Crew Dragon Returns as SpaceX, Russia Prep Future Crew Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Three humans are orbiting Earth today aboard the International Space Station following the return on Sunday of NASA’s first commercial crew.

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will stay in space until October. The orbital trio are continuing critical space research benefitting humans on and off the Earth as well as maintaining the orbital lab.

Back on Earth, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are adapting to Earth’s gravity following a two-month mission on the station. Representing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, duo is the first crew to launch to space and splashdown on Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle.

SpaceX has completed its demonstration mission phase and has already booked two operational Crew Dragon missions. Crew-1 is planned for later this year and Crew-2 is targeted for Spring 2021. Both commercial crew missions will launch four astronauts each to the space station to continue microgravity science.

Russia will launch three Expedition 64 crew members to the station one week before the Expedition 63 crew returns to Earth in October. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will liftoff inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship to begin a six-month mission aboard the orbital lab.

Crew Dragon Go For Splashdown, Station Science Continues

NASA and SpaceX mission managers met Thursday night and are proceeding, weather permitting, with the return to Earth of two astronauts. Meanwhile, space research to improve life for humans on and off the planet kept the Expedition 63 crew busy today.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are packing up to end a two-month mission aboard the International Space Station. They are scheduled to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft and undock on Saturday evening from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. The duo would splashdown on Sunday wrapping up NASA’s first crewed mission since 2011. NASA TV will provide continuous coverage of the departure and Earth return activities.

The veteran astronauts also completed their science assignments today that saw studies into unique fluids, biomedicine, autonomous robotics and more. However, Commander Chris Cassidy, who is staying in space until October, was busy all-day researching water droplets, observing extreme temperatures and sequencing microbial DNA.

Hurley serviced science freezers that preserve biological samples for later analysis. He finally powered down the Astrobee free-flying robots that will soon see students competing to create the best algorithms to control the devices. Behnken finalized his work observing microgravity’s effects on water droplets to improve conservation and pressure techniques.

The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, continued their schedule of science and maintenance today. Ivanishin worked on a variety of communications gear during the morning before activating Russian radiation detectors in the afternoon. Vagner once again photographed Earth landmarks today then sampled the station’s air and surfaces to analyze and identify microbes.

Astronauts Talk to Press on Friday Before Crew Dragon Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.

Two Flight Engineers and the Expedition 63 Commander, all from NASA, will talk to journalists Friday morning before the SpaceX Crew Dragon completes its stay at the International Space Station.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, NASA’s first commercial crew, have been aboard the orbiting lab since May 31. They have been packing the Crew Dragon spacecraft and testing its systems to get ready for this weekend’s scheduled undocking and return to Earth. NASA TV will provide continuous live coverage of their departure and splashdown activities.

The NASA station trio, including Commander Chris Cassidy, will answer questions Friday morning from a variety of reporters calling up to space. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew News Conference live beginning at 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Orbital science is still ongoing today amidst Hurley and Behnken’s departure preparations. Cassidy was observing how microgravity shapes water droplets possibly improving water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth. Even the homebound duo put in some research time studying light-manipulating materials and starting up an experimental radiation detector.

Earth observations are part of the critical research program taking place onboard the station. First-time cosmonaut Ivan Vagner photographed Earth landmarks today to understand and forecast the effects of natural and man-made catastrophes. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued unloading the new Progress 76 cargo craft while updating the station’s inventory system.

Crew Dragon Suit Checks as Station Begins Orbital Reboosts

This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew checked out SpaceX Crew Dragon suits today and stayed busy with a full slate of space research. The International Space Station also completed the first of three orbital reboosts to get ready for the next crew mission in October.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inspected the suits they will wear when they return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon spaceship. The duo tried on their suits for a fit check and ensured the components are in good condition. They are scheduled to depart the station on Saturday and splashdown the following day. NASA TV will cover all the departure activities live.

The homebound-duo started the day replacing environmental control system (ECS) hardware aboard the orbiting lab. That work required temporarily removing a plant habitat from the Unity module to access the ECS.

Commander Chris Cassidy had his hands full as he worked on specialized hardware that enables research into disordered solids, or glass, and materials heated to extreme temperatures. He first set up a Light Microscopy Module that will look at the microscopic transition of glass-forming materials. Next, he worked on the Electromagnetic Levitator that observes the thermophysical properties of liquid metallic alloys.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stayed busy today as they checked out Orlan spacesuits, serviced life support gear and analyzed station air samples for impurities.

The docked Progress 75 resupply ship fired its engines this morning for five-and-a-half minutes slightly lifting the station’s orbit. There will be two more station reboosts before the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship launches in October with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. They will dock to the Rassvet module a few hours after launch to begin a six-month mission as the Expedition 64 crew.

Wide Range of Space Science Keeps Crew Busy

This picture from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew tackled a wide range of advanced space science today as NASA’s first commercial astronauts near their departure. Robotics, genetics and fluids were just a portion of today’s research schedule as the International Space Station residents work with scientists helping to improve conditions for astronauts and Earthlings.

Flight Engineer Doug Hurley checked on AstroBee, a set of free-flying robotic assistants onboard the station, preparing it for a student programming competition later this year. Fellow NASA astronaut Bob Behnken studied how weightlessness forms water droplets to promote water conservation and improve water pressure in faucets and shower heads.

The duo continued packing their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle ahead of their scheduled departure and splashdown this weekend. NASA TV is broadcasting manager briefings, the crew news conference, the undocking and return to Earth live.

Commander Chris Cassidy checked the DNA profiles of microbe samples swabbed from station surfaces. Cassidy identified the bacteria living on the station using the portable, off-the-shelf technology familiar in laboratories and classrooms.

Earth observations were the prime research focus in the Russian side of the orbiting lab today. Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner used specialized imaging hardware to look at Earth’s upper atmosphere and photograph areas to identify catastrophes and hazards.

Two Astronauts Prep for Homecoming After Spacewalk and Cargo Mission

NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a "space-selfie" with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit.
NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a “space-selfie” with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit.

The Expedition 63 crew has started the weekend following a spacewalk and a same-day delivery this week to resupply the International Space Station. Two NASA astronauts are also getting ready to return to Earth after a two-month stay in space.

Commander Chris Cassidy cleaned water loops today inside the U.S. spacesuits he and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken wore during Tuesday’s five-hour and 29-minute spacewalk. The skilled astronaut has chalked up 10 career spacewalks gaining nearly 55 hours of external lab maintenance experience. This was also the tenth spacewalk for Behnken netting him just over 61 hours of service outside the station.

Behnken is now turning his attention to readying the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle that will return he and fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley to Earth at the beginning of August. They will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter on Aug. 1. The duo will splashdown on Aug. 2 ending NASA’s first crewed mission aboard a commercial spacecraft.

Behnken and Hurley packed clothing, personal items and other gear today inside the Crew Dragon. The two astronauts also tried on a specialized suit to help their bodies adapt to the conditions of Earth’s gravity upon their return.

Five spaceships are parked at the station after Thursday’s arrival of Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) resupply ship less than three-and-half hours after launch. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin has begun unpacking some of the nearly three tons of cargo delivered aboard the 76P. Fellow Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner assisted with the cargo transfers and updated the station’s inventory management system.

NASA Announces Crew Dragon Splashdown Date

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are pictured inside the orbiting lab shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 31.
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are pictured inside the orbiting lab shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 31.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today announced August 2 as the target splashdown date for DM-2 crew members Behnken and Hurley, with additional details on the return of this historic mission to come.

Expedition 63 Crew Gets Ready for Friday’s Spacewalk

A U.S. spacesuit is pictured surrounded by a pair of plush-doll mascots
A U.S. spacesuit is pictured surrounded by a pair of plush-doll mascots, Tremor and Little Earth, delivered aboard the first two SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicles.

