The Expedition 59-60 crew arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan today. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are final training before their March 14 liftoff aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. They will take a six-hour ride to their new orbital home where they will live and work until October.
Meanwhile, the Expedition 58 crew is back at today aboard the International Space Station after taking the day off Monday. The orbital lab is also flying at higher altitude to get ready for the arrival Russian crew and cargo ships starting next month.
The space station is orbiting two miles higher at its perigee after the docked Progress 71 resupply ship fired its engines for seven minutes and 31 seconds Monday night. This places the station at the correct altitude for the March 14 arrival of the Expedition 59-60 crew and the Progress 72 cargo craft docking on April 4.
Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques will monitor the Crew Dragon’s approach and rendezvous on Sunday. The vehicle is targeting a 6 a.m. EST docking to the IDA where the hatches will swing open about two-and-a-half hours later. It will undock on March 8 and return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean ending its mission.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain set up a virtual reality camera inside the Tranquility module after lunch today. She has been filming hours of footage this month depicting a first-person’s view of life throughout the station. The final film will be an immersive, cinematic experience to educate audiences on Earth about life in space.
Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques was back on spacesuit duty today scrubbing cooling loops and checking the conductivity of water samples. The astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency also tested cables inside the Materials Science Research Rack. The refrigerator-sized rack explores chemical and thermal properties of materials such as metals, alloys and polymers to create new and improved elements and applications.
Back on Earth in Star City, Russia, three Expedition 59 crew members have wrapped up two days of classes and tests qualifying for their March 14 launch to the orbital lab. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch will end their stay at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on Feb. 26 and fly to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan. The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and take a six-hour ride to their new home in space.
Spacesuit servicing and high-temperature physics kept the crew busy today aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 astronauts also researched meteorology from the station and explored more Earth phenomena from space.
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques is returning a U.S. spacesuit to service today inside the U.S. Quest airlock. He verified successful installation of suit components and checked for water leaks in the suit at full operational pressure. NASA is planning a set of maintenance spacewalks at the station planned for March 22, 29, and April 8.
In the Kibo lab module from Japan, astronaut Anne McClain cleaned sample cartridges in a specialized thermo-physical research device called the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace. The high-temperature facility levitates, solidifies and melts samples that may contribute to the synthesis of new materials difficult to achieve on Earth.
She later set up camera hardware for the Tropical Cyclone experiment to demonstrate storm predictions from the station. McClain targeted a moonlit Typhoon Oma today off the coast of Queensland, Australia from inside the cupola.
Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are preparing for their March 14 launch to the orbital lab aboard the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia for final training before heading to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26.
The International Space Station is hosting a robotic experiment that may help enable and refuel future missions to the moon and Mars. The Expedition 58 crew installed that hardware today then worked on a variety of life science, astrophysics and combustion science gear.
The Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) experiment will demonstrate transferring and storing fuels and coolants such as liquid methane and a cryogenic fluid in space. Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques installed the RRM3 hardware today inside Japan’s Kibo lab module airlock. The gear will be deployed outside Kibo then transferred to an external logistics carrier. Once there, the Dextre “robotic hand” will begin operations demonstrating fluid transfers with a set of specialized tools.
The two astronauts also split their time conducting maintenance on a pair of space incubators. McClain worked on a mouse habitat replacing filters inside Kibo’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility. Saint-Jacques swapped a carbon dioxide controller in the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL). SABL supports research into microorganisms, small animals, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants.
Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are a month away from joining the three orbital residents aboard the space station. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia in final training before their March 14 launch to the orbital lab.
At the post-launch news conference for the Expedition 58 crew, Roscosmos and NASA officials announced that NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, who were forced to abort their recent mission Oct. 11 to the International Space Station, are now scheduled to launch again Feb. 28, 2019, from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Hague and Koch will serve as flight engineers for Expeditions 59 and 60. Ovchinin will serve as a flight engineer on Expedition 59 and the commander of Expedition 60. The trio will return to Earth in October 2019 as members of Expedition 60.
All three crew members will participate in a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston that will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
This will be Koch’s first spaceflight. Flight dynamics specialists determined Hague and Ovchinin achieved enough altitude on their aborted climb to orbit to qualify for previous spaceflight status, making this Hague’s second spaceflight and Ovchinin’s third.
The arrival briefly restores the station’s crew complement to six until Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev return to Earth Dec. 20. Expedition 58 officially begins once the three departing spacefarers undock from the space station.
McClain, Saint-Jacques and Konenenko will spend more than six months conducting hundreds of science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Some of the investigations they will conduct are sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth. Highlights of upcoming investigations include experiments in forest observation, robotic refueling, and satellite deployment.
The crew is scheduled to be onboard during the first test flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil.