Europe Nears 10 Years at Station; Crew Studies Mice and Plants

NASA astronaut Rex Walheim works outside Europe’s new Columbus lab module shortly after it was installed in February of 2008.

The International Space Station program is getting ready to recognize the 10th year in space of its Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency (ESA). The Expedition 54 crew members, meanwhile, spent the day helping scientists on the ground understand the impacts of living in space.

ESA is getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of Columbus. The European lab module blasted off inside space shuttle Atlantis on Feb. 7, 2008, for a two-day ride to the station. Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm, removed Columbus from Atlantis’s cargo bay two days after its arrival and attached it the starboard side of the Harmony module.

A month after the installation of Columbus, ESA launched its first resupply ship to the station. The “Jules Verne” Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-1) lifted off March 9, 2008, atop an Ariane-5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. The ATV-1 then took a month-long ride for a series navigation tests before to automatically docking to the station.

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai continued studying mice on the space station for a drug study to potentially improve muscle health in microgravity and despite a lack of exercise. The rodents are housed in a special microgravity habitat for up to two months with results of the study helping scientists design therapies for humans with muscle-related ailments.

Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei set up botany gear in the Columbus lab module for the Veggie-3 experiment. The long-running plant study is exploring the feasibility of harvesting edible plants such as cabbage, lettuce and mizuna for consumption during spaceflight. Samples are returned to Earth for analysis.

Russians Move from Longest Spacewalk to Shortest Cargo Delivery

Russian spacewalker
A Russian spacewalker is seen in an Orlan spacesuit with blue stripes (center image) working outside the Zvezda service module during the longest spacewalk in Russian space program history on Feb. 2, 2018.

Fresh off a record-breaking spacewalk last week, the International Space Station program is preparing for its first docking of a cargo craft in just two orbits. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 54 crew researched how microgravity affects muscles to help humans on Earth.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov wrapped up the longest spacewalk in Russian space program history at eight hours and 13 minutes on Friday. The two station residents worked over the weekend stowing spacewalk tools, cleaning the Pirs airlock and checking their Orlan spacesuits.

The Russian Federal Space Agency is now preparing for the launch Sunday of its unpiloted Progress 69 resupply ship at 3:58 a.m. EST. After its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the cargo craft will take two orbits around the Earth before automatically docking to the aft end of the Zvezda service module.

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai observed mice on the space station being treated with a drug that may slow or reverse muscle atrophy. The rodents are housed in a special microgravity habitat for up to two months with results of the study helping scientists design therapies for humans with muscle-related ailments.

Cosmonauts Finish Record-Breaking Russian Spacewalk

207 Spacewalks at the International Space Station
As of Feb. 2, 2018, there have been 207 spacewalks at the International Space Station.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos have completed a spacewalk lasting 8 hours and 13 minutes. It is the longest Russian spacewalk, breaking the previous record of 8 hours and 7 minutes that Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy set Dec. 27, 2013, on a spacewalk during Expedition 38.

The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 10:34 a.m. EST. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 6:47 p.m. EST.

During the record-breaking spacewalk, the duo installed a new electronics and telemetry box for the high gain antenna on the Zvezda service module to enhance communications between Russian flight controllers and the Russian modules. The antenna system appears to be working normally.

It was the 207th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Misurkin’s career, and the second for Shkaplerov. It is the fifth-longest spacewalk in human spaceflight history.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts

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Cosmonauts Spacewalking Now For Russian Maintenance

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov
Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin (left) and Anton Shkaplerov are pictured in their Russian Orlan spacesuits during a fit check on Jan. 31, 2018.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos began a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk when they opened the hatch of the Pirs docking compartment of the International Space Station at 10:34 a.m. EST.

Both spacewalkers are wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits with blue stripes. Misurkin is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) for this spacewalk, the fourth of his career. Shkaplerov, embarking on his second spacewalk, is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2).

Coverage of the spacewalk continues on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Views from a camera on Misurkin’s helmet are designated with the number 20, and Shkaplerov’s is labeled with the number 18.

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NASA TV Begins Live Coverage of Russian Spacewalk

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov
Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov is pictured during a spacewalk that took place Feb. 16, 2012, during Expedition 30.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are preparing for their exit from the station’s Pirs docking compartment airlock at approximately 10:34 a.m. EST to begin a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to service the International Space Station.

The primary objectives during the spacewalk will be to remove and jettison an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module and install an upgraded electronics box to communication between Russian flight controllers and the Russian modules of the orbital outpost. The cosmonauts also will take detailed photos of the exterior of the Russian modules and retrieve experiments housed on Zvezda’s hull.

Coverage of the spacewalk is now underway on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk Preps, More Eye Checks for Rest of Crew

The International Space Station orbits above the Falkland Islands
The International Space Station orbits above the Falkland Islands off the coast of the southern-most portion of Argentina on the continent of South America. In the upper-right of the photograph is the docked Progress 68 cargo craft.

A pair of cosmonauts have wrapped up preparations for Friday morning’s spacewalk to work on the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The other four Expedition 54 crew members continued more eye exams throughout the day on Thursday.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov completed a spacewalk procedures review today, finished collecting tools and readied their Orlan spacesuits. The veteran cosmonauts will exit the Pirs airlock around 10:30 a.m. EST Friday for 6.5 hour spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the second spacewalk of the year at 9:45 a.m.

The duo will work outside the Zvezda service module to swap out a high gain communications antenna electronics system. If time permits the spacewalkers may also retrieve experiments, photograph the back of Zvezda, reposition a foot restraint and jettison old experiment gear.

The rest of the crew continued working with doctors in real time on the ground today to get a look at their eyes and understand how microgravity affects vision. Astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Scott Tingle and Joe Acaba participated in eye scans using an ultrasound device this morning. Tingle then partnered up with Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai.

SPHERES Science and Vision Checks Ahead of Friday Spacewalk

Russian Orlan Spacesuits
A pair of empty Russian Orlan spacesuits are pictured inside the airlock of the Pirs docking compartment. The spacesuits will be worn during a Feb. 2 spacewalk with cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov.

As the International Space Program gets ready for a pair of spacewalks in February, the Expedition 54 crew was busy setting up a pair of experimental internal satellites and conducting vision checks today.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei brought out a pair of tiny satellites, also known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), for a run of the SmoothNAV experiment today. The study is researching how algorithms and sensors may help determine relative positions and velocities between spacecraft.

Both astronauts also joined Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai for eye exams during the afternoon. Tingle and Kanai first swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer checking each other’s eyes today using optical coherence tomography. Then Tingle joined Acaba and Vande Hei afterward for more eye checks using a fundoscope. Doctors on the ground remotely assisted the astronauts viewing their eyes in real time.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov donned their Orlan spacesuits today to ensure a good fit and check for pressure leaks ahead of a spacewalk scheduled to start Friday at 10:30 a.m. EST. They’ll work outside for about 6.5 hours of maintenance on the Russian side of the orbital laboratory.

The second spacewalk is set to take place Feb. 15 at 7:10 a.m. when Vande Hei and Kanai exit the station to continue robotics maintenance on the Canadarm2. They’ll stow a pair of latching end effectors, or robotic hands, which had been detached from the Canadarm2 on two previous spacewalks, the first on Oct. 5, 2017 and the second on Jan. 23.

Rescheduled Robotics Work Makes Two Spacewalks in February

Astronaut Scott Tingle
Astronaut Scott Tingle works on a U.S. spacesuit inside the Quest airlock at the beginning of January 2018 before a pair of robotics maintenance spacewalks were scheduled to begin.

