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.
Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 4:44 a.m. EDT and is on its way to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the space station was traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles, over the central south Atlantic.
An hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s UltraFlex solar arrays. Launch coverage will resume on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/live at about 5:45 a.m. for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.
A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 7:00 a.m.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft that will resupply the Expedition 55 crew on the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad Thursday night. Cygnus is now targeted to blast off atop the Antares rocket Monday at 4:39 a.m. EDT from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the launch Monday at 4 a.m.
Orbital ATK and NASA managers moved Cygnus’ launch to no earlier than Monday to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions. Monday shows an 80% probability of acceptable weather for launch.
Cygnus is packed with 7,400 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and space station hardware. It is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the space station for its robotic capture at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will cover the approach and rendezvous activities starting at 3:30 a.m.
Three NASA astronauts, Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, have trained for weeks to get ready for Cygnus’ arrival on Thursday. Tingle will be operating the Canadarm2 from inside the Cupola and command the robotic arm to grapple Cygnus. Arnold will back him up on the robotics controls and Feustel will monitor Cygnus and it systems during its approach. Robotics engineers on the ground will then remotely install the commercial space freighter on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.
One of the new experiments being delivered aboard Cygnus to the orbital laboratory will study atoms frozen to a temperature 10 billion times colder than deep space. The Cold Atom Lab will observe the quantum phenomena possibly leading to advanced spacecraft navigation techniques and quantum sensors that can detect gravitational and magnetic fields.
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!
Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA completed the fifth spacewalk of this year at 2:10 p.m. EDT, lasting 6 hours, 31 minutes. The two astronauts moved the Pump Flow Control Subassembly (PFCS) from a spare parts platform on the station’s truss to the Dextre robotic arm. The PFCS drives and controls the flow of ammonia through the exterior portions of the station’s cooling system. The team then removed and replaced a camera group and a degraded Space to Ground Transmitter Receiver Controller, and was also able to complete several get-ahead tasks.
Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 54 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes working outside the station in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.