Departing Trio Boards Soyuz Crew Ship for Undocking

Expedition 59 crew members
Expedition 59 crew members (from left) Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques are wearing the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear on the way back to Earth aboard the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship.

At 4:15 p.m. EDT, the hatch closed between the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking. NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain, Expedition 59/Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are scheduled to undock their Soyuz at 7:25 p.m.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the undocking beginning at 7 p.m.

Their landing in Kazakhstan is targeted for approximately 10:48 p.m. and will conclude a more than six month mission conducting science and maintenance aboard the space station, in which they circled the globe 3,264 times, covering 86.4 million miles.

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

NASA TV Broadcasts Earth-bound Trio Saying Farewell to Crewmates

Expedition 58-59 crewmembers
NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques pose for a portrait inside the Zvezda service module.

Three people who have been living in space for a 204-day mission conducting science and maintenance aboard the International Space Station are set for return to Earth at 10:48 p.m. EDT Monday, June 24.

Coverage of the farewell and hatch closure is now underway on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Hatch closure is expected at approximately 4:10 p.m.

After closing the hatch to their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft, NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain, Expedition 59/Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will undock from the station’s Rassvet module at 7:25 p.m. for their return to Earth, landing southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

On Sunday, Konenenko handed over station command to Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos in a change of command ceremony. Expedition 60 officially will begin following the undocking of the Expedition 59 crew.

The Expedition 59 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science; conducted a total of four spacewalks; and saw the arrival and departure of six visiting spacecraft – including the first commercial crew flight test with the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Their return will conclude 204 days in space since they launched Dec. 3. It was the fourth spaceflight for Konenenko and the first for McClain and Saint-Jacques, who now holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a Canadian astronaut.

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

Virtual Reality Filming, Final Tests Before Crew Splits Up Monday

The six-member Expedition 59 crew gathers for a portrait
The six-member Expedition 59 crew gathers for a portrait aboard the International Space Station. Clockwise from center left are, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Christina Koch, David Saint-Jacques, Alexey Ovchinin, Anne McClain and Nick Hague.

The Expedition 59 crew is going into the weekend preparing to split up on Monday amidst an array of ongoing human research. The orbital residents are also working on power upgrades and filming a virtual reality experience today.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are in their final weekend aboard the International Space Station. They will ride back to Earth on Monday with Commander Oleg Kononenko inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. Their Soyuz vehicle undocks at 7:25 p.m. EDT and lands in Kazakhstan at 10:47 p.m. (8:47 a.m. Tuesday Kazakh time). NASA TV will broadcast all the homecoming activities live.

Kononenko will hand over station command to cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin in a ceremony slated for Sunday at 3:35 p.m. live on NASA TV. Ovchinin officially becomes commander of Expedition 60 when the homebound trio’s Soyuz undocks Monday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are continuing their stay aboard the orbiting lab.

McClain and Saint-Jacques participated in one final study today exploring behavior, performance and cognition in space. The duo practiced grappling a cargo craft during a robotic simulation for the Behavioral Core Measures study. McClain also prepared a CubeSat for deployment next week. Saint-Jacques recorded a science video demonstrating Newton’s second and third laws in microgravity.

Hague joined McClain during the morning setting up the CubeSat hardware inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. In the afternoon, he partnered up with Koch and upgraded power electronics hardware in the Harmony module.

Finally, all six crewmembers gathered in the Zvezda service module at dinnertime and videotaped their activities with a 360-degree camera. The crew has been filming a variety of immersive, cinematic experiences throughout their mission to share with audiences on Earth.

Station Trio Reviews Landing Procedures During Human, Physics Research

The six-member Expedition 59 crew gathers for a portrait
From left are, Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain; cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin; and astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are reviewing the procedures they will use on their way to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station early next week. In the midst of the departure preparations, the six orbital residents also had time set aside for biomedical science and physics research aboard the orbiting lab.

Commander Oleg Kononenko will lead astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques back to Earth on Monday inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft after 204 days in space. The trio spent the afternoon practicing their Soyuz undocking, atmosphere reentry and landing procedures. The homebound crew also familiarized themselves with the g-forces and the physical sensations they will experience when they penetrate Earth’s atmosphere 100 kilometers above Earth’s surface.

McClain continued more biomedical tests Thursday as she submitted breath samples for the Marrow fat and blood cell study. Saint-Jacques injected control samples inside the new Bio-Analyzer to demonstrate the rapid analysis of blood, urine and saliva samples in microgravity.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch is in the midst of a ten-and-a-half month mission on the station, conducting scientific research and station maintenance. Today, she explored the possibility of producing high-grade fiber optic cables made possible only in microgravity. Fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who is staying in space until October, nourished and collected samples of microalgae grown inside the Photobioreactor. The study is demonstrating biological processes that may support hybrid life support systems in space.

Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin will lead Expedition 60 after the Expedition 59 trio departs Monday. He and Kononenko continued training to use a specialized Russian suit that counteracts the upward fluid shifts in the human body caused by microgravity. Ovchinin also checked inventory and configured hardware aboard Russia’s Progress 72 resupply ship.

Alzheimer’s Research and Homecoming Packing Aboard Lab Today

The aurora australis, or "southern lights"
The International Space Station was orbiting 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia when this nighttime photograph was taken of the aurora australis, or “southern lights.” Russia’s Soyuz MS-12 crew ship (foreground) and Progress 72 resupply ship are seen in this mesmerizing view.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are less than one week away from completing their 204-day mission aboard the International Space Station. In the meantime, space research continues into advanced life support systems and nanoparticle therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques collected and stowed their biological samples for the Probiotics human research experiment this morning. The study from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is researching the consumption of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, to promote healthy intestines and immune systems in space.

The two flight engineers are also packing cargo and personal items for return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-11 crew craft. Commander Oleg Kononenko will lead the duo home inside the Russian spaceship for a June 24 landing in Kazakhstan. The threesome blasted off Dec. 3 and docked to the station’s Poisk module about six hours later inside the same Soyuz vehicle.

NASA TV will cover all the homecoming activities live beginning Sunday at 3:35 pm. EDT with the Change of Command Ceremony. Monday’s crew farewell and hatch closing will be at 4:10 p.m. with Soyuz undocking at 7:25 p.m. The Soyuz vehicle will fire its engines one last time at 9:55 p.m., followed by a parachute-assisted a landing in Kazakhstan on Monday at 10:48 p.m. EDT (Tuesday 8:48 a.m. Kazakh time).

NASA is evaluating technologies for a lightweight, advanced life support system that can recover water and remove carbon dioxide in space. Flight Engineer Nick Hague is supporting that research today with more Capillary Structures work. Hague is using specialized hardware to demonstrate the flow of fluid and gas mixtures using surface tension and fluid dynamics.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch is helping doctors on Earth target therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She collected samples from a temperature-controlled experiment facility and stowed them in a science freezer for analysis on Wednesday. The research is exploring manufacturing nanoparticles that target a disease’s underlying cause rather than its symptoms.

Biomedicine and Physics Research During Crew Departure Preps Today

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Capillary Structures experiment
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Capillary Structures experiment studying how to manage fluid and gas mixtures for more reliable life support systems in space.

Biomedicine and physics topped the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 59 crew also checked out U.S. spacesuits while preparing a Russian crew ship for return to Earth next week.

NASA is preparing for human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The astronauts aboard the orbiting lab are helping scientists keep crews healthy and engineers design safer, more advanced spacecraft.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques started Tuesday morning collecting blood, urine and body swab samples for the Standard Measures study. They stowed the samples in a science freezer for later analysis to help doctors understand how humans respond to microgravity.

The Genes In Space-6 (GIS-6) experiment had another run today inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Christina Koch of NASA set up the Biomolecule Sequencer to sequence DNA samples during the morning. The DNA research seeks to understand how space radiation mutates DNA and assesses the molecular level repair process.

She and Saint-Jacques also took turns resizing U.S. spacesuits and swapping out components. Mission managers are planning more spacewalks later this year for battery and science hardware maintenance.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent most of Tuesday running the Capillary Structures study to observe how fluid and gas mixtures behave inside structures designed for microgravity. Today’s operations demonstrated fluid flows with potential applications for advanced life support systems in space.

Commander Oleg Kononenko continues inventorying gear and trash for packing inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. He will complete a 204-day mission with McClain and Saint-Jacques when they parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on June 24 scheduled for 10:48 p.m. EDT (June 25 8:48 a.m. Kazakh time).

Final Week for Station Trio as Science Continues Unabated

The Expedition 59 crewmembers
The Expedition 59 crewmembers gather for a portrait inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Front row from left are David Saint-Jacques, Oleg Kononenko and Anne McClain who are returning to Earth June 24. In the back are Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are beginning their final week aboard the International Space Station and readying their spacesuits and Soyuz crew ship for the return to Earth. The orbital residents also continued a variety of human research activities amidst the deployment of tiny satellites today.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are set to return to Earth June 24 with Commander Oleg Kononenko at the helm of the Soyuz MS-11 crew craft. The homebound residents checked their Sokol launch and entry suits for leaks today. The trio also tested sensors that will monitor the crew’s blood pressure during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

McClain also packed personal items she will take back to Earth with her. Kononenko and Saint-Jacques practiced Soyuz descent procedures the crew will use on its way to a landing in Kazakhstan. The threesome have been living aboard the space lab since Dec. 3 and will have accumulated 204 days on orbit when they complete their mission next week.

Science continues unabated aboard the orbital lab with the crew exploring a wide variety of phenomena to help NASA plan missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Payload specialists on the ground also remotely operate many of the hundreds of experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch started Monday researching how microgravity affects perception and orientation. Today’s experiment session required Koch to perform simple tasks wearing a neck brace and virtual reality goggles while free-floating inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module.

Four small satellites, or CubeSats, were ejected this morning outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA monitored and photographed the CubeSats deployed for technology demonstrations. The first set of CubeSats deployed were from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Japan as part of the BIRDS-3 mission. The last CubeSat was from Singapore. All four arrived at the station April 19 aboard the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter.

Today’s Advanced Research Goes From Free-flying Robots to Anti-Gravity Pants

Astronaut Anne McClain checks out the new Astrobee hardware
NASA astronaut Anne McClain checks out the new Astrobee robotics hardware earlier this year inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module.

Robotics, combustion and human research were the primary focus of today’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 59 crewmembers also checked out U.S. spacesuits and specialized pants designed to counteract some of the effects of living in microgravity.

Astrobee, a tiny cube-shaped free-flying robotic assistant, is being tested aboard the orbital lab for its sighting and motion abilities. Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) set up Astrobee for more mobility tests today inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The device may support routine maintenance tasks and lab monitoring capabilities. Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter delivered Astrobee to the station April 19.

The safe observation of how fuels and materials burn in microgravity takes place in the space station’s Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). The research takes place in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and may help engineers design more fuel-efficient spacecraft engines and safer, less flammable environments. NASA astronaut Christina Koch replaced a burner and igniter tip in the CIR to maintain continuing combustion research operations.

Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA attached cuffs to her legs and sensors to her chest for a series of blood pressure checks and ultrasound scans today. The Vascular Echo biomedical study from CSA, ongoing since March 2015, analyzes an astronaut’s cardiovascular system for conditions such as arterial stiffness.

U.S. spacesuits continue to be serviced after a set of three spacewalks that took place earlier this year. Astronaut Nick Hague cleaned the suit’s cooling loops, cycled their pressure valves and tested water samples inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin have been training this week to use the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. The Russian suit, also known as Chibis, counteracts the upward fluid shifts in the human body caused by microgravity. This may alleviate the head and eye pressure reported by astronauts. An easily recognizable symptom of these fluid shifts that all crews experience is “puffy face.”

Crew Preps for Split, Studies Space Effects on Human Body

The aurora australis, or "southern lights," highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass
The aurora australis, or “southern lights,” highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass as the International Space Station orbited 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

The Expedition 59 crew will split up later this month when three International Space Station residents return to Earth. The other three crewmembers today practiced evacuating the orbiting lab in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Station Commander Oleg Kononenko will depart home with Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques inside the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship on June 24. The trio have been living in space since Dec. 3 and will have orbited Earth for 204 days after landing in Kazakhstan. The commander spent the day Thursday collecting cargo for stowage and readying the homebound Soyuz.

The three crewmembers that are staying behind conducted an emergency drill during the afternoon. Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin, Christina Koch and Nick Hague conducted an emergency simulation and rehearsed quickly entering their Soyuz lifeboat, undocking and descending to Earth.

Human research continued full speed ahead today to help doctors keep astronauts healthy in space. McClain and Hague once again collected their breath samples for the Airway Monitoring study. The experiment studies airway inflammation as crewmembers on space missions are at an increased risk of breathing free-floating dust and particles due to the microgravity environment. Results could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for successful long-term missions. Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans of his neck, gut, heart and leg throughout the day. The ground-assisted Vascular Echo scans give flight surgeons insight into an astronaut’s cardiovascular condition.

The crew also worked on robotics power cables and the installation of a small satellite deployer. Koch installed cables in the Unity module during the morning to provide backup power for the Canadarm2 robotic arm. McClain spent the majority of her day in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module installing hardware that will soon eject a set of CubeSats outside the station for research in Earth orbit.

The two cosmonauts, Kononenko and Ovchinin, spent some time in the morning exploring ways to counteract the effects of microgravity. The duo tested a unique suit that draws body fluids towards the feet to minimize head and eye pressure.

Station Biomedical and Behavioral Studies Informing Future Missions

The Earth's limb and the bright points of light of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter
The Earth’s limb and the bright points of light of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter were pictured July 2015 by astronaut Scott Kelly.

The Expedition 59 crew collected blood and breath samples today to test new biomedical gear and protect future astronauts going to the Moon and Mars. The orbital residents also participated in a pair of behavioral studies aboard the International Space Station.

The five-year-old Airway Monitoring study from the European Space Agency is analyzing exhaled Nitric Oxide in an astronaut’s breath to detect dust and other toxins. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain collected a series of breath samples for the health study today in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Future lunar or Martian astronauts could inhale dust collected in their habitats or on their spacesuits potentially inflaming their airways. Monitoring a crewmember’s airways could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for a successful long-term mission.

David Saint-Jacques collected blood samples during the morning and placed them inside the Bio-Analyzer from the Canadian Space Agency. The new device supports the Life Science Research System and rapidly analyzes molecular and cellular properties of biomedical samples aboard the space station.

Saint-Jacques and McClain later took turns jotting down their impressions of living in a confined space environment separated from family and friends. Crew inputs from the Behavioral Core Measures study could provide insights to doctors seeking a standardized method to measure and assess behavioral health in astronauts.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch started her day taking tests for the Standard Measures study that observes a variety of cognitive functions such as memory, attention and orientation. Later, she checked out spacesuit gloves then stowed hardware from the Capillary Structures life support systems study.