VR, Space Biology Studies as Crew Nears Departure

Astronauts (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide talk to journalists on Earth before their return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.
Astronauts (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide talk to journalists on Earth before their return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.

A pair of astronauts aboard the International Space Station studied advanced piloting controls using virtual reality today. In the meantime, four Expedition 66 crewmates are turning their attention to returning to Earth this month.

An experiment sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency) is using virtual reality in the space environment to help engineers optimize workstations and interfaces for controlling future space robots and spacecraft. Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA set up the Pilote experiment this morning for NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur who wore the virtual reality headset. She worked in the Columbus laboratory module wearing the VR goggles using a haptic controller to pilot and capture simulated spacecraft in a video game-like environment.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked throughout Friday on a variety of station hardware. Kimbrough worked in the in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module servicing thermal gear as Hoshide checked out lights and orbital plumbing systems in the Kibo laboratory module.

Kimbrough will also lead McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide back to Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour. The quartet have been packing Endeavour with personal items and station hardware, as well as training on a computer for the ride back home. The four commercial crew astronauts will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing port and splashdown off the coast of Florida ending a station mission that began in April.

The orbiting lab’s other three crewmates, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, will continue their stay in space until spring next year.

Vande Hei trained throughout Friday for his role when he will be monitoring the Crew Dragon’s upcoming undocking and departure. He also checked U.S. toilet sensors before ending his day setting up hardware to collect biological samples. Shkaplerov continued cargo transfers inside the ISS Progress 79 resupply ship then photographed the Photobioreactor hybrid life support system experiment for inspection. Dubrov explored ways to maintain safe, sterile conditions when conducting microgravity biology research for the Aseptic study.

Station Readies for Crew Departure Amid Science and Cargo Work

The city lights of southern India and the island nation of Sri Lanka, beneath the Earth's airglow, are pictured from the station as it orbited above the Indian Ocean.
The city lights of southern India and the island nation of Sri Lanka, beneath the Earth’s airglow, are pictured from the station as it orbited above the Indian Ocean.

Four International Space Station astronauts continue packing their U.S. spacecraft as they plan for a return to Earth this month. Meanwhile, the Expedition 66 crew continued its ongoing space research and maintenance aboard the orbital lab.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, who are also the commander and pilot of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission respectively, have been loading and readying the Crew Dragon Endeavour for its upcoming undocking and splashdown. The duo may undock for the ride back to Earth as early as Sunday, Nov. 7, with astronauts Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) ending a mission that began in April. NASA and SpaceX are continuing to review launch and return opportunities for Crew-3 and Crew-2, respectively.

Kimbrough also spent the day uninstalling incubator components before inspecting portable emergency gear. McArthur photographed a variety of space station tools for a survey. Hoshide replaced air filters as Pesquet organized cables and checked camera sensors.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei, who is over halfway through his near yearlong mission, opened up the Microgravity Science Glovebox on Thursday morning and began setting up a semiconductor crystal experiment. The study takes advantage of microgravity and lessons from previous studies to produce higher-quality semiconductor crystals potentially resulting in smaller, more powerful electronic devices.

The station’s two cosmonauts, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov from Roscosmos, focused their activities today on the docked ISS Progress 78 and 79 resupply ships. The duo checked docking components on the both cargo craft while also unpacking science gear from the Progress 79 spacecraft.

NASA TV to Air Crew Dragon’s Port Relocation

The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon maneuvers to another port on the International Space Station on April 5, 2021
The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon maneuvers to another port on the International Space Station on April 5, 2021

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts on the International Space Station will relocate their Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft Wednesday, July 21, setting the stage for a historic first when two different U.S. commercial spacecraft built for crew will be docked to the microgravity laboratory at the same time.

Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will board the Crew Dragon spacecraft about 4:30 a.m. and undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port at 7:32 a.m.

The relocation will free up Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, scheduled for launch Friday, July 30, as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). The flight will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data about Boeing’s crew transportation system, and help NASA certify Starliner and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.

This will be the second port relocation of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifted off April 23 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station April 24. Crew-2, targeted to return in early-to-mid November, is the second of six certified crew missions NASA and SpaceX have planned as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew-1 Splashdown Waved Off as Station Teems With Science

The 11-member crew aboard the station is actually a combination of three different crews. The four Space Crew-2 astronauts are in the back row. The three-person crew of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship are in the middle row. In the front row is the SpaceX Crew-1 foursome.
The 11-member crew aboard the station is actually a combination of three different crews. The four Space Crew-2 astronauts are in the back row. The three-person crew of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship is in the middle row. In the front row, is the SpaceX Crew-1 foursome.

NASA and SpaceX have decided to move Crew-1’s undocking and splashdown from Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, respectively, following a review of the forecast weather conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which continue to predict wind speeds above the return criteria. Mission teams from NASA and SpaceX will meet again on Friday to further review opportunities for the safe return of Crew-1. Crew Dragon is in great health on the space station, and teams will continue to look for the optimal conditions for both splashdown and recovery.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide is leading the Expedition 65 crew and will stay in space until October with his Crew-2 crewmates Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet. Also staying behind on the orbital lab are Soyuz MS-18 crewmates Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov.

All 11 of the orbital residents stayed busy today with human research studies, lab maintenance, and emergency gear training as the Crew Dragon departure activities were under way.

The station was teeming with science on Thursday with the crew collecting and stowing urine samples, conducting behavioral research, and exploring how affects grip and movement. Fuel bottles supporting combustion experiments were swapped out while new hardware was installed to activate a high-performance space computer study.

Crew Dragon Docks to Station Day After Launch

The SpaceX Crew Dragon approaches its space station docking port with the Kibo laboratory module in the foreground. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Crew Dragon approaches its space station docking port with the Kibo laboratory module in the foreground. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet arrived at the International Space Station Saturday, as the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to the complex at 5:08 a.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying 264 miles above the Indian Ocean.

Following Crew Dragon’s link up to the Harmony module, the astronauts aboard the Endeavour and the space station will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening scheduled for 7:15 a.m.

Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will join the Expedition 65 crew of Shannon Walker, Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-1 astronauts Walker, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi return a few days later.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are continuing to provide live continuous coverage of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

Follow along and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2.  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.