Heart, Eye Studies in Space as Next Crew Nears Launch

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan retrieves gut microbe samples
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan retrieves gut microbe samples from a science freezer for an experiment to understand how microgravity affects microbes that impact astronaut health.

Cardiac research and 3D bioprinting aboard the International Space Station today are helping NASA improve health for humans in space and on Earth. The three Expedition 62 crewmembers also participated in eye exams and radiation checks.

Three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in Kazakhstan just two weeks away from beginning a 195-day mission on the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy joined Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner for a traditional flag-raising ceremony today outside the Cosmonaut Hotel at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The trio is due to liftoff April 9 at 4:05 a.m. EDT and arrive at their new home in space about six-and-a-half hours later.

Back aboard the orbiting lab, the station crew spent the afternoon on eye checks. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir started the optometry work and scanned her crewmates’ eyes using the Human Research Facility’s ultrasound device.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan then took over and imaged the eyes of Commander Oleg Skripochka using optical tomography (OCT) gear. The OCT uses lightwaves for non-invasive mapping and measurement of a subject’s retina.

Morgan started the day with ongoing tests of a 3D bioprinter without using human cells. The device, also known as the Bio-Fabrication Facility, seeks to manufacture human organs in space due to the detrimental effects of Earth’s gravity. Patients on the ground would benefits and future astronauts on planetary missions could print their own food or medicines.

Meir checked samples of cultured cardiac muscle tissue for the Engineered Heart Tissues experiment in the morning. The investigation is exploring cardiac function in weightlessness that may provide new drug developments for astronauts and Earthlings.

In the station’s Russian segment, Skripochka collected radiation measurements then serviced atmospheric purification gear. The commander also spent a few moments working on a specialized research furnace that levitates and observes metallic alloys at high temperatures.

Robotics Work, Space Biology Keep Station Humming

The International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is pictured as the International Space Station flew into an orbital sunrise above the Pacific Ocean.

Robotic controllers unloaded new research hardware off a U.S. cargo craft today for installation outside the International Space Station. Inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 62 crew continued exploring microgravity’s impact on a variety of life forms.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today offered the Bartolomeo science payload system for installation on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Robotics engineers on the ground commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract Bartolomeo from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk and stage it for installation later. The European research device will enable numerous external science experiments to be conducted and controlled outside the space station.

Botany, biology and physics were the focus of today’s research aboard the orbiting lab. The space science work is helping NASA keep astronauts safe and healthy as it plans missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA spent a couple of hours on botany research learning how to cultivate vegetables and fruits in space. She also continued the Vascular Echo study attaching a sensor to her leg that monitored her arteries during a light exercise session.

Afterward, she joined fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan servicing and photographing samples of gut microbes. The study seeks to understand how microgravity enriches and depletes the microbes that affect crew health

The duo also unpacked samples that were exposed to the harsh environment of space outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Scientists want to understand what happens to materials such as paint, metals and other substances that could make up future spacecraft and habitats experiencing long-term space radiation and differing gravity environments.

Commander Oleg Skripochka updated the station’s inventory system today after unloading and organizing cargo inside the Russian Progress 74 space freighter. The veteran cosmonaut also worked on computers and communications gear before some research on crew dynamics.

The next to crew to launch to the station, Expedition 63, is in Kazakhstan today getting fitted in their Sokol launch and entry and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship seats. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will lift off April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to begin a 195-day mission on the orbiting lab.

Artery Scans, Eye Checks on Station as Crews Prepare for April Swap

Expedition 63 crewmembers arrive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
(From left) Expedition 63 crewmembers Ivan Vagner, Anatoly Ivanishin and Chris Cassidy arrive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

Ultrasound scans and eye checks aboard the International Space Station today are helping doctors understand how the Expedition 62 crew is adapting to microgravity. Back on Earth, a new crew is in final preparations for its launch next month.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir spent Tuesday morning on biomedical duty and scanned her leg arteries with an ultrasound device. She also attached electrodes to her neck, thigh and heart for the Vascular Echo study. Flight surgeons on the ground monitor the scans real-time to glimpse a crewmember’s heart and blood vessel health in space.

In the afternoon, Meir joined fellow Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan for eye exams. The duo took turns imaging each other’s eyes using optical coherence tomography gear commonly found in an eye doctor’s office. Eye health in space is important, as some astronauts have reported experiencing vision problems after returning to Earth.

Morgan started the morning swapping out batteries in a device that analyzes the station’s atmosphere. Afterward, he tended to hardware for an experiment that seeks to improve the manufacturing process of metallic alloys on Earth.

All three crewmates, including Commander Oleg Skripochka, started the day readying their Soyuz MS-15 crew ship ready for departure on April 17. They performed a fit check of the Soyuz seats they will be sitting in for the three-and-a-half hour ride back to Earth.

Meanwhile, the crew that will replace them is nearing its launch scheduled for April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner arrived today at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final training. The Expedition 63 trio is due to live aboard the station for 195 days with Cassidy as commander.

