Dragon Release Training and Astronaut Health Studies on Station Today

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba works on wire connections and other maintenance tasks inside Combustion Integrated Rack gear.

The Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station is training for this weekend’s departure of the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. The crew is also exploring regenerative life support systems and how microgravity affects breathing.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle began their day training and reviewing for Saturday’s remotely controlled release of the Dragon resupply ship at 5 a.m. The duo took onboard computer training and discussed this weekend’s activities with engineers at Mission Control.

This is the first time robotics controllers will command the release of Dragon from the ground while Acaba and Tingle monitor from the cupola as backups. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m. Splashdown off the coast of California is expected at 10:36 a.m. and will not be televised.

Experimental work also took place today on the orbital laboratory to help NASA learn how to support astronauts on longer missions farther out into space.

Acaba checked bacteria cultures that could be used for carbon dioxide removal and oxygen production supporting future regenerative life support systems. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai joined NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and measured their breathing rates today, specifically Nitric Oxide turnover in the lungs. Doctors want to minimize the risk of airway inflammation to keep astronauts healthier farther from Earth.

Crew Prepping Dragon for Departure While Studying Life Science

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship with its dual outstretched solar arrays is pictured attached to the Harmony module as the International Space Station orbited above Brazil.

Robotics controllers are getting ready to uninstall the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft from the International Space Station on Friday before releasing it for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Saturday. The Expedition 54 crew today is also continuing to study how living in space affects biology and introducing space travel concepts to students on Earth.

The crew is finishing packing up the Dragon this week and will close the spaceship’s hatch Friday and wrap up cargo operations. Houston mission controllers will remotely perform Dragon’s release operation for the first time early Saturday. Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle will be inside the cupola monitoring Dragon’s departure.

Dragon will be depart the station Saturday at 5 a.m. EST loaded with science experiments and station cargo and parachute to a splashdown off the coast of California at 10:36 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m.

Life science continues at full pace aboard the aboard orbital laboratory today. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai checked on rodents being treated with a compound that fights muscle loss in microgravity. Tingle took a look at plant samples to observe their genetic and molecular responses to growing in space.

Commander Alexander Misurkin along with Acaba set up a pair of tiny internal satellites, also known as SPHERES, for a dry run today ahead of a competition. Students on Earth are competing to design the best algorithms that will operate the SPHERES to simulate future space operations such as dockings and flying formations.

Robot Arm Finishes Swapping Experiments Outside Dragon

The SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon is pictured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm in the foreground and the Earth’s limb in the background as the International Space Station soars into an orbital sunrise during Expedition 54.

Robotics controllers have completed the science cargo transfers from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, also known as its trunk. Dragon is due to depart the International Space Station Jan. 13 and return to Earth.

Over the holidays, the ground robotics teams remotely operated the Canadarm2 to remove a pair of new external experiments from Dragon and install them on the station. The teams also finished installing an older experiment back inside the cargo craft’s trunk in time for its departure.

Dragon delivered the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) and the Space Debris Sensor (SDS) when it arrived on Dec. 17, 2017. TSIS-1 was attached to an External Logistics Carrier on the port solar alpha rotary joint. It will study the sun’s natural influence on the Earth’s ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, clouds, and ecosystems. The SDS was installed outside the Columbus lab module where it will directly measure the orbital debris environment around the space station for two to three years.

The successful RapidScat experiment was installed back in Dragon’s trunk after being delivered in September 23, 2014, on the SpaceX CRS-4 mission. RapidScat observed wind patterns on the ocean’s surface providing agencies better data for weather forecasting before ending its mission in August of 2016.

RapidScat will be destroyed inside Dragon’s trunk when it separates from the Dragon resupply ship to burn up over the Pacific Ocean. Dragon itself will safely parachute to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of California.

 

Crew Begins 2018 Studying How Living in Space Affects Humans

Northeast coast of United States
The well-lit coasts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are pictured in the wee hours of New Year’s Day.

The Expedition 54 crew is starting the New Year studying how humans adapt to living in space for months and years at a time. NASA and its international partners are also learning how to support crews on longer missions with less help from the ground.

The astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station orbit Earth 16 times a day affecting their circadian rhythms, or biological clocks. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai is helping doctors understand how being away from the normal 24-hour sunrise-sunset cycle impacts the human body. He strapped on sensors today that will measure his body composition and temperature for 36 hours.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is helping engineers design closed-loop systems keeping crews self-sufficient on longer missions beyond low-Earth orbit. He swapped experimental containers in the Biolab Incubator containing bacteria cultures that could be used for carbon dioxide removal and oxygen production.

Crews also need to be prepared for bone injuries or dental work that may be necessary during a space mission. The Synthetic Bone experiment, that Flight Engineer Joe Acaba worked on today with Kanai, is testing how a synthetic material integrates with bone cells to address bone fractures and bone loss in space and on Earth.

International Crew Researching Life Science Ahead of New Year

The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is pictured Dec. 24 as the space station orbited over the border of the African nations of Mali and Algeria.

After a Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Thursday, the Expedition 54 crew is wrapping up the final work week of 2017 orbiting Earth and conducting science. The six astronauts and cosmonauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duty and family conferences before taking New Year’s Day off.

