At 5:26 a.m. EDT, Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, backed by NASA Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. Robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.
NASA TV coverage of operations to install the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson, to the space station’s Unity module will resume at 7:30 a.m.
Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/
The Cygnus space freighter from Orbital ATK is closing in on the International Space Station ready to deliver 7,400 pounds of cargo Thursday morning. The Expedition 55 crew members are getting ready for Cygnus’ arrival while also helping researchers understand what living in space does to the human body.
NASA TV is set to begin its live coverage of Cygnus’ arrival at the orbital lab Thursday at 3:45 a.m. EDT. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be inside the Cupola and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus at 5:20 a.m. Robotics engineers at Mission Control will then take over and remotely install Cygnus to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.
The crew started its day collecting blood and urine samples for a pair of experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, looking at the physiological changes taking place in astronauts. Those samples are stowed in science freezers for return to Earth so scientists can later analyze the proteins and chemicals for indicators of crew health.
Another pair of experiments taking place today is looking at bone marrow, blood cells and the cardiovascular system. The Marrow study, which looks at white and red blood cells in bone marrow, may benefit astronaut health as well as people on Earth with reduced mobility or aging conditions. The Vascular Echo experiment is observing stiffening arteries in astronauts that resembles accelerated aging.
Wow, time has gone by extremely fast. The mid-deployment phase will be short-lived for me this time, as the new crew (Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev) will arrive on March 23rd, and then we have at least one spacewalk on the 29th, followed by a planned SpaceX Dragon cargo craft arrival on the 4th of April. It’s a little strange being up here with only two other crewmates. We are still very busy, but the overall work effort is half of what it was just a week ago. My crewmate, Nemo (Norishige Kanai), and I are trying to use the time to prepare for the upcoming very busy schedule, and we have been having some great success getting a ton of details taken care of.
Yesterday I had a funny event, though. I was controlling a robot named “Justin” who was located in Munich. The research and demonstration events were so interesting and fun that I offered them my lunch hour to do an additional protocol and have a longer debrief session. The ground team responded happily and accepted the offer – any extra time with crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is valuable to our programs. Halfway through the event, the team needed a few minutes to shut down and restart the robot, and I surmised that since I was skipping my break, this would be a good time to use the toilet. And I did, use the toilet. And literally 3 minutes later I returned, waited another 2 minutes for the robot systems to connect, and we began another great session controlling Justin from ISS with no loss to science. Later that same day, I was approached by the ground team in Houston (not the test team I was working with in Munich) and queried if something was wrong, and why did I have to take a toilet break while we were executing valuable science? They were concerned that I might have a medical issue, as taking a break in the middle of some very valuable science is not normal for us to do while on ISS. It’s nice to know that we have literally hundreds of highly-trained professionals looking out for us.
While flying fast-moving jets, we practice the art of recovering from unusual attitudes. We close our eyes, and let the instructor put the jet in an unexpected attitude. Sometimes straight up, sometimes straight down, sometimes upside down, and sometimes anything in-between. The goal is to open our eyes, analyze the situation and make rapid and smooth corrections to power and attitude to effect a speedy recovery to straight and level flight without departing controlled flight, or having to endure high G’s, or experiencing big losses of altitude. Sometimes, when I crawl into my crew quarters on the space station, it is very dark – just like closing our eyes in the jet. And then, as I sleep, my body floats around and changes position. When I awake in total darkness, I have to figure out what attitude I am in relative to my crew quarters and then right myself. “Unusual Attitude Recovery” can be pretty funny. And sometimes, my heart can get pumping as I awake and realize I don’t know what my attitude is. I execute my procedures to figure out what my attitude is, and then correct it. At first, it used to take me a while to realize. But now, it is second nature – and it always brings a smile to my face.
The Expedition 55 crew members had a full complement of work today as they conducted microgravity research, trained to capture a resupply ship and prepared for a June spacewalk.
Astronaut Norishige Kanai explored how living and working in space affects everything from fluid physics to the human body today. He first set up hardware to visualize how water atomizes in microgravity possibly improving the production of spray combustion engines. Next, he researched how spaceflight is impacting his brain structure and function, motor control, and multi-tasking abilities.
Later he joined fellow Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold to practice the robotics techniques necessary to capture the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship. The trio trained on a computer to simulate the operation of the Canadarm2 when it reaches out and grapples Cygnus on Thursday.
The commercial space freighter is due to deliver over 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, station hardware and science experiments when it arrives Thursday at 5:20 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast live the approach, rendezvous and capture of Cygnus beginning at 3:45 a.m.
NASA Flight Engineer Drew Feustel worked on U.S. spacesuits today ahead of the next spacewalk planned for June 14. He scrubbed the spacesuit cooling loops, collected water samples and organized tools in the Quest airlock.
