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.

Space Biology on Station Ahead of Cargo and Crew Ship Activities

Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are pictured in front of the hatch to the Space Dragon resupply ship shortly after it was attached to the Harmony module on March 9.

The Expedition 62 crew wrapped up the workweek with more space biology research to understand what living in space does to the human body. The International Space Station is also getting ready to send off a U.S. cargo craft and swap crews.

A 3D bioprinter inside the station’s Columbus laboratory module is being deactivated and stowed today after a week of test runs without using human cells. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir packed up the device that seeks to demonstrate manufacturing human organs to help patients on Earth. The Bio-Fabrication Facility may even lead to future crews printing their own food and medicines on missions farther away from Earth.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan checked out hardware for an experiment exploring how to create heart cells on the orbiting lab. The investigation may lead to advanced treatments for cardiac conditions on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Meir are also getting the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship ready for its departure on April 6. The duo gathered U.S. spacesuit components and packed them inside Dragon for engineering analysis on the ground.

During the morning, Commander Oleg Skripochka continued servicing a variety of laptop computers in the station’s Russian segment. After lunchtime, the veteran cosmonaut serviced hardware for a pair of experiments, one looking at the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the other to understand the degradation of station gear.

Back on Earth at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in final preparations for their April 9 launch to the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stepped out of the Cosmonaut Hotel today for pre-launch activities celebrating spaceflight heroes such as Yuri Gagarin.

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.

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.

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.