Crew Nears Departure Ahead of Busy Space Traffic

Astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (left) will assume station command from Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka (right) today.

Three Expedition 62 crewmembers are getting ready to head home before U.S., Russian and Japanese spaceship traffic ramps up. Meanwhile, human research activities continue full speed ahead aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy will assume command and control of the orbiting lab today at 4:55 p.m. EDT during the Change of Command ceremony live on NASA TV. Commander Oleg Skripochka will turn the keys over to Cassidy before leaving the station on Thursday at 9:53 p.m. EDT when Expedition 63 officially begins.

Cassidy will stay onboard the station until October with Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. This is third station mission for Cassidy and Ivanishin while Vagner is beginning his first.

Skripochka is returning to Earth with NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. The trio will parachute to landing in Kazakhstan on Friday at 1:16 a.m. (11:16 a.m. Kazakh time). Morgan will have lived in space for 272 days while Meir and Skripochka will have orbited Earth for 205 days.

The crew collected blood, saliva and urine samples today before stowing them in a science freezer. Scientists on the ground will analyze the samples for markers indicating the effects of microgravity on humans. The orbital residents also contributed to nutrition studies today to understand the crew’s appetite for the station’s food menu and the health impacts of their space diet.

The next spaceship to visit the station is planned for April 24 when Russia’s Progress 75 space freighter launches for a docking to the station’s Zvezda service module. The U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft will finish its station cargo mission on May 11 when the Canadarm2 robotic arm removes it from the Unity module and releases it back into space. Japan is targeting May 20 for the launch of its HTV-9 Kounotori resupply ship when it will begin a five-day trip to the orbital lab.

Human Research, Crew Departure Preps aboard Busy Station

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir participate in Earth photography activities inside the Destiny laboratory module.

The six crewmembers aboard the International Space Station continued advanced space research today promoting health for humans on and off Earth. The crew will split up at the end of the week when the Expedition 62 trio undocks and returns to Earth.

Scientists are looking at how human muscles adapt to microgravity for the Myotones space biology study. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy began the first of his four sessions for the human research experiment today. He marked muscle points on his skin then used a specialized device to measure his muscles’ biochemical properties. The research could prepare astronauts for longer space missions and help people on Earth with muscle conditions.

His two crewmates, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, are getting used to life on the orbiting lab while maintaining Russian station hardware. The cosmonauts are deactivating communication systems in the new Soyuz MS-16 crew ship and getting up to speed on their complement of space research.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan contributed to different experiments today as they complete their final week in space. Meir collected her saliva samples for microbial analysis then documented her thoughts about the station’s food menu. Morgan cleaned and closed out life science hardware that housed live mice that returned to Earth on the last SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

The two astronauts are also getting ready to end their mission with Commander Oleg Skripochka and return to Earth on Friday. The trio is packing the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship with cargo and personal items. They will undock Thursday at 9:53 p.m. EDT and parachute to landing in Kazakhstan less than three-and-half hours later.

New Trio Adapts to Station Life, Crewmates Prep for Earth Return

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Chris Cassidy
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Chris Cassidy pose in front of the state flag of Maine inside the Kibo laboratory module. Both astronauts’ home state is Maine.

Three new crewmembers are getting used to life aboard the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 trio is getting ready for its return Earth on Friday.

Three NASA astronauts and three Roscosmos cosmonauts have been working together on the orbiting lab since April 9 when the Expedition 63 crew docked to the station’s Poisk module. U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy is leading Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner during their 195-day mission.

They will be familiarizing themselves with station systems and getting up to speed with science work over the next several days. Cassidy put on virtual reality goggles this morning for an experiment monitoring how he visually interprets motion, orientation and distance in microgravity. Ivanishin and Vagner were researching space biology and technology studies today, as they get used to their new orbiting home 260 miles above Earth.

Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan with Commander Oleg Skripochka will complete their station mission on Friday when they return to Earth. They are packing their Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and reviewing landing procedures this week. They are also familiarizing themselves with the conditions they will experience upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere and feeling gravity for the first time in months.

Skripochka will hand over station control to Cassidy on Wednesday at 5:55 p.m. EDT during the Change of Command Ceremony live on NASA TV. The Expedition 62 crew will undock in the Soyuz vehicle on Thursday at 9:53 p.m. They will shoot through the atmosphere in the Soyuz descent module and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 1:17 a.m. (11:17 a.m. Kazakh time).

Dragon Leaves Station, Returns to Earth with Valuable Science

Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship's release
Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Tuesday morning. Credit: @AstroDrewMorgan

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 20th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

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

Generating a nutritional meal

Planning ways to supply food for a multi-year mission on the Moon or Mars may require making food and nutrients in space. BioNutrients demonstrates a technology that enables on-demand production of nutrients needed during long-duration space missions. Although designed for space, this system also could help provide nutrition for people in remote areas of our planet.

Toward printing human organs in space

Biological printing of the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillaries, is difficult in Earth’s gravity. The BioFabrication Facility (BFF) attempts to take the first steps toward the printing of human organs and tissues in microgravity. The facility may also help maintain the health of crews on deep space exploration missions by producing food and personalized pharmaceuticals on demand.

Helping the heart

The Engineered Heart Tissues (EHTs) study looks at how human heart tissue functions in space. It uses unique 3D tissues made from heart cells derived from human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSCs), essentially adult stem cells. Researchers expect significant differences in function, structure and gene expression between EHTs in microgravity and those on the ground. Understanding these differences could help them find ways to prevent or mitigate problematic changes on future long-duration missions.

Biofilm festival

Samples from the Space Biofilms investigation, which examines microbial species and their formation of biofilms, are returning on Dragon. Biofilms are collections of one or more types of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and protists – that grow on wet surfaces. Better control of biofilms may help maintain crewed spacecraft and protect the health and safety of crew members as well as help prevent the introduction of Earth-based microbes to planetary bodies on which humans land.

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.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

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

Live NASA TV Coverage of SpaceX Dragon Departure is Underway

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the Earth-facing port on the International Space Station's Harmony module.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the Earth-facing port on the International Space Station’s Harmony module.

NASA Television coverage is underway for departure of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. The spacecraft is scheduled for release at 9:05 a.m. EDT.

Dragon was detached robotically from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module earlier today after flight controllers at mission control in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan of NASA backed up the operation and will monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn to leave orbit, as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, at about 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT). There will be no live coverage of deorbit burn or splashdown.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station three days later with science, supplies and cargo on SpaceX’s 20th commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.

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.

Station Gets Ready to Send off Cargo Ship and Welcome New Crew

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured during Expedition 58 before its release from the Canadarm2 in January of 2019.

A Russian rocket rolled out to its launch pad today as a new crew gets ready for liftoff to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew will send off a U.S. cargo craft on Tuesday packed with science and hardware.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-16 crew ship stands at its launch pad in Kazakhstan today after rolling out from its processing facility at daybreak. The rocket will launch on Thursday at 4:05 a.m. carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The new Expedition 63 trio will dock to the Poisk module at 10:15 a.m. to begin a 195-day mission. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities live starting at 3 a.m.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are loading the final critical research samples aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean carrying live mice, plant cells and other biological samples for analysis on Earth. Dragon is also packed with station hardware including spacesuit components for servicing and inspection.

Morgan will be monitoring departure activities when ground controllers command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. EDT. This will end a 29-day stay at the Harmony module. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 8:45 a.m.

Station Commander Oleg Skripochka is getting ready for his departure when he Morgan and Meir return to Earth on April 17. The veteran cosmonaut will be packing the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship with personal items and station cargo over the next week-and-a-half.

 

Science Expands on Station, Dragon Departs on Monday

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir strikes a superhero pose
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir strikes a superhero pose in the weightless environment of the International Space Station.

The International Space Station expanded its research capabilities overnight after robotics controllers installed a new external science platform. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew is packing cargo for return to Earth while getting ready for its own departure.

Europe’s latest contribution to the orbiting lab, Bartolomeo, was attached to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module early Thursday morning. Robotic engineers remotely commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Dextre robotic hand and completed the fine-tuned installation work over two days. Bartolomeo, delivered last month aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, gives private and institutional researchers the ability to command and control science payloads outside the space station.

Commander Oleg Skripochka with NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are preparing to end their mission in space on April 17. They checked their Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they parachute to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship for leaks today. The crew is also gathering personal items for stowage inside the Soyuz spaceship.

Before they leave, the SpaceX Dragon space freighter will return to Earth after being released from the Canadarm2 on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT. Meir and Morgan will finish loading over 4,000 pounds of station hardware and research samples, including live mice and plant cells, late Sunday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of Dragon’s departure on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

The station boosted its orbit again today raising it to the correct altitude enabling the new Expedition 63 crew to launch and dock on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will take a six-hour ride to their new home in space and begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

Science Packing, Robotics Work Ahead of Spaceship Traffic

The space station flies into an orbital sunset
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship (at right) and a pair of the space station’s main solar arrays foreshadow a trek into an orbital sunset.

