Astronauts Wrap Up First Spacewalk of 2020

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries that store and distribute solar power collected from the solar arrays on the International Space Station.

At 2:04 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA concluded their spacewalk. During the 7-hour, 29-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. Meir and Koch are scheduled to venture outside the station again Monday, Jan. 20, for a second battery replacement spacewalk.

The astronauts were also able to accomplish a get-ahead task of relocating the an additional nickel-hydrogen battery to the external pallet in preparation for next week’s spacewalk.

This was the first spacewalk outside the station this year. Space station crew members have now conducted 225 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 58 days, 23 hours, and 12 minutes working outside the station. It is the second time all spacewalkers have been women and the 44th spacewalk to include women.

It was the second spacewalk for Meir, who now has spent a total of 14 hours and 46 minutes spacewalking, and the fifth for Koch for a total of 35 hours and 17 minutes.

Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and marked 300 days in space on Jan. 9. She currently holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6 from an extended duration mission of 11 months in space. Her extended missions provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.

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.

Spacewalkers Begin Work to Upgrade Power Systems

Astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir
Astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir pose for their official NASA portraits.

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 6:35 a.m. EST Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are venturing out into the vacuum of space for about six-and-a-half hours to finish replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries that store and distribute power generated by the station’s solar arrays on the station’s port truss. The lithium-ion batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Meir is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and with helmet camera #11. Koch is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and her helmet camera is labeled #18.

Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will assist the spacewalkers. Morgan will control the Canadarm2 robotics arm and Parmitano will provide airlock and spacesuit support.

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 Goes Live Wednesday for First Spacewalk of 2020

Spacewalkers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
Spacewalkers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are pictured during their first spacewalk together that lasted seven hours and 17 minutes on Oct. 18, 2019..

Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA will begin a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station Wednesday, Jan. 15.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 5:30 a.m. EST on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

This is the first of two battery replacement spacewalks this month. Meir and Koch will replace nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. The batteries were transported to the station in September aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle.

The spacewalking work continues the overall upgrade of the station’s power system that began with similar battery replacement during spacewalks in January 2017. In October, Koch and Meir replaced a failed power charging component, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems.

Watch the animation for more detail on this spacewalk.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Crew Ready for Spacewalk While Working Earth and Fire Research

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina KochNASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing to begin the historic first-ever all-female spacewalk on Oct. 18, 2019.

The first of three spacewalks planned for January begins Wednesday to continue upgrading International Space Station power systems and a cosmic ray detector. While the spacewalkers ready their suits and tools, the rest of the Expedition 61 crew is on science and maintenance duty today.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir is partnering for a second time with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for a pair of spacewalks set for tomorrow and Jan. 20. The duo is finalizing preparations for the two six-and-a-half hour spacewalks to replace batteries that store and distribute solar power. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power at 6:50 a.m. and translate out to the Port-6 truss structure. Once there they swap out old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST.

A third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). They will finish the thermal repair work on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer they began last year.

Meanwhile, Morgan and Parmitano were on science duty today. The astronauts took turns safely burning fabric and acrylic samples to help scientists understand how flames spread in space. Results may inform the design of fire safety products and procedures on Earth and in space. The two crewmates also drew their blood samples, spinning them in a centrifuge for later analysis.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov spent the day servicing Russian life support equipment. On the science schedule, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continued setting up and testing hardware that will observe the Earth’s mesosphere at different wavelengths.

Astronauts Eye Wednesday Spacewalk as Space Science Continues

NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir collect biological samples for stowage inside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

The first spacewalk of 2020 is set for Wednesday and the Expedition 61 crew is finalizing spacesuit checks and procedure reviews. The residents aboard the International Space Station also had time set aside for more microgravity research today.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are preparing to step outside into the vacuum of space together in their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries upgrading station power systems on the Port-6 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST with the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin at 6:50 a.m.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan joined the spacewalkers today to review spacewalk procedures. The two astronauts will stay inside the station on Wednesday to provide Canadarm2 robotics support for Meir and Koch.

Parmitano and Morgan also juggled a variety of science and life support duties today. Morgan worked on orbital plumbing tasks before studying how flames spread in weightlessness. Parmitano cleaned cell science hardware and updated supplies in the Human Research Facility-1.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov investigated how microgravity affects blood circulation in order to maintain crew health during long-term space missions. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka set up hardware to observe a layer of the Earth’s upper atmosphere called the mesosphere at different wavelengths.

Eye Checks, Pain Studies and Spacesuit Checks Wrap up Workweek

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit, with a patch of the Italian flag on the left shoulder, that Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) wore during a spacewalk on Dec. 2, 2019.

The Expedition 61 crew is continuing more research today into how the human body adapts to living in microgravity. U.S. spacesuits aboard the International Space Station are also being readied for the first of three spacewalks planned to start Jan. 15.

Eye checks were on the schedule Friday afternoon as astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch took turns as Crew Medical Officer. The duo scanned the eyes of NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) using an ultrasound device and optical coherence tomography gear.