The Progress 67 (67P) resupply ship finished its stay six-and-a-half month at the station’s Zvezda service Thursday at 8:03 a.m. EDT. Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov packed the 67P full of trash the closed its hatches before it automatically undocked. It will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and safely burn up over the south Pacific Ocean.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai took his turn on the exercise bike today for a study researching physical exertion in space. Doctors measure the astronauts breathing and other parameters during exercise to ensure they have the strength to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks and even emergency procedures.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA was harvesting plants for the Advanced Plants Experiment-05 (APEX) and stowing the botany samples in a science freezer for further analysis. Scientists are exploring how plants respond to microgravity and observing molecular and genetic changes.

The life science studies help mission doctors keep astronauts healthier and stronger while living in outer space. Also, NASA is planning longer human missions beyond low-Earth orbit and learning how to keep crews self-sustainable.

Finally, three U.S. astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut on the orbital laboratory will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times as they orbit Earth once every 90 minutes. That is 16 sunrise and sunsets 250 miles above Earth. The crew will take the day off, share a meal and reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

Russian Space Freighter Ends Stay at Station

Dec. 27 Space Station Configuration
Dec. 27, 2017: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon space freighter, the Progress 68 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-06 and MS-07 crew ships.

Filled with trash, the unpiloted ISS Progress 67 Russian cargo ship undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station at 8:03 p.m. EST. Just after 11 p.m., Russian flight controllers will send commands to fire the Progress’ engines and deorbit the space freighter, sending it to a destructive entry over the unpopulated south Pacific Ocean.

For more information about the current crew and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.

New Crew Gets Used to Space as Cargo Craft Prepares to Depart

Expedition 54-55 prime crew members
Expedition 54-55 prime crew members (from left) Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Scott Tingle of NASA.

The International Space Station’s three newest crew members are beginning their second week familiarizing themselves with the orbital lab’s operations and systems. They and the other three Expedition 54 crew mates are also busy today with cargo operations, space science and station maintenance.

Also, a Russian cargo craft is departing the station tonight after a six-and-a-half month stay docked to the Zvezda service module. The Progress 67 cargo craft will undock from Zvezda tonight at 8:03 p.m. EST then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to burn up over the south Pacific Ocean.

Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and first-time astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA are in their second week in Earth orbit and getting used to life in space. The new space residents, who arrived Dec. 19, have time set aside in their schedules to adjust to life and work in weightlessness.

Two-time station resident Joe Acaba from NASA worked throughout Wednesday gathering items for stowage inside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship. Kanai assisted Acaba with the pre-packing duties readying the cargo for return to Earth inside Dragon on Jan. 13.

Tingle strapped himself into an exercise bike this morning breathing into a tube for a study measuring physical exertion in microgravity. In this long-running experiment, doctors are researching ways to ensure astronauts stay fit and healthy in space to maintain mission success.

With Christmas Around the Corner Crew Researching Why Cells Change in Space

Expedition 54 Crew Portrait
The Expedition 54 crew members (from left) are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei, Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Six Expedition 54 crew members will spend Christmas orbiting Earth sharing a traditional meal and opening goodies delivered on recent cargo missions to the International Space Station. Veteran crew member Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is spending his third holiday season in space.

Meanwhile, advanced space science is taking place seven days a week on the orbital lab as the astronauts explore a variety of phenomena that can only be revealed in the microgravity environment. Human research is especially important as doctors learn how to keep space travelers healthy and strong during spaceflight.

The station’s newest Flight Engineers, Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA, collected and stored their blood samples this morning for the Cell-Free Epigenome experiment. The samples will be analyzed later on the ground for cellular changes that take place in crew members while living in space.

Astronaut Joe Acaba of NASA is testing new research hardware today for its ability to maintain cell cultures and enable cellular experiment work. Acaba swapped out gear inside the Bioculture System that is being validated as a long-term biological research facility.

Crew From U.S., Russia and Japan Expands Space Population to Six

The newly-expanded Expedition 54 crew
The newly-expanded Expedition 54 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for ceremonila congratulations from family and mission officials. Credit: NASA TV

NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency joined Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 5:55 a.m. EST. The welcoming ceremony will begin shortly.

The crew members will spend about six months conducting approximately 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development — research that impacts life on Earth.

Vande Hei, Acaba and Misurkin are scheduled to remain aboard the station until February 2018, and Tingle, Shkaplerov and Kanai are scheduled to return to Earth next June.

This crew continues the long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research in the unique microgravity environment. Highlights of upcoming investigations include demonstrating the benefits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a microgravity environment, a new study looking at structures that are vital to the design of advanced optical materials and electronic devices and examining a drug compound and drug delivery system designed to combat muscular breakdown in space or during other prolonged periods of disuse, such as extended bed rest on Earth.

For live coverage and more information about the mission, visit: www.nasa.gov/station. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: @iss, on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research. Follow Twitter updates from NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle as well as from Anton Shkaplerov and Norishige Kanai.

Space Travelers Arrive at Station after Two-Day Trip

Expedition 54 Crew Members
Expedition 54 crew members (from left) Norishige Kanai, Anton Shkaplerov and Scott Tingle pose in front of the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft that would launch them into a space a few days later.

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency docked to the International Space Station at 3:39 a.m. EST while both spacecraft were flying about 250 miles over the southern coast of Italy commonly referred to as the “boot.”

Aboard the space station, Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and his crewmates, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, will welcome the new crew members when the hatches between the two spacecraft are opened following standard pressurization and leak checks.

Watch the hatch opening targeted for 5:35 a.m. and welcome ceremony to follow live on NASA TV beginning at 5 a.m. on the agency’s website.

For live coverage and more information about the mission, visit: www.nasa.gov/station. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: @iss and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.