Robonaut’s Legs Powered Up, Station Lowers Orbit

NASA and ESA Astronauts
(From left) Astronauts Barry Wilmore, Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti talk to reporters on Earth about upcoming missions. Credit: NASA TV

The Expedition 42 crew worked Wednesday with fruit flies, a humanoid robot and a Dragon spacecraft. Also, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 fired its engines for nearly five minutes, slightly lowering the station’s orbit to prepare for an upcoming ISS Progress 58 resupply mission.

Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti packed gear inside the SpaceX Dragon private space freighter for retrieval on Earth. The Dragon will return to Earth on Feb. 10 when it will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean for recovery off the coast of Baja California. Cristoforetti later fed fruit flies for an experiment studying their immune system as a model for a crew member’s susceptibility to disease in space.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Flight Engineer Terry Virts unpacked Robonaut in the Destiny then powered up the humanoid robot for a mobility test during the afternoon. Its legs received power for the first time Wednesday. Virts monitored the leg movements in conjunction with operators on the ground.

› Watch the time-lapse video of the blizzard over the northeast United States taken from the International Space Station

Virts and Wilmore Preparing for Trio of Spacewalks

Commander Barry Wilmore
Commander Barry Wilmore works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore are getting a pair of U.S. spacesuits ready for a set of spacewalks beginning in February. Throughout Tuesday in the Quest airlock, they recharged suit batteries and checked out fans and other suit components.

Virts also joined Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti transferring cargo to and from the SpaceX Dragon commercial space freighter. Dragon completed its delivery when it was captured and berthed to the Harmony module Jan. 12. It will return to Earth Feb. 10 filled with science and other gear for recovery in the Pacific Ocean.

› Read about when Dragon arrived

Another spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5), will fire its engines Wednesday slightly lowering the station’s orbit. The lower altitude places the station at the correct altitude to receive the ISS Progress resupply craft when its launches Feb. 17. The ATV-5 will end its mission Feb. 14 when it undocks from the Zvezda service module for a fiery destruction over the Pacific.

› Read about when the ATV-5 arrived

Crew Studying Tiny Organisms to Understand Larger Organisms

Terry Virts and Alexander Samokutyaev
Astronaut Terry Virts (foreground) works inside the Destiny lab module as cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev floats past him. Credit: NASA TV

After a week of medical science activities, the space station residents began the new week focusing on worms, fruit flies and plants. The tiny organisms provide scientists a model for larger organisms and how microgravity affects such things as immunity, muscles and bones.

› Read more about the Epigenetics experiment
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Botany science in space helps scientists understand how plant cells and roots develop potentially supporting future crews on long-term missions and interplanetary exploration. There are numerous plant studies taking place on the station that not only may support future space missions but possibly improve crop production techniques on Earth.

› Read more about the APEX-03 botany research

The Expedition 42 crew members also worked on cargo transfers to and from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as well as the ISS Progress 57 space freighter. An array of routine maintenance tasks were on the schedule including high-flying plumbing, spacesuit battery recharges and science hardware set ups.

CATS Installed, Eye Checks and Science Maintenance for Crew

Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore
Astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore check science hardware inside the Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA TV

With CATS successfully installed to an external platform on Japan’s Kibo laboratory, the Expedition 42 crew spent Friday working life science, combustion and a variety of other experiments.

› Read more about CATS

The Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), located inside the Destiny lab module, needs fuel so scientists can ignite materials to study the behavior of flames and smoke in space. Pieces of hardware that store and deliver fuel, including igniter tips, were replaced on the CIR Friday by Commander Barry Wilmore to keep the rack in operating condition.

Astronauts Terry Virts – with the help of Samantha Cristoforetti and doctors on the ground – participated in more eye checks, undergoing ultrasound scans and an echocardiogram to gather more information. The Ocular Health study seeks to understand how microgravity affects a crew member’s eyes and explain why some astronauts report impaired vision during their missions in space.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study

Virts also checked samples and transferred data collected for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. Cristoforetti checked on the station’s fruit flies, and later worked maintenance on the Magvector study that observes how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Robotic Arms Move CATS While Crew Studies Life Science

Kibo and CATS Installation
The Japanese robotic arm installs the CATS experiment on an external platform on Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is seen at the right center of the image. Credit: NASA TV

Ground controllers overnight remotely guided the Canadarm2, with its Dextre robotic hand attached, to deftly remove the CATS experiment from the SpaceX Dragon trunk. They then handed it off to the Japanese robotic arm for installation on the Kibo laboratory’s external platform. CATS, or Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, will collect data on the pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in Earth’s atmosphere to understand their impacts on global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Back inside the International Space Station, the Expedition 42 crew worked on an array of new and ongoing science and continued unpacking Dragon. There were eye exams as well as research into the effects of long stays in space on the human T-cells, which are a critical part of our immune system.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study
› Read more about the T-Cell Activation in Aging study

The crew also looked at how certain materials behave in space for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. In addition, they checked on the station’s fruit flies, which are also monitored by scientists studying their immune system as a model for a crew member susceptibility to disease in space.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Crew Works Botany and Physics as Robotic Arm Preps New Experiment

Kibo Laboratory
The new CATS experiment delivered by the SpaceX commercial cargo craft will be installed on a platform outside Japan’s Kibo Laboratory module. Credit: NASA

The six-member Expedition 42 crew worked Dragon cargo transfers and science on the International Space Station Wednesday.

