Crew Awaits New Docking Module During Human Research and Space Physics

The Russian rocket with the Prichal docking module atop stands vertical at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos
The Russian rocket with the Prichal docking module atop stands vertical at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

The International Space Station is gearing up for a new Russian docking module due to arrive on Friday. In the meantime, the Expedition 66 residents focused on a variety of human research and space physics aboard the orbital lab today.

Russia’s newest docking port, the Prichal module, sits atop a rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan counting down to a launch on Wednesday at 8:06 a.m. EST. It will arrive at the station on Friday where it will automatically dock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at 10:26 a.m.

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov started Monday morning training for Prichal’s arrival. The duo from Roscosmos simulated the Russian docking port’s approach, rendezvous and docking on the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU. The TORU, located inside the Zvezda service module, can also be used to manually control and dock an approaching Russian spacecraft if necessary.

Human research continued on Monday as NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron studied how the central nervous system adapts to microgravity. The astronauts took turns wearing a virtual reality headset while seated inside the Columbus laboratory module for the GRASP experiment. The study observes a crew member reaching for virtual objects to compare hand-eye coordination and vestibular changes before, during, and after a spaceflight mission.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked on a pair of space physics experiments throughout Monday. Vande Hei first serviced samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace which enables the safe research of thermophysical properties of high temperature materials in weightlessness. Next, he opened up the Microgravity Science Glovebox and uninstalled hardware supporting research that observes processes involved in semiconductor crystal growth.

Flight Engineers Thomas Marshburn and Matthias Maurer worked throughout the day on a variety of robotics and maintenance activities. Marshburn worked on orbital plumbing tasks, collected station water samples for analysis, and took a robotics test for the Behavioral Core Measures study. Maurer partnered up with Chari practicing Canadarm2 robotic arm maneuvers planned for a spacewalk scheduled on Sept. 30th.

Crew Prioritizes Science, Training, and Exercise Before Cygnus Departure

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter pictured arriving at the International Space Station on Aug. 12, 2021. Cygnus will depart from the space station on Nov. 20, 2021.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter pictured arriving at the International Space Station on Aug. 12, 2021. Cygnus will depart from the space station on Nov. 20, 2021.

The Expedition 66 crew focused on science, training, and exercise aboard the International Space Station on Friday and prepared for the Cygnus departure tomorrow.

NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron continued the GRIP experiment that they began earlier this week. The experiment studies how long-duration spaceflight affects crews’ ability to regulate grip force and upper limbs trajectories when manipulating objects during different movements. The pair set up hardware and completed GRIP science tasks in the supine position while donning noise-canceling headphones. Chari performed the GRIP science tasks in the seated position as well.

Additionally, NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Barron completed a robotics research session for the Behavioral Core Measures experiment. The study aims to accurately assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions during extended spaceflight. Marshburn and Barron set up the appropriate robotics hardware and performed the BCM testing. Crews are expected to complete the session at least once per month, starting two weeks after they arrive aboard the space station.

For medical training, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos reviewed rescuer roles for a situation requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Emergency medical equipment was deployed during the session. The trio practiced CPR positioning to ensure they could perform the procedure in space if necessary.

Focusing on fitness, crews also squeezed in a workout today. The astronauts completed cardio exercises on a stationary bicycle and treadmill fastened to the space station and resistive exercises using equipment that enables them to lift weights in weightlessness. Crews workout on average two hours per day in space. Routine exercise helps astronauts counter the bone and muscle loss that accompanies living and working in microgravity.

Meanwhile, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer transferred data from a fiber-optic monitor called Lumina. The device tracks radiation levels aboard the space station in real-time. Maurer completed the data transfer with an iPad-based application that gathers medical data from astronauts.

Looking ahead, Barron, Chari, Marshburn, and Vande Hei made final preparations to the Cygnus cargo ship, which is slated to depart from the space station on Saturday at 11 a.m. EST. Cygnus arrived at the space station in August carrying more than  8,200 pounds of cargo. Flight controllers will remotely decouple Cygnus from the space station by forwarding commands to the Canadarm2 robotic arm from Earth. Live coverage of the spacecraft’s departure will begin at 10:45 a.m. on NASA TV.

Get the latest from NASA delivered every week. Subscribe here: www.nasa.gov/subscribe

Crew Packs Cargo Ship for Departure and Preps for Spacewalk

A pair of U.S. spacesuits that will be worn by NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron are pictured in the station's Quest airlock.
A pair of U.S. spacesuits that will be worn by NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron are pictured in the station’s Quest airlock.

The Expedition 66 crew is turning its attention to the U.S. Cygnus space freighter as it nears departure this weekend after 100 days berthed to the station’s Unity module. The astronauts are also preparing for a spacewalk to replace a faulty antenna system on the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Mark Vande Hei spent Wednesday afternoon packing Cygnus with trash and obsolete gear. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer continued the cargo loading on Thursday. He will be at the robotics workstation monitoring its departure on Saturday at 11 a.m. EST. Robotics controllers remotely operating the Canadarm2 robotic arm from Earth will command Cygnus’ release live on NASA TV starting at 10:45 a.m.

Cygnus will have one more mission as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery, but safe destruction above the Pacific Ocean. The Kentucky Re-entry Probe Experiment will deploy three capsules from Cygnus to collect and transmit thermal data from sensors embedded in heat shields. The data may help validate thermal protection systems in space and heat shield materials on Earth.

Meanwhile, Marshburn and NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron are due to exit the U.S. Quest airlock soon to swap the S-Band Antenna System with a spare already attached outside the station. Maurer will be at the controls of the Canadarm2 assisting the duo during the planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk.

Marshburn and Barron were joined by NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Mark Vande Hei inside Quest on Thursday as they tried on their U.S. spacesuits for a fit check. Chari and Vande Hei will be on duty monitoring the two astronauts during the spacewalk and helping them in and out of their spacesuits. A news conference to discuss the spacewalk activities has been scheduled for Monday, Nov. 29.

Science was back on track Thursday with the crew exploring human research, botany, and space physics. Chari and Barron tested how astronauts perceive up and down movements and grip and manipulate objects In microgravity. Vande Hei cleaned up debris around chile peppers growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat. Finally, station Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos swapped samples inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for a physics study seeking to improve the production of higher quality semiconductor crystals.

Get the latest from NASA delivered every week. Subscribe here: www.nasa.gov/subscribe

NASA TV Live for Russian Cargo Craft Redock to Station

Russia's ISS Progress 78 resupply ship approaches the International Space Station for a docking to the Poisk module two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russia’s ISS Progress 78 resupply ship approaches the International Space Station for a docking to the Poisk module two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website are providing live coverage as an uncrewed Russian cargo spacecraft arrives at the International Space Station’s Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module.

The Progress 78 spacecraft, which undocked from the station Wednesday, Oct. 20, is scheduled to make an automated docking to the new module at 12:23 a.m. Friday.

The relocation will position Progress 78 to conduct leak checks of the Nauka module’s propellent lines before they are used with the new module’s thrusters for orientation control of the station.

Another Russian cargo freighter, Progress 79, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 (5 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, Baikonur time). Progress 79 launch overage on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app will begin at 7:45 p.m.

For more than 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a global endeavor, 246 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

3D VR Cam Stowed During Eye Checks on Station

Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured 264 miles above the city lights of eastern Europe.
Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured 264 miles above the city lights of eastern Europe.

A 3D virtual reality camera that filmed Sunday’s spacewalk has been returned to the inside of the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 65 continued its space biology research and lab maintenance activities on Thursday.

A specialized video camera that filmed Sunday’s spacewalk in immersive virtual reality was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and placed on a pallet outside of the Kibo laboratory module. The camera was retracted into Kibo’s airlock Thursday morning where ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet retrieved and stowed it. The cinematic videos are part of a research program called ISS (international Space Station) Experience and are downlinked to Earth to excite and bring gravity-bound audiences closer to space.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei was the crew medical officer again on Thursday, this time scanning the eyes of Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov with an ultrasound device. Afterward, Vande Hei set up optical coherence tomography gear and imaged Dubrov’s retinas. Eye health is critical during long term space missions as doctors continue exploring how microgravity affects vision.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration (JAXA) spent Thursday morning setting up computers and cables before reconfiguring the Cell Biology Experiment Facility for upcoming research. In the afternoon, Hoshide installed a light on a spacesuit helmet then worked on transfers from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship.

Ensuring the station remains in tip-top shape, NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur worked on life support hardware in the U.S. segment of the orbiting lab. Kimbrough installed a new carbon dioxide remover in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. McArthur replaced components inside the Tranquility module’s oxygen generator.

Dubrov and Pesquet tested hardware installed in the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module that will soon communicate with and control the European robotic arm. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy spent the day servicing orbital plumbing gear in the station’s Russian segment.

Crew Turns Attention to Research Following Trio of Spacewalks

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works on the Ring-Sheared Drop experiment inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module's Microgravity Science Glovebox.
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works on the Ring-Sheared Drop experiment inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox.

The Expedition 65 crew is back on microgravity research aboard the International Space Station today after kicking off September with three spacewalks in less than two weeks.

International astronauts Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet relaxed Monday morning following their six-hour and 54-minute spacewalk on Sunday to install a modification kit on the station’s Port-4 (P4) truss structure. The Commander from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) then joined the ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer for standard health checks that take place after the strenuous spacewalks.

Afterward, Hoshide swabbed and collected microbe samples from station surfaces for incubation and analysis back on Earth. Pesquet also collected microbe samples from the station’s atmosphere for observation on petri dishes.

NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur both relaxed on Monday morning having assisted spacewalkers Hoshide and Pesquet throughout the day on Sunday. Vande Hei then moved on and swapped and cleaned components for the ACE-T-11 physics study that is exploring space manufacturing techniques. McArthur replaced fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack and later cleaned up debris in the orbiting lab’s Plant Habitat housing Hatch Green chiles growing for the Plant Habitat-04 space crop experiment.

Working throughout Monday inside the Kibo laboratory module, NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough began setting up hardware and trained for the newest rodent research experiment. Mice, delivered on the recent SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission, will soon be observed inside Kibo’s Life Science Glovebox to understand how microgravity affects the healing process.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov continue cleaning up in the station’s Russian segment following their spacewalks on Sept. 3 and Sept. 9 to configure the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module for science operations. The duo from Roscosmos also had time for life support maintenance and cargo transfers from the Progress 78 resupply ship today.

Cosmonauts Conclude First Spacewalk To Ready New Module

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov during a spacewalk to connect power and ethernet cables to the Nauka laboratory module.
Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov during a spacewalk to connect power and ethernet cables to the Nauka laboratory module.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos concluded their spacewalk at 6:35 p.m. EDT after 7 hours and 54 minutes. It is the first of up to 11 spacewalks to prepare the new Nauka multipurpose laboratory module for operations in space.

Novitskiy and Dubrov completed the major objective for today to connect power cables between the recently arrived Nauka module and the Zarya module to enable the routing of electricity from the U.S. segment of the station to Nauka. Checkouts of the two electrical power cable systems from Zarya to Nauka were successful. They also partially installed one new handrail.

Tasks deferred to a future spacewalk are to install two additional handrails to enable spacewalkers to maneuver to and about Nauka more easily, make the final connection for the ethernet cable the duo partially routed today, deploy a science investigation, jettison the ethernet cable reel following the completion of the connection, and take imagery of the Russian segment of the station.

The duo will continue work during a second spacewalk on Thursday, Sept. 9; coverage on NASA Television, the NASA app, and agency’s website will begin at 10:30 a.m. with the spacewalk expected to begin about 11 a.m. and last about five hours.

This was the 10th spacewalk this year and the 242nd overall in support of space station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 63 days, 15 hours, and 35 minutes working outside the station.

It is the second spacewalk for both cosmonauts, both of whom have now spent a total of 15 hours and 13 minutes spacewalking.

In November 2020, the International Space Station surpassed its 20-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique research and technological demonstrations that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars and also improve life on Earth. In that time, 244 people from 19 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

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.

Two Cosmonauts Exit Station for Spacewalk

Cosmonauts (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are conducting their second spacewalk together.
Cosmonauts (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are conducting their second spacewalk together.

Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos began a spacewalk to prepare the new Nauka multipurpose laboratory module for operations in space when they opened the hatch of the Poisk docking compartment airlock of the International Space Station at 10:41 a.m. EDT.

Novitskiy, designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1), is wearing a Russian Orlan spacesuit with red stripes, and Dubrov is wearing a spacesuit with blue stripes as extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2).

Coverage of the spacewalk continues on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Views from a camera on Novitskiy’s helmet are designated with the number 22, and Dubrov’s is labeled with the number 20.

The duo’s primary tasks for today’s spacewalk are to connect power and ethernet cables to the new module and install handrails to enable spacewalkers to maneuver to and about its exterior more easily.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV Coverage of Spacewalk is Underway

Cosmonauts (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are conducting their second spacewalk together.
Cosmonauts (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are conducting their second spacewalk together.

NASA Television coverage of today’s spacewalk with cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is now underway and is also available on the NASA app and the agency’s website.

The crew members of Expedition 65 are preparing to exit the International Space Station‘s Poisk module on the space-facing side of the station’s Russian segment for a spacewalk expected to begin at approximately 10:35 a.m. EDT and last as long as seven hours.

It will be the first of up to 11 spacewalks to prepare the new Nauka multipurpose laboratory module for operations in space. Watch a video animation preview of today’s spacewalk and planned activities at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfacX6864b4

During the spacewalk today and subsequent spacewalk planned for Sept. 9, the cosmonauts will install handrails on Nauka and connect power, ethernet, and data cables between the recently arrived module and the Zvezda service module. Nauka launched on a Russian Proton-M rocket July 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and docked autonomously to the Earth-facing Zvezda port July 29.

This will be the second spacewalk for both Novitskiy and Dubrov; the 242nd spacewalk in support of space station assembly, maintenance and upgrades; and the 10th