Vision Tests, 3D Bioprinting on Station as New Crew Ramps up for Launch

The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea
The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain on the European continent from Morocco on the African continent.

Vision tests and a variety of advanced biology research activities took place aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 62 crew also serviced several computers and life support gear as a new crew gets ready for launch next month.

Each crewmember had a vision acuity test today, with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan starting first just after lunchtime today. The crew set up a laptop computer with a vision chart and read the characters with one hand over each eye as ground doctors monitored in real-time.

Morgan started his morning tending to mice living in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The rodents are being observed to understand how microgravity affects genetic expression. Results could inform how humans will adapt to longer missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

In the afternoon, Morgan explored how the space environment, including radiation, impacts microbes living in the human body. The study seeks to understand how gut bacteria is enriched or depleted in space and how it affects astronaut health.

Watch how NASA is learning to protect an astronaut’s microbiome… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOZFfUyOw8s

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir activated a 3-D bioprinter that is being tested for its ability to manufacture human organs in space. She tested the device without printing any cells today and checked its cleaning syringes. The station’s Bio-Fabrication Facility could help patients on Earth and enable future crews to produce food and medicines on long-term space missions.

In the Russian segment, station Commander Oleg Skripochka worked an experiment during the morning to help researchers understand the ergonomic conditions aboard the orbiting lab. The veteran cosmonaut then moved onto computer upgrades before collecting radiation readings in the afternoon.

The next crew to live and work on the space station is preparing to depart to its launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner will sit next to Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin when they launch April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew craft for the six-hour ride to their new home in space.

Spacesuit Work, Air Quality and Radiation Checks on Station Today

The Nile River winding northward next to the Red Sea
This image taken from the space station 263 miles above Sudan shows the Nile River winding northward next to the Red Sea toward the Mediterranean Sea.

The Expedition 62 trio aboard the International Space Station spent their Friday on a variety of activities. The crew conducted a hearing test, swapped spacesuit components, and checked out computers, air quality and radiation.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started the day with a hearing test for the Acoustic Diagnostics study. The research measures an astronaut’s hearing before, during and after a mission to understand the impacts of microgravity and the station’s noise levels.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir worked in the Tranquility module on Friday morning servicing a device that measures the orbiting lab’s atmosphere. The life support gear monitors a variety of major constituents such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor to ensure a safe breathing environment for the crew. Meir wrapped up her day in the airlock, where she changed out a hard upper torso of one of the U.S. spacesuits with Morgan.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, Commander Oleg Skripochka replacing older laptop computers with new ones. In the afternoon, the veteran cosmonaut sampled the air quality and set up radiation detectors in the station’s Russian modules.

Space Cardiac Research as Station Orbits Higher For Next Crew

An aurora accents Earth's atmospheric glow
An aurora accents Earth’s atmospheric glow underneath a starry sky as the glare from computer instrumentation reflects off a window in the cupola.

Cardiac research was a big part of the Expedition 62 crew’s schedule on Thursday. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is orbiting higher to get ready for April’s crew swap.

Two experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab today are looking at cardiac function and the replenishment of heart cells in space. The NASA heart studies could lead to a better understanding of cardiac diseases and improved drug therapies on Earth. Astronauts living in space for months or years at a time could see strategies to maintain healthy cardiac function on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir nourished and preserved heart tissue samples for an experiment watching how heart cells adapt to microgravity. Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan got to work replacing hardware for an investigation producing heart cells that may treat cardiac abnormalities.

Veteran cosmonaut and station Commander Oleg Skripochka updated inventory after cargo activities inside the Progress 74 resupply ship. He also monitored radiation readings in the orbital lab and checked a variety of Russian video and computer gear.

The space station raised its orbit to the correct altitude this afternoon to receive three new Expedition 63 crewmembers aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship next month. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch and dock to the Poisk module on April 9 beginning a 195-day station mission.

Eight days later, the Expedition 62 crew will return to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Skripochka and Meir will have logged 205 days in space while Morgan is returning after 272 days on orbit.

Station Science Promoting Earth, Space Therapies Ahead of Crew Swap

An aurora above the city lights and a beneath a starry sky
An aurora, above the city lights and a beneath a starry sky, fades into an orbital sunrise as the space station orbited above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North America.

Expedition 62 is continuing a host of studies this week exploring how microgravity affects the human body. Researchers use the weightlessness environment of the International Space Station to provide advanced therapies for healthier humans on Earth and in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan wore a specialized suit, testing its ability to pull body fluids towards an astronaut’s feet. The Lower Body Negative Pressure suit is designed to prevent the space-caused upward fluid shifts and pooling in the head that create pressure on the eyes and cranium.

Fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir measured Morgan’s eye pressure with a tonometer Wednesday morning as doctors on the ground monitored in real-time. Commander Oleg Skripochka assisted the pair with the hardware and suit activities while the research operations took place in the Zvezda service module.

The trio split up in the afternoon for more space science and station maintenance tasks. The station residents also continued their daily routine of cardio and resistance exercises aboard the orbiting lab.

