The Expedition 68 crew kicked off Monday preparing for a spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power generation system on Thursday. The orbital residents also researched a variety of space phenomena and packed a cargo craft ahead of its upcoming departure.
Astronauts Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) began their day reviewing procedures for a spacewalk set to begin at 8:15 a.m. EST on Thursday. The duo will spend about seven hours completing the installation of hardware to ready the space station for its next roll-out solar array on the starboard truss structure. This will be their second spacewalk together and they will finish the external installation job they began on Jan. 20.
NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio joined Mann and Wakata during Monday afternoon for a conference with spacewalk specialists on the ground at Mission Control in Houston. Cassada and Rubio will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, and monitor the excursion from inside the orbiting lab.
Cassada and Rubio also had time on Monday servicing botany and physics research hardware. Cassada worked inside the Kibo laboratory module planting seeds in the Advanced Plant Habitat for an experiment observing genetic changes in plants growing in microgravity. Rubio replaced experiment samples and research hardware inside the Combustion Integrated Rack for a study exploring how fires burn in weightlessness to improve fire safety techniques in space.
Commander Sergey Prokopyev is packing the ISS Progress 81 cargo craft with trash ahead of its departure on Feb. 6 after nearly eight-and-a-half months docked to the Zvezda service module. A new cargo craft will replenish the Expedition 68 crew and dock on Feb. 11 to the same port vacated by the Progress 81.
Roscosmos Flight Engineers Dmitri Petelin and Anna Kikina spent Monday on human research activities and a station photography session. Petelin wore a helmet packed with sensors measuring his reactions as he simulated spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques on a computer for future planetary missions. Kikina first photographed the external condition of the Nauka and Zvezda modules before moving on and studying ways to improve communications with international crews and ground controllers.