Commander Barry Wilmore conducted botany research and harvested plants grown for the Advanced Plant Experiments-03-1 (APEX-03-1). The thale cress plants are photographed and preserved in a science freezer for analysis on the ground.

› Read more about APEX-03-1

NASA astronaut Terry Virts processed samples for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which studies the processes that occur in materials for consumer and industrial products. He later unpacked more gear from inside Dragon.

› Read more about CSLM-2

Ground controllers are preparing the Canadarm2 and Dextre to remove the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) experiment from Dragon’s exposed trunk and install it on a platform on the outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory. CATS will observe aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere to understand the impacts to global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Specialists Discuss Spacesuit Work, Crew Investigates ATV Odor

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti works with the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment delivered Jan. 12, 2015 aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Credit: NASA TV
› Read more about the experiment

Ground controllers have completed troubleshooting work after last week’s false alarm indicating an ammonia leak. Heat exchangers and thermal control systems on the U.S. side of the International Space Station have been recovered and reintegrated and are operating in excellent shape.

Commander Barry Wilmore was scrubbing cooling loops on a U.S. spacesuit when he heard an abnormally loud fan pump separator in the suit. He alerted spacesuit engineers who are currently discussing the problem on the ground.

Crew members over the weekend noticed a bad odor coming from Europe’s docked Automated Transfer Vehicle and closed its hatch. European controllers then performed waste tank leak checks and didn’t find any leak indications. Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev is set to reenter the vehicle wearing a respirator mask to investigate.

Crew Back at Work Studying Immune System in Space

Astronaut Terry Virts
Astronaut Terry Virts works inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Micro-5 experiment. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station residents were back at work Thursday after an ammonia leak indication sent the crew over to the Russian segment. Flight controllers determined there was no leak and NASA managers allowed the crew to resume normal activities and open the U.S. segment back up.

This week, the orbital residents kicked off several new experiments delivered Monday morning aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked in Japan’s Kibo lab module feeding fruit flies for an experiment that will observe how long-term microgravity affects the immune system. NASA astronaut Terry Virts set up bacteria kits inside the Destiny lab’s Microgravity Science Glovebox for an experiment that explores the risk of infectious disease in space.

› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment
› Read more about the Micro-5 experiment

Astronauts Back in Station’s U.S. Segment

Astronauts wearing protective masks
Astronauts Barry WiImore (foreground) and Terry Virts re-entered the U.S. segment wearing protective masks. Credit: NASA TV

The crew opened the hatch to the U.S. segment and returned inside at 2:05 p.m. Central time. Wearing protective masks, Virts and Cristoforetti sampled the cabin atmosphere and reported no indications of any ammonia.

Station Managers Allow Crew Back In U.S. Segment

exp42_01141Mike Suffredini, International Space Station Program Manager5_blog
Mike Suffredini (left), International Space Station Program Manager, discusses Wednesday’s alarm event and the crew’s response with Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot. › Watch the video interview on YouTube Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station mission management team, including all of the station Partners, met this afternoon and directed the station’s residents to return to the U.S. segment of the complex before the end of the day, systems permitting. The decision was made hours after the crew members were isolated in the Russian segment following an alarm that could have been indicative of an ammonia leak. The crew is in good condition, was never in any danger and no ammonia leak has been detected on the orbital laboratory. They were informed of the forward plan during their afternoon daily planning conference with flight controllers in Houston, Moscow and the other Partner flight control centers.

Around 3 a.m. Central time today, Station commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency were directed to don protective masks and move into the Russian segment, closing hatches behind them to the U.S. segment due to the annunciation of an alarm that is part of the environmental systems software on the station designed to monitor the cabin’s atmosphere.  At the same time, the station’s protection software shut down one of two redundant cooling loops (Thermal Control System Loop B).

Data received from a variety of system sources on board have been studied by flight controllers throughout the day and indicate no leakage of ammonia on the station. The alarms this morning that initiated the movement of the crew out of the U.S. segment are suspected to have been caused by a transient error message in one of the station’s computer relay systems, called a multiplexer-demultiplexer. A subsequent action to turn that relay box off and back on cleared the error message and the relay box is reported by flight controllers to be in good operating condition.

As a result, the crew will re-enter the station’s U.S. segment today wearing the same protective masks they donned earlier today and will conduct measurements of the atmosphere to make sure there are no traces of ammonia present. Assuming there is no indication of ammonia, the crew will doff their masks and will remain in the U.S. segment for nominal operations.

Meanwhile, flight controllers are continuing to analyze data in an effort to determine what triggered the alarm that set today’s actions in motion. Work to reactivate cooling loop B on the station will continue throughout the night and into the day Thursday. The crew members are expected to resume a normal complement of research activities on Thursday as well.