The Expedition 63 crew is in final preparations today ahead of Friday’s spacewalk to replace batteries on the outside of the International Space Station. Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken will exit the station Friday around 7:35 a.m. EDT for a planned seven-hour spacewalk.

They will disconnect aging nickel-hydrogen batteries from the Starboard-6 truss structure and stow them on an external pallet. The duo will then install new lithium-ion batteries in their place upgrading the orbital lab’s power systems. The batteries store power collected from the main solar arrays and for use throughout the station.

Cassidy and Behnken organized their spacewalk tools and readied their U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock during the morning. They were joined in the afternoon by Flight Engineers Doug Hurley of NASA and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos for a quick review of tomorrow’s spacewalk procedures.

Hurley and Vagner have been reviewing their roles all week to assist tomorrow’s spacewalk. The pair will help the spacewalkers in and out of the Quest airlock as well as their spacesuits. Both crewmembers will also monitor and help choreograph the spacewalk, in conjunction with specialists on the ground, from inside the station.

NASA TV begins its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 6 a.m. This will be the seventh spacewalk for both Cassidy and Behnken who each have conducted six spacewalks on previous missions at the space station.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin spent his morning on lab maintenance on the station’s Russian segment. Afterward, Ivanishin set up sensors to monitor the radiation environment in the orbital lab.

Spacesuit Work, Earth and Physics Studies Today

The sun's glint on the Timor Sea
The sun’s glint on the Timor Sea between Indonesia and Australia is mellowed by cloud cover in this photograph from the station.

Two NASA astronauts are getting their spacesuits ready for a pair of spacewalks set to begin next week. The rest of the Expedition 63 crew juggled a variety of space science and life support work aboard the International Space Station today.

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken spent Thursday filtering cooling loops and refilling water tanks inside the U.S. spacesuits they will wear during two maintenance spacewalks. The duo will exit the station’s U.S. Quest airlock on June 26 and July 1 starting at 7:35 a.m. EDT to finalize the long-running power upgrade work.

The experienced spacewalkers, who each have six spacewalks from previous missions, reviewed their complex tasks step-by-step on a computer during the afternoon. Cassidy and Behnken will swap old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the Starboard-6 truss structure. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of both spacewalks, planned for about seven hours each, starting at 6 a.m.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley of NASA and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos reviewed their support roles for the upcoming spacewalks. They will help the astronauts in and out of their spacesuits and monitor the spacewalks from inside the orbiting lab.

Hurley later serviced samples for a space bubbles study, possibly improving oxygen and medicine delivery systems, while also working on light plumbing tasks after lunchtime. Vagner checked out communications gear, had an Earth photography session and worked on a Russian oxygen generator.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin also spent some time photographing the Earth to help scientists forecast natural and man-made catastrophes. He then continued more plasma crystal research to gain fundamental knowledge and improve spacecraft designs.

Crew Starts Week on Communications Gear and Orbital Plumbing

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy is pictured setting up a space bubbles experiment seeking ways to provide oxygen for a spacecraft or deliver drugs through a skin patch.

The five-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station started the workweek servicing a variety of communications gear. The quintet also worked on spacewalk gear, orbital plumbing and microgravity research.

NASA Commander Chris Cassidy started Monday working in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The veteran astronaut disconnected and removed an HDTV camera from Kibo’s airlock that filmed activities outside of the orbiting lab.

During the afternoon, he and fellow NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken worked in the station’s bathroom checking drain valves and recycle tanks. Located in the Tranquility module, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment also recycles urine into drinking water.

Hurley and Behnken started the morning unpacking more cargo from inside Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9). After the space plumbing work, the pair set up the U.S. Quest airlock and began organizing hardware to get ready for upcoming spacewalks.

In the Russian segment of the space station, cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner inspected headsets and cables and updated communications inventory. The duo split up in the afternoon taking pictures of the Earth and studying the station’s magnetic environment.