NASA Television and the agency’s website are now broadcasting live coverage of the return to Earth of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft carrying the trio will make its deorbit burn to set the spaceship on its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere for a landing in Kazakhstan at 12:56 a.m. (10:56 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Saturday, April 17.
During the 185-day mission, Rubins spent hundreds of hours working on new space station experiments, building on investigations she conducted during her first mission, including heart research and multiple microbiology studies. She advanced her work in DNA sequencing, which could allow astronauts to diagnose an illness in space or identify microbes growing at the space station. Rubins collected hundreds of microbial samples at different locations within the space station for the 3DMM study to construct a 3D map of bacteria and bacterial products throughout the station. By advancing understanding of the orbiting laboratory’s microbiome, this work helps identify potential risks and supports developing countermeasures to mitigate those risks.
Rubins also worked on the Cardinal Heart experiment, which studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.
After a weekend that included the 237th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance for the International Space Station, featuring spacewalkers and NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins, the Expedition 64 crew members got back to the business of science, switching out hardware and working around a comprehensive emergency drill on Monday.
Running through the emergency drill, the crewmates practiced their roles during various emergency scenarios, such as who would manage the procedures, gather equipment, and close hatches, all while maintaining constant communication with teams on the ground in Mission Control.
NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker performed post-spacewalk recharge maintenance to the Extravehicular Mobility Unit suits used in Saturday’s excursion, stowing them for later use.
Astronaut Kate Rubins worked to set up experiment hardware for Transparent Alloys, an ESA (European Space Agency) investigation focusing on microstructure evolution by comparing the effects of Earth’s gravity to microgravity, pinpointing the correlation in particle size, growth dynamics, and fluid flow.
Meanwhile, Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) spent time removing and replacing hardware — the Artificial Vision Unit — in the station’s cupola, where the crew often spends time observing natural Earth phenomena from their unique vantage approximately 250 miles above.
The crew wrapped up their workday with the Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM), installing instrument hardware and taking photo documentation. Air quality in crewed spacecraft is important for astronaut health and comfort, and the APM measures the concentration of both small and large particles in the air. Captured data will eventually be used to create a detailed mapping of the air quality aboard the space station, shedding light on the sources of different air particles and how they behave in this one-of-a-kind laboratory off the planet.
NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins concluded their spacewalk at 3:01 p.m. EST, after 6 hours and 47 minutes. In the fifth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts successfully completed tasks to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear.
The duo began their work on the station’s port truss, or “backbone,” completing tasks that were deferred from previous spacewalks. The spacewalkers successfully vented the early ammonia system, relocated one of its jumper lines, and serviced the Columbus Bartolomeo payload platform, including routing three of four cables on the Payload Position (PAPOS) interface and configuring a cable for an amateur radio system. The astronauts deferred the task of installing clamps on Bartolomeo in order to route cables for high-definition cameras. The pair also replaced a wireless antenna assembly on the Unity module and installed hardware to provide additional structural integrity on the airlock.
This was the fourth career spacewalk for Glover and the fifth in Hopkins’s career. Glover has now spent a total of 26 hours and 7 minutes spacewalking. Hopkins now has spent a total of 32 hours and 1 minute spacewalking.
Space station crew members have conducted 237 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 62 days, 3 hours and 54 minutes working outside the station.
Glover is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #20. Hopkins is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the unmarked spacesuit and helmet camera #22.
Glover and Hopkins will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to vent the early ammonia system before relocating one of its jumper lines. Hopkins will then connect cables for the Columbus Bartolomeo payload platform, continuing work from a Jan. 27 spacewalk, and Glover will replace a wireless antenna assembly on the Unity module. The pair will then work together to install hardware on the airlock’s thermal cover and route cables to two high-definition cameras on the port truss.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi concluded their spacewalk at 1:33 p.m. EST, after 6 hours and 56 minutes. In the fourth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts successfully completed the installation of modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.
The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6, to install a modification kit on solar array 4B and reconfigure the modification kit on 2B, completing tasks that were started during the Feb. 28 spacewalk.
Due to time constraints, the secondary tasks of troubleshooting the Columbus Parking Position (PAPOS) Interface and removing and replacing a Wireless Video System External Transceivers Assembly (WETA) were deferred to a later spacewalk. The astronauts did, however, complete an additional task of relocating an Articulating Portable Foot Restraint (APFR).
NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays, which will be delivered on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts and ensuring sufficient power supply for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.
This was the fourth career spacewalk for both Rubins and Noguchi. Rubins has now spent a total of 26 hours and 46 minutes spacewalking. Noguchi now has spent a total of 27 hours and 1 minute spacewalking.
Space station crew members have conducted 236 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 21 hours and 7 minutes working outside the station.
Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Noguchi is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.
Rubins and Noguchi will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000. The spacewalkers will work together to complete the installation and configuration of modification kits on solar arrays 4B and 2B, which will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply. Rubins and fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover began installing the modification kits during the Feb. 28 spacewalk.
Following solar array modification kit configuration, the Rubins will conduct cable routing for the Bartolomeo platform Parking Position Interface (PAPOS) on the Columbus module, Noguchi will replace a Wireless Video System External Transceivers Assembly (WETA), and the pair will perform other get-ahead work as time permits.
The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.
Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.
To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.
This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.
Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.
During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.
Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Glover is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.
Rubins and Glover will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000 that have been powering the station for more than 20 years. The spacewalkers will work together to construct and begin installing bracket support structures at the base of the current solar arrays that will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply.
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place. Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.
Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:
A new vision
Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.
A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.
Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station
Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.
Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.
Space worms to the rescue
Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.
Preparing for the Moon
The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.
Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.
The Expedition 64 crew continued setting up a new science and cargo airlock for operations today since its installation last year on the International Space Station. The orbital residents also researched how microgravity affects humans, plants and physics.
Glover started the morning with NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module researching how the human nervous system adapts to weightlessness. The duo took turns seated in a specialized chair performing a series of dexterous manipulation tasks for the GRIP study. Insights may help engineers and doctors develop better spacecraft interfaces and treat neurological conditions on Earth.
Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov were back on exercise research today studying how the lack of gravity impacts the effectiveness of a workout. The duo strapped sensors to themselves measuring their heart and breathing rate as they jogged on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill.