Two Rockets Prep for Launch, Crew Busy with Research

Roll Out of Soyuz TMA-20M
The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft is seen at the launch pad after being rolled out by train in the early hours of Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

A pair of spaceships is getting ready for launch to the International Space Station in less than a week. A Soyuz rocket will launch three new Expedition 47 crew members Friday evening from Kazakhstan. A few days later Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus cargo ship from Florida and deliver new science, spacewalk gear and crew supplies to the station crew.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin are counting down to their launch Friday at 5:26 p.m. EDT/9:26 p.m. UTC. They will arrive at their new home in space less than six hours later when they dock their Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft to the Poisk mini-research module. Watch the launch and docking activities live on NASA Television.

Orbital ATK is preparing to launch its Cygnus space freighter Tuesday at 11 p.m. EDT/Wednesday 3 a.m. UTC for a four-day trip to replenish the Expedition 47 crew. Cygnus will launch atop a United Launch Alliance rocket from Kennedy Space Center on its sixth Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA. The Cygnus launch and rendezvous will be covered live on NASA TV.

Back in space aboard the orbital laboratory, astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake participated in more eye checks for the Ocular Health study. The duo is also exploring how living in space affects the side effects and the dosage of medication on the human body. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko explored stresses on the station’s structure and researched how international crews and mission controllers inter-relate during missions.

Space Research on Station Advancing Society

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was photographed by an Expedition 47 crew member.

Much of the research taking place onboard the International Space Station helps doctors improve health for citizens on Earth and astronauts living in space. Other station experiments help engineers design smarter materials and better technologies to advance business and space industries.

At the beginning of the day, British astronaut Tim Peake joined Commander Tim Kopra for blood pressure checks. The duo also checked the fluid pressure in each other’s eyes using a tonometer with support from doctor’s on the ground. The medical checks are part of the ongoing Ocular Health study that seeks to understand vision problems some astronauts have reported after their long-term missions.

Kopra then started researching liquid crystals and their potential for better display screens on spacecraft systems. Afterward, he collected and stored samples for a study that explores how microbes influence the human immune system in space.

Peake spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the COLBERT treadmill located in the Tranquility module. Veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko studied radiation exposure before cleaning fans and air ducts inside a pair of Russian modules.

Crew Studies Living in Space Before New Trio Launches

Commander Tim Kopra
Commander Tim Kopra works inside the Zvezda service module.

The three residents onboard the International Space Station are busy today researching space science to benefit life on Earth and future crews. The trio is also ramping up to welcome a new set of Expedition 47-48 crew members when they arrive at the end of the week.

Scientists are researching how astronauts perform complex and detailed tasks before, during and after their long-term space missions. Commander Tim Kopra contributed to that study today, known as the Fine Motor Skills experiment, by conducting a series of interactive tasks on a touchscreen tablet. Kopra is also getting ready for another experiment that observes the impact of microbes on a crew member’s immune system.

British astronaut Tim Peake started the day conducting the final experiment run for the Magvector electromagnetic study. He then moved on to Japan’s Kibo lab and replaced Payload Data Handling hardware required to run future life science experiments.

In the Russian side of the orbital lab, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko is preparing for the arrival of three new crew members. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft Friday at 5:26 p.m. EDT/9:26 p.m. UTC and dock less than six hours later to the Pirs docking compartment.

Communications Gear Work to Ready Station for Future

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko
Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko is inside the seven-window cupola prepared to photograph the Earth below.

The International Space Station is being upgraded with new communications gear as NASA moves ahead with its Commercial Crew Program. Meanwhile, science taking place on the orbital laboratory today included human research and Earth photography.

Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake were back at work today installing hardware that will communicate with future commercial crew vehicles. The equipment will enable hardline and frequency communications with the private spacecraft during rendezvous, docking and mated activities.

Kopra also conducted a quarterly inspection of a treadmill ensuring it is in operable condition. He later conducted a ham radio pass with students at the University of North Dakota, the 1,000th such contact made possible by the ARISS program.

Peake spent a few moments collecting a saliva sample for a study that observes the human immune system in space. He is also helping engineers understand the factors necessary for a comfortable living space during long term missions.

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko explored Earth photography techniques to better identify features on the ground. He also researched the effects of living in space on blood circulation.

Crew Practices Emergency Escape before Afternoon Research

Starry Night Pass
An Expedition 47 crew member photographed the Earth’s limb during a starry night pass. One of the International Space Station’s solar arrays is seen in the right foreground.

This morning the three Expedition 47 crew members practiced evacuating the International Space Station in the event of an emergency. Afterward, it was back to work on advanced space science and orbital lab maintenance.

Several times a year the station residents get together to practice the communication and procedures necessary to escape an emergency situation. The crew practiced departing the space station quickly today and entering their docked Soyuz spacecraft for use as a lifeboat.

Before the emergency drill, Commander Tim Kopra of NASA and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) participated in a series of tests on a touchscreen tablet for the Fine Motor Skills study. The experiment is helping researchers understand how astronauts concentrate and work on detailed tasks and sensitive equipment during and after a long-term space mission.

After the drill, the trio split up as Kopra studied liquid crystals to help engineers design better display screens for use on Earth and in space. Peake moved on to the Magvector experiment and studied magnetic fields and electrical conductivity, possibly setting up the space station for future astrophysics research. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko investigated the forces the station experiences during orbital reboosts, spacecraft dockings and spacewalks among other activities.


Crew Sets Up Experiment Ahead of Next SpaceX Mission

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake answers questions from U.S. and British journalists Tuesday morning. Credit: NASA TV

The Expedition 47 trio conducted a wide variety of science today. The crew explored life science, physics research and crew performance.

Astronaut Tim Peake is setting up the Microgravity Science Glovebox for Rodent Research operations. That experiment is due to start after the arrival of the next SpaceX mission due in the spring. Scientists will use the research to learn how to prevent muscle atrophy and bone loss in space.

Commander Tim Kopra also worked with the Microgravity Science Glovebox installing gear for a different experiment. The OASIS study explores the unique behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity with potential benefits for display devices on Earth and in spacecraft. Kopra also explored how living in space affects cognitive performance by taking brief computerized tests.

Veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko transferred cargo from the new 62P resupply ship docked to the Pirs docking compartment. He also studied radiation exposure on the Russian side of the International Space Station using simulated tissue.

Crew Readying Station for Future Commercial Crew Vehicles

Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake
Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake perform medical work in the Columbus laboratory module.

The three orbiting residents on the International Space Station worked on commercial crew vehicle equipment and lab maintenance today. The crew members also worked on life science and physics research to improve life for citizens on Earth and future space crews.

British astronaut Tim Peake started installing and routing cables that will enable communications with future commercial crew vehicles. The Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles, or C2V2, consists of both radio frequency and hardline connections that will be used during rendezvous, docking and mated activities at the space station.

Commander Tim Kopra installed and tested acoustic equipment in the U.S. Destiny lab module that will listen for air and pressure leaks. The tests will contribute to the development of a system that can differentiate between harmless background noise and potential leaks. Kopra also checked out gear that will support research on biological samples such as small plants, animal cells and microorganisms.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko explored methods to detect and locate micrometeoroid impacts outside the station. The veteran cosmonaut also photographed areas on Earth impacted by natural or man-made disasters for the long-running Uragan experiment.

Station Lifts Orbit Before New Crew Launches

Expedition 47-48 Crew Members
Expedition 47-48 crew members (from left) Jeff Williams, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka are pictured before leaving to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan.

The Expedition 47 crew onboard the International Space Station is getting ready to welcome three new crew members when they launch in two weeks. The station will raise its orbit tonight to the correct altitude to receive the new crew that will launch inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin are counting down to their March 18 launch scheduled for 5:26 p.m. EST/10:26 p.m. UTC. They are in Kazakhstan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site checking out their Soyuz spacecraft today. This will be Williams’ fourth trip to the orbital lab, Skripochka’s second and Ovchinin’s first.

The three current space station residents are NASA astronaut and Commander Tim Kopra, European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. The orbiting trio worked today on high-flying plumbing tasks, participated in a variety of space research and exercised to stay healthy and in shape during their long-term mission.

U.S., Russian and British Crew Continuing Station Operations

British Astronaut Tim Peake
British astronaut Tim Peake works on an experiment that explores the risk of breathing in toxic dust during a future crewed mission to Mars.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has returned to Houston and his Expedition 46 crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov have returned to Russia. Their historic mission is over but there are three crew members who are still orbiting Earth on the International Space Station.

The new station commander of Expedition 47, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, worked on the Water Recovery System that converts urine into pure drinking water. After that, he took a look at the humanoid robot, also known as Robonaut2, for some troubleshooting activities.

British astronaut Tim Peake was inside the Columbus lab module today checking out science hardware for a magnetic field experiment and a payload transfer rack. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who has visited the orbital lab five times, worked on Russian life support gear.

A new set of space station crew members is getting ready to join Expedition 47 when they launch March 18 U.S. time. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin will ride the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft for a six-hour trip to their new home in space.

Scott Kelly Returns to Houston After Year In Space

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to friends, family and NASA officials shortly after arriving in Houston early Thursday morning. Behind Scott from left are, Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States; Mark Kelly, former astronaut and Scott’s twin brother; Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator; and Ellen Ochoa, Johnson Space Center Director. Credit: NASA TV

Just before 2:30 a.m. EST Thursday, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly landed at Houston’s Ellington Field, marking his return to the U.S. following an agency record-setting year in space aboard the International Space Station.

Those on hand to greet him in Houston included Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Dr. John P. Holdren, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Kelly’s identical twin brother and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

Scott Kelly returned to Earth March 1, along with his one-year mission crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, and cosmonaut Sergey Volkov.