Morgan started the morning setting up a specialized mouse habitat that can create artificial gravity conditions aboard the orbiting lab. Mice physiology resembles that of humans, providing scientists fundamental insights into cellular and genetic alterations that occur in weightlessness.

Meir is getting the spacesuits ready she and Koch will wear on Jan. 15 and 20 for a pair of power maintenance spacewalks. She scrubbed cooling loops and filled water tanks before checking out suit hardware and checking for leaks. The spacewalking duo will replace older batteries with newer, more powerful batteries on the orbiting lab’s Port-6 truss structure.

In the Russian segment of the space station, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks. Skvortsov also researched how microgravity affects pain sensation while Skripochka photographed the condition of space-exposed hardware.

Crew Working Life Science, Looks Ahead to Upcoming Spacewalks

Astronaut Jessica Meir waves during a spacewalk
Astronaut Jessica Meir waves during a spacewalk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch (out of frame) on Oct. 18, 2019.

Human research and space biology filled the lab schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 61 crewmembers are also ramping up for a trio of spacewalks set to begin next week.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) started Thursday collecting their blood samples. The duo spun the samples in a centrifuge and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. The astronauts also joined cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for a series of eye checks throughout the day.

Skvortsov also partnered up with cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka for cardiac research. After some Russian lab maintenance work, the pair also filmed educational activities to promote spaceflight for audiences on Earth.

Parmitano later tested how living in microgravity influences an astronaut’s perception of time. At the end of the workday, the ESA commander serviced a research incubator located in the Unity module.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan is setting up a mouse habitat in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The research facility is part of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and enables the observation of rodents, which have a physiology similar to humans, in different gravity conditions.

Meir and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch are getting ready for two of three spacewalks planned for this month. The spacewalkers will work outside the station on Jan. 15 and 20 to replace older batteries with newer, more powerful batteries on the orbiting lab’s Port-6 truss structure. Morgan and Parmitano are targeting a third spacewalk on Jan. 25 to finish repairing the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Spacewalk Preps Underway Amidst Space Research

The Expedition 61 crew gathered together for a New Year's Eve meal
The Expedition 61 crew gathers together for a meal. Clockwise from top left are, Christina Koch, Oleg Skripochka, Luca Parmitano, Alexander Skvortsov, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.

The Expedition 61 crew is gearing up for the first three spacewalks of 2020 set for this month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is bustling with an array of microgravity research activities today.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will conduct the first two spacewalks scheduled for Jan. 15 and Jan. 20. The duo will finish replacing older nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. They spent Wednesday reviewing spacewalk procedures and inspecting spacesuit tethers.

The next spacewalk would be Jan. 25 following the successful battery replacements. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finish the repair work they started in November on the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the lab residents kept up the ongoing space science to improve life for humans on and off Earth.

Morgan began the day installing botany research gear inside Japan’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility before transferring resupply racks to the Cygnus space freighter. Parmitano conducted a vision test then cleaned up Rodent Research hardware that housed mice that were returned to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka split their time on Russian science and maintenance tasks. The duo partnered together for a study exploring piloting methods under a variety of gravity conditions. Skvortsov then measured the station’s radiation environment as Skripochka replaced fuel bottles for combustion research.

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Returning Science and Cargo

The SpaceX Dragon separates from the International Space Station
A camera on the tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm views the SpaceX Dragon as it separates from the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 10:42 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 271 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 19th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

A key component being returned aboard Dragon is a faulty battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU), which failed to activate following the Oct. 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss. The BCDU was removed and replaced during a spacewalk Oct. 18 by Expedition 61 flight engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA. The unit are being returned to teams on Earth for an evaluation and repair.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Dec. 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later with almost 3,400 pounds of science, supplies and cargo.

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.

Dragon Released from Station Carrying Science for Earth-Analysis

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after its release
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on January 7, 2020. Credit: @Space_Station

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft released from the International Space Station at 5:05 a.m. EST after flight controllers in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

Next up, Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station, then execute a deorbit burn as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown around 10:41 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Long Beach, California. The splashdown will not air on NASA TV.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

 Tiny Radiation Resistors

Rotifer-B1 examines the effects of spaceflight on tiny aquatic animals, called rotifers, which are found in freshwater ecosystems and soil and are highly resistant to radiation on Earth. The investigation specifically looks at the metabolism and genome of the rotifer Adineta vaga to determine whether they have similar adaptation mechanisms in microgravity.

 Mice in Space

Rodent Research-19 examines myostatin and activin, molecular signaling pathways that influence muscle degradation, as possible targets for preventing muscle and bone loss during spaceflight and enhancing recovery following return to Earth. This study also could support the development of therapies for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss on Earth.

 Finding the Perfect Solution

On Earth, our bodies deal with low-level radiation through a naturally occurring protein that helps our body safely process it. The Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) study, aims to help scientists find a way to deal with the problem of radiation during long-duration spaceflight missions using the same protein that is already at work in our bodies.

 Convection and Crystallization in Microgravity

The Polymer Convection study examines the effects of gravity on formation and crystallization of Broadband Angular Selective Material (BASM), an optical material with the ability to control the reflection and absorption of light. BASM has applications in polymer packaging, optical films, solar power and electronic displays.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

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.