nitrogen, water and propellant to the International Space Station launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:45 p.m. EST (9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, Baikonur time).
The resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned for a two-day rendezvous on its way to meet up with the orbiting laboratory and its Expedition 64 crew members.
After making 33 orbits of Earth on its journey, the spacecraft will automatically dock to the station’s Pirs docking compartment on the Russian segment at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17. Live coverage on NASA TV of rendezvous and docking will begin at 12:30 a.m.
The uncrewed Russian Progress 77 is scheduled to lift off on a Soyuz rocket at 11:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a two-day journey to the orbiting laboratory.
The crew members of Expedition 64 are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk expected to last about six and a half hours.
The crew is in the airlock and have donned their suits in preparation to exit the airlock and begin today’s activities working to upgrade a battery on the port 4 (P4) truss of the station.
The first task for today, as illustrated in a NASA animation, will be to install a final lithium-ion battery adapter plate on the port 4 (P4) truss. Hopkins and Glover also will replace an external camera on the starboard truss, install a new high-definition camera on the Destiny laboratory, and replace components for the Japanese robotic arm’s camera system outside the Kibo module.
Leading the mission control team today is Flight Director Vincent Lacourt with support from Sandy Fletcher as the lead spacewalk officer.
Four Expedition 64 astronauts are going into the weekend preparing for a spacewalk on Monday for battery and high definition camera work. The other International Space Station residents will spend their time on research, maintenance and exercise.
Spacewalkers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover will partner with astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA over the weekend for spacewalk reviews, spacesuit checks and tool configurations. The quartet will also call down to mission controllers to discuss their readiness for Monday’s spacewalk.
The spacewalking duo will set their spacesuits to battery power about 7 a.m. EST signifying the official start time of their excursion. NASA TV will begin its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.
Hopkins’ and Glover’s first task Monday is to exit the Quest airlock and translate to the Port-4 truss structure for battery work. There they will install the final adapter plate and connect it to the final lithium-ion battery which is being robotically installed in advance of the spacewalk. This work will complete battery upgrades on the orbiting lab that had begun on previous station missions.
Next, the duo will maneuver to the opposite side of the station toward their starboard truss worksite and remove and replace high definition cameras then route ethernet cables. Finally, they will install a wrist vision camera on the Kibo laboratory module’s robotic arm.
During the spacewalk preparations on Friday, NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker tested the comfort of the experimental AstroRad radiation protection vest during an exercise session. She then installed tracking gear on an Astrobee robotic free flyer being tested for its ability to assist astronauts.
Walker later joined Rubins as crew medical officer and scanned the eyes of Hopkins and Noguchi with an ultrasound device. The ultrasound scans look at the crew member’s cornea, lens and optic nerve to gain insights into eye and vision health in space.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew relaxed on New Year’s Day and went into the first weekend of 2021 researching space biology. The International Space Station residents are also packing a pair of U.S. resupply ships for departure this week and next.
Three astronauts spent Saturday and Sunday studying how microgravity affects vision and bone tissue in rodents. Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA spent the weekend observing several dozen mice to help scientists prevent vision and bone conditions that astronauts experience while living in space. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi assisted the duo during the two life science experiments.
A different pair of biology studies is exploring how weightlessness impacts potential treatments for Earth and space-caused conditions. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins spent Sunday peering through a microscope at protein crystals which are much higher quality than those produced on Earth. Results from that experiment could inform ways to commercialize the development of cancer therapies in space. She also looked at engineered heart tissues to gain insights into aging and weakening heart muscles that humans experience on and off the Earth.
Rubins will monitor Cygnus’ departure first on Jan. 6 after mission controllers on the ground command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove it from the Unity module then release it into Earth orbit. Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments.
The Cargo Dragon will be loaded with samples from this weekend’s experiments and more, including space station hardware, for return to Earth on Jan. 11. Glover will monitor the first undocking of the Cargo Dragon from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. This will also be Dragon’s first planned splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
Following a day off on Christmas, the Expedition 64 crew went into the weekend with a variety of space biology to help researchers gain therapeutic insights not possible on Earth.
Long-term exposure to microgravity affects organisms adapted to living on Earth in many ways. That same weightless phenomena also reveals unique physical properties that doctors can use to develop advanced medicines and therapies.
A pair of studies taking place over the weekend explored new treatments for joint injuries and cancer. Saturday’s investigation observed samples of bone, cartilage, and synovium (connective tissue) housed in an artificial gravity chamber for insights into bone loss and joint damage. Sunday’s space research explored space-grown protein crystals, which are higher quality than those created on Earth, and their ability to target cancer cells.
A separate pair of investigations is examining several dozen mice aboard the International Space Station to learn about space-caused impacts to vision and bone tissue. The eyesight study seeks to understand whether the vascular changes created in space can impair visual function. Space radiation and fluid shifts toward the head are also suspected of affecting vision in 40 percent of space residents.
The second experiment is looking at genetic changes that occur in space and how they impact the degeneration/regeneration of bone tissue. Scientists are investigating how microgravity modifies the molecular mechanism of bone formation and cell growth.