International Space Station managers have rescheduled a U.S. spacewalk postponed on Monday to mid-February. Meanwhile, the Expedition 54 crew is also preparing for a Russian spacewalk this Friday.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are planning to begin their spacewalk Feb. 15 at 7:10 a.m. EST to stow and reposition a pair of Latching End Effectors (LEEs). The LEEs are robotic hands attached to the tip of the Canadarm2 that grapple and release cargo ships and external station hardware.

During the 6.5-hour excursion, the spacewalkers will first move an older LEE from a bracket on the Mobile Base System on the truss to the Quest airlock. It was removed from Canadarm2 during a spacewalk last October. Next, a degraded LEE detached from Canadarm2 during the last U.S. spacewalk on Jan. 23 will be moved from an external stowage platform to the Mobile Base System. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov will exit the Pirs airlock in their Orlan spacesuits Friday at around 10:30 a.m. for 6.5 hours of Russian maintenance, highlighted by the swap out of an electronics system for the Zvezda Service Module’s high gain communications antenna. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 9:45 a.m.

Earlier today, Zvezda’s engines fired for 23 seconds to increase the station’s altitude and set up operations for the arrival of cargo and the departure of crew. The Progress 69 cargo craft will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Feb. 11, then 3 Expedition 54 crew members will depart the station in their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft Feb. 27 for a landing in Kazakhstan later that day.

Crew Looking Ahead to Friday Russian Spacewalk

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Misurkin
Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov (left) and Alexander Misurkin work inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module participating in eye exams using a fundoscope.

Expedition 54 is now focusing on Friday’s spacewalk to install and remove gear on the Russian side of the International Space Station. This comes after today’s spacewalk to work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm was postponed to mid-February.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov will put on their Orlan spacesuits Friday and exit the Pirs airlock around 10:30 a.m. EST. The duo will be spacewalking for about six and a half hours to replace an electronics box for a communications antenna on the aft end of the Zvezda service module. The old box will be jettisoned into space to eventually burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

If time allows, the Russian spacewalkers may be able work a few more tasks. A pair of exposed experiments, Test and Biorisk, are due to be retrieved and brought back inside the station. The cosmonauts may also photograph the back of Zvezda, reposition a foot restraint and jettison old experiment gear.

Over the weekend space station managers postponed today’s spacewalk for robotics maintenance. Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai were expected to swap a Latching End Effector (LEE) on the tip of the Canadarm2 today installed last week on a spacewalk; however, Canadian Space Agency engineers uploaded a diagnostics software to identify the primary communications string anomaly and test the software upgrade on the spare LEE, eliminating today’s swap work. The final software patch will be uploaded in early February.

The duo is now planning for a mid-February spacewalk to bring an end effector inside the station removed from the arm during a spacewalk last October, and install the end effector removed last Tuesday on the mobile base system rail car on the station’s truss.

Station Officials Postpone Monday’s Spacewalk to Mid-February

Astronaut Norishige Kanai
Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency tries on a pair of spacesuit sleeves inside the Quest airlock. To either side of Kanai are the U.S. spacesuits that were being readied for a pair of robotics maintenance spacewalks.

International Space Station officials have postponed Monday’s spacewalk to swap latching end effectors (LEEs) on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The decision was made after the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and its robotics specialist team developed a diagnostics software patch confirming an anomaly noted in a primary communications string on the spare end effector installed during a prior spacewalk Jan. 23 was not hardware related, and can be corrected through the implementation of software. A confidence test verifying the software upgrade was successfully completed Saturday night.

During its initial power up after last Tuesday’s spacewalk swap, the spare latching end effector did not communicate as expected on the primary string, but did so on its backup communications string. As a result, Monday’s spacewalk by Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was replanned to return the original latching end effector to the arm in place of the spare. But the software solution confirmed on Saturday will not require the spacewalkers to venture out on Monday.

The original spacewalk by Vande Hei and Kanai to bring an end effector inside the station removed from the arm during a spacewalk last October, and install the end effector removed last Tuesday on the mobile base system rail car on the station’s truss, is expected to be executed by the two crew members in mid-February.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.