The veteran spacewalker has a total of eight spacewalks having worked in the vacuum of space for nearly 55 hours. He will partner with Arnold, who has four spacewalks for over 25 hours, June 14 to install high definition cameras on the Harmony module.
The cargo ship will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Thursday, May 24. Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will grapple the spacecraft at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT, backed by Ricky Arnold, and Drew Feustel will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach. They will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus onto the station’s Unity module. It is scheduled depart the space station in mid-July.
Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 3:45 a.m. Thursday, May 24. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.
Science investigations aboard Cygnus on their way to the space station also include commercial and academic payloads in myriad disciplines, including:
The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.
The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.
Three Earth science CubeSats
RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.
TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.
CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.
I did an interview with some students today, and I was asked a two-part question by one of the students. He asked, “What is the most exciting thing about being in space, and how did you keep yourself motivated to get there?”
I answered, “When you were very young, did you ever dream or wish you could fly? We all know it’s impossible, right? Imagine waking up one day and finding out you actually can fly! THAT is exciting! Now consider the contrary thought, what if you grew up and realized that flying wasn’t possible for humans, and you were at peace with this reality, and at peace shedding your childhood dream of flying? You will have several crossroads in your life, and you will have to decide which of these people you want to be. I too am amazed that I had the staying power to continue to dream as I did when I was a child. Words cannot describe how I feel when I fly through the International Space Station every day.”
The smoke detectors have been setting off alarms. This happens routinely due to dust circulating in the modules, but every alarm is taken seriously. This is the third time that the alarm has sounded while I was using the Waste & Hygiene Compartment (toilet). I am starting to think that my actions are causing the alarms…. maybe I should change my diet?
We just finished a 20-hour work day. I spent nearly 11 hours in the spacesuit, and 7 hours and 24 minutes doing a spacewalk. The view was amazing. The changes from day to night, and back to day were phenomenal. My fellow astronaut Mark Vande Hei and I completed the primary task of replacing the Latching End Effector, or hand, for the robotic arm, but a software glitch kept us waiting and we were unable to complete any get-ahead tasks. I thought we had plenty of time and estimated that we had only been outside for a few hours. I was very surprised to find that we had worked for over 7 hours. Wow, I guess time really does fly by when you are having fun!
The Expedition 55 crew on board the International Space Station has been working hard to prepare for Wednesday’s spacewalk, and they’ll still have a lot of difficult work ahead of them when Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel head outside the airlock. If you’ve ever wondered what makes spacewalks such a big deal, check out chapter 17 of the new NASA ebook, The International Space Station: Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier. The book, which was written by space station flight directors, is now available to download for free at… https://go.usa.gov/xQbvH.
Chapter 17: Extravehicular Activities – Building a Space Station Planning and Training Extravehicular Activity Tasks
On paper, the tasks needed for International Space Station assembly—e.g., driving a bolt, carrying something from one place to another, taking off a cover, plugging in an electrical cord—might not seem too complex. However, conducting such tasks while wearing a spacesuit with pressurized gloves (possibly with one’s feet planted on the end of a long robotic arm), working in microgravity, maneuvering around huge structures while moving massive objects, having time constraints based on spacesuit consumables, and using specialized equipment and tools made these tasks and EVAs challenging.
Tasks such as working with cables or fluid hoses are hand-intensive work—fingers and forearms get quite a workout in pressurized gloves that feel like stiff balloons and resemble oversized garden gloves. Added to these complexities, space “walking” is mostly done with the hands. The astronaut grasps handholds and maneuvers the combination of the Extravehicular Mobility Unity, Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, tools, and himself or herself around the structure.
The team on the ground has to come up with a choreography and order of events for the EVA, in advance. The flight control team creates the EVA timelines based on a high-level prioritized list of tasks determined by ISS management (e.g., move a specific antenna, install a particular avionics box). The flight controllers start with the top ISS priority task and assesses the other tasks that can fit into the EVA based on multiple factors such as how long the tasks will take based on past experiences, whether both crew members need to work together, task location on the ISS, how much equipment will fit into the airlock, the tools required, crew experience level, and the level of crew effort to complete the task. A task that might fit (but only if the team is efficient) is put on the list as a “get-ahead” task.
Real-time discussions in Mission Control of EVA time remaining, crew fatigue, and suit consumables could allow the get-ahead task to be accomplished in addition to the planned tasks. Some tasks are performed on a “clock”; i.e., if power is removed from an item, it might get cold and need heater power in a matter of hours or sometimes within minutes to prevent damage. While a timeline is still in a draft version, the team conducts testing as required to prove out the operations. The team then trains the crew and refines and/or changes the timeline, sometimes up to the day of the EVA.