The mice live in specialized research habitats on the station and are compared to a similar group of rodents on the ground. Following the completion of the studies, the mice will be returned to Earth inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spaceship in January for analysis by scientists in Florida. The results from both experiments may lead to better treatments for conditions affecting humans on and off the Earth.
Science operations continue to expand aboard the International Space Station with the installation of a new research airlock over the weekend. The seven-member Expedition 64 crew also stayed busy exploring a variety of space biology and physics phenomena.
Bishop significantly increases the capacity for public and private research on the outside of the orbiting lab. The new science airlock also enables the deployment of larger satellites and the transfer of spacewalking tools and hardware inside and outside the station.
Dragon also delivered over 2,000 pounds of new science investigations to the orbiting lab keeping the seven-member crew busy throughout December. Some of that research took place over the weekend with the astronauts studying planetary exploration technologies and potential treatments for heart conditions on and off the Earth.
The new BioAsteroid experiment is looking at microbes as a way to breakdown space rocks into fertile soils or extract valuable metals and minerals. The crew serviced samples inside the Kubik incubator on Sunday for the study seeking to enable biomining that may advance space exploration and settlement.
Flight Engineer Kate Rubins has been leading the Cardinal Heart study since activating the experiment shortly after its arrival aboard the Cargo Dragon. She serviced engineered heart tissues over the weekend to understand the cardiovascular response to microgravity. Results may give deeper insights into aging and weakening heart muscles that may lead to more effective therapies for humans living on and off the Earth.
The Expedition 64 continued its human research studies today while also focusing on space manufacturing and technology investigations. Spacesuit maintenance has also wrapped up for the week aboard the International Space Station.
The lack of gravity in space is not the only factor affecting the human body. Solar radiation is also a concern as NASA plans crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The station astronauts have been wearing the new AstroRad Vest this week testing for more than just radiation protection, but also comfort and fit. The vest design expands upon protective gear designed for emergency personnel responding to radiation exposure incidents on Earth.
Muscle measurements and ultrasound scans were back on the schedule today for the long-running Myotones experiments. Blood samples are also taken to help doctors understand and treat muscle atrophy that occurs during spaceflight. Daily exercise offsets this loss, but insights from the investigation may provide alternate therapies for space crews, as well as more Earthbound muscle conditions.
Microgravity provides an ideal environment for producing high quality optic fibers superior to those created on Earth. Samples of optic fibers produced in the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox were swapped out today for the ongoing Fiber Optic Production manufacturing study that may help commercialize space exploration.
Another study looking at optical communications today is testing the high-speed, high-capacity downlink of data from the orbiting lab. A unique, tiny pointing mechanism was installed for operations from Japan’s Kibo laboratory module for the SOLISS technology demonstration. The experiment uses lasers and could advance space communications and the transmission of data to and from remote locations on Earth.
The crew cleaned up the U.S. Quest airlock today after a weeklong series of spacesuit maintenance tasks inside the spacewalk staging module. U.S. spacesuit components were upgraded, swapped and cleaned throughout the week as station managers begin planning spacewalks for 2021. Another spacesuit was packed inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship for return to Earth in January.
The new NanoRacks Bishop airlock, delivered Dec. 7 in the SpaceX Cargo Dragon’s unpressurized trunk, will be installed to the Tranquility module this weekend using the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Bishop will increase the capacity for commercial research, enable the release of larger satellites, and expand equipment transfers in and out of the station.
The main science focus today aboard the International Space Station was a human research study observing an astronaut’s muscular system. All seven Expedition 64 crew members also gathered together Friday afternoon and familiarized themselves with emergency hardware.
Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins kicked off the Myotones study Friday morning gathering hardware to collect measurements of his muscles and tendons. Crewmates Victor Glover and Shannon Walker also joined Hopkins for the muscle scans and measurements. Methods such as an ultrasound scan and blood draws are used to look at the biomechanical properties of muscles. Observations may improve performance and fitness in space as well as treatments for rehabilitation on Earth.
A pair of studies looking at botany and fluid technology was also on Friday’s research schedule. Rubins collected and stowed leaf samples from radish plants growing in the Columbus laboratory module. She also explored the behavior of water droplets with an eye towards developing advanced fuel and life support systems.
JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi relaxed Friday morning before moving onto lab maintenance activities. The three-time space visitor first serviced U.S. spacesuit batteries before closing out the Avatar-X robotic camera experiment. He also worked on light plumbing duties servicing components in the station’s restroom located in the Tranquility module.
Crews aboard the station regularly practice emergency drills such as evacuations or medical procedures in conjunction with mission controllers on the ground. Today, all the station residents, including Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, familiarized themselves with emergency gear to be prepared for an unlikely emergency scenario in space.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed on Earth at 10:54 p.m. EDT in Kazakhstan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 7:32 p.m.
Cassidy now has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.
After post-landing medical checks, the crew will split up to return home; Cassidy will board a NASA plane back to Houston, and Vagner and Ivanishin will fly home to Star City, Russia.
Remaining aboard the station is the three-person crew of Expedition 64 with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and station commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. Upon the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission targeted to launch in November, the station’s long-duration crew will expand to seven people for the first time with the addition of NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.