A U.S. cargo craft is being packed for its return to Earth next week while robotics controllers get ready to install a new European science platform on the International Space Station. The Expedition 62 crew also continued its ongoing human research activities.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon space freighter is being loaded this week with thousands of pounds of science experiments and station hardware. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove Dragon from the Harmony module after its hatch is closed early Monday. Dragon will be released back into Earth orbit Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan will wrap up the science packing late Sunday. The duo will be transferring live mice, plant cells and other time-critical research samples into Dragon so scientists can understand how genetic expression changes in space.

Human research continued on board the station today as Meir examined and captured imagery of Morgan’s eyes with a fundoscope to learn how space-caused upward fluid shifts affect vision. Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos measured the station’s radiation environment then explored how future crews could pilot spaceships and robotic rovers on planetary expeditions.

Bartolomeo, an external science payload from the European Space Agency (ESA), will soon be installed on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The complex installation work is being choreographed from the ground as flight controllers remotely command the Canadarm2 and the Dextre fine-tuned robotic hand. The ESA science device will enable the command and control of numerous external investigations on Columbus.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, the Expedition 63 crew continued reviewing its mission procedures today then took a break for traditional pre-launch activities. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch to the station April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. After a six-hour ride to their new home in space, the trio will begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

Exercise Research, Spaceship Packing During Robotics Work

The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre extract Bartolomeo
The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre, the fine-tuned robotic hand, are remotely controlled on Earth to extract Bartolomeo from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Exercise tests aboard the International Space Station today are helping doctors evaluate the best ways to keep crews healthy and fit on long-term space missions. The Expedition 62 crew also readied cargo and crew ships for departure as a variety of other life science experiments took place.

Aerobic fitness in space is critically important so astronauts can successfully support physically demanding mission events such as spacewalks and spaceship landings. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan took turns testing their fitness on an exercise bike today while attached to sensors. Doctors will use the data to understand crew health and adapt exercise techniques so astronauts can maintain strong bones and muscles, and add to the body of knowledge that is helping astronauts readapt to gravity after long missions.

Afterward, Meir had a blood pressure check for the Vascular Echo cardiovascular study. Morgan checked on mice being observed for space-caused changes to their genetic expression.

The duo also continued loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply with station hardware and science experiments for analysis on Earth. Dragon will depart the station on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT and splashdown in the Pacific a few hours later. Meir and Morgan are also packing personal items to get ready for their return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos worked a pair of different Russian investigations today. He first studied how weightlessness affects blood circulation in the heart. The veteran cosmonaut then activated gear that observes the Earth’s atmosphere at nighttime in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.

The new Bartolomeo science platform from the European Space Agency is in the process of being installed to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module. Robotics controllers are remotely guiding Bartolomeo in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground teams will finalize the installation over two days.

Space Botany, Biology During Robotics and Spaceship Work

Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan
Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan works on U.S. spacesuit components inside the Quest airlock.

A U.S. cargo craft is just one week away from departing the International Space Station and returning to Earth packed with science and hardware for analysis. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew is continuing its space biology research as robotics controllers begin installing the new Bartolomeo science platform.

NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir will be packing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft the rest of the week before its departure on April 6. The duo will be loading Dragon with experiments and station gear such as spacesuit components for analysis by scientists and engineers on Earth.

Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon back into Earth orbit next Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT. Morgan will be in the cupola monitoring the release activities with NASA TV beginning its live coverage at 9:30 a.m.

Dragon’s final splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later will not be broadcast on NASA TV. Future Dragon cargo missions will splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Morgan spent the morning on plant and mice research. He first added water to the Veggie PONDS device that delivers nutrients to lettuce and mizuna greens being grown and harvested aboard the station. Next, he fed rodents being observed for changes to their genetic expression due to living in microgravity.

Both Morgan and Meir started Monday collecting and stowing their blood samples. The duo also had their periodic health check measuring each other’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate.

Meir then moved on to the Vascular Echo study to understand the arterial stiffness and cardiac changes that occur while living in space. She took several blood pressure measurements for the long-running study that could improve cardiovascular health on Earth and in space.

Bartolomeo, the external science payload device from the European Space Agency, is ready for installation after being removed from Dragon’s trunk last week. Robotics controllers will begin the two-day job to attach it to the Columbus module on Tuesday where it will host experiments exposed to harsh environment of space.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos is packing the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship that will return him, Meir, and Morgan back to Earth on April 17. They will welcome a new crew on April 9, when Chris Cassidy of NASA lifts off with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. They will dock to their new home in space just six hours after launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.