After lunchtime, Morgan set up gear that monitors airflow and where particles settle on the station. Meir tended to bone cell samples for insights into Earth ailments such as osteoporosis. Skripochka serviced an oxygen generator and plumbing hardware in the station’s Russian segment.

The space station will also boost its orbit on Thursday as it gears up for a crew swap in April. Expedition 62 is due to return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

The Expedition 63 crew will launch to the station on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy will lead Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner during the 195-day station mission.

Finally, the Cygnus space freighter that left the station on Jan. 31 ended its mission Tuesday night. It burned up safely in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean after several weeks of orbital engineering tests. The newest Cygnus is attached to the station’s Harmony module where it will stay until May.

Space Impacts on Heart and Bones May Provide Earth Therapies

The aurora australis, or "southern lights"
The aurora australis, or “southern lights,” highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia from June 2019..

Human research and space biology dominated the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 62 crew investigated how microgravity impacts heart and bone cells and head and eye pressure.

All three crewmembers tested a unique suit Tuesday that draws body fluids, such as blood and water, towards the feet. This counteracts space-caused fluid shifts toward the head that create pressure on an astronaut’s eyes and cranium. One visible symptom, called “puffy face,” is a redder and rounder face due to those shifts. However, astronauts have reported vision problems after living in space for months at a time.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan put on the suit with help from Commander Oleg Skripochka in the station’s Zvezda service module. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir then scanned Morgan’s eyes, head and chest with an ultrasound device to measure blood flow through his veins and arteries. Doctors on Earth monitored the activities to learn more about the effectiveness of the negative pressure body suit.

Morgan then moved on to cardiac research, learning how to create and culture heart cells on the space station. Results could provide advanced therapies to prevent heart conditions on Earth and in space. Meir continued more bone research servicing bone samples to help scientists better understand Earth ailments such as osteoporosis.

The commander stayed in the station’s Russian segment inventorying cargo from a Russian resupply ship. Skripochka, a veteran of three station missions, made space in the Progress 74 cargo craft temporarily stowing goods and rearranging hardware to reduce clutter aboard the orbiting lab.

Crew Explores Heart Cells, Genetic Expression for Earth and Space Benefits

Expedition 62 Crewmembers
Expedition 62 Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, in the middle, is flanked by NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir inside U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 62 crew focused on a variety of human research and space biology studies aboard the International Space Station today. Back on Earth, three new crewmembers are in training in Russia before their mission begins in April.

Microgravity shifts the flow of body fluids, such as blood and water, which accumulate in an astronaut’s head creating pressure in the cranium and on the eyes. Doctors are continuously studying this phenomenon to counteract the effects and keep long-term space crews healthy.

In preparation for upcoming operations with the ongoing Fluid Shifts study, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan collected medical hardware, such as an ultrasound device, sensors and cables. He transferred the research gear to the Russian segment, where they will be used to test a specialized body suit that draws fluids toward the lower body expanding veins and tissues.

Morgan then moved on to a Japanese study that looks at how weightlessness affects genetic expression in mice.  Results may inform future therapies that keep crews safe in space and prevent muscle atrophy conditions on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir relaxed on Monday aboard the orbiting lab after working Saturday afternoon on cardiac research. She serviced heart cells being manipulated and analyzed with magnet-sensors and stowed them in a science freezer. The space samples are being compared to cell cultures on the ground possibly benefitting human cardiac function on Earth and in space.

Commander Oleg Skripochka began his morning on a long-running Russian study exploring how cosmonauts will pilot spacecraft and even robotic rovers on future planetary missions. During the afternoon, he turned his attention to life support maintenance.

Over in Russia, three Expedition 63 crewmembers are getting ready for their launch to the space station on April 9. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner wrapped up two days of Soyuz qualification exams last week. They will have a news conference this Friday before heading out to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, March 24. Once there, the crew will be in final preparations ahead of their 195-day mission in space.

Cardiac Research, Bone Studies on Station Promote Advanced Therapies on Earth

Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir
Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir swaps media that nourishes bone samples inside the Life Science Glovebox located in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

New cardiac research is beginning today on the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir is installing gear that will support heart cells being produced inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Those cells will be compared to cultures on Earth to promote regenerative cell therapies.

She also continued bone sample operations for the ongoing OsteoOmics-02 study. The investigation takes place in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module and may reveal innovative bone treatments for humans living on Earth and in space.

Meir also joined fellow NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan for maintenance work on a U.S. spacesuit. The duo recharged and swapped out components inside the suit ahead of spacewalks planned for this year.

Morgan also spent Friday working on orbital plumbing and space biology research. He first serviced hardware in the station’s bathroom located in the Tranquility module during the morning. Afterward, Morgan photographed bacteria samples for an experiment seeking improved therapies for antibiotic-resistant infections.

Commander Oleg Skripochka spent the majority of his day focusing on life support and computer activities over in the Russian segment of the space station. In the afternoon, the veteran cosmonaut set up and activated gear that observes the atmosphere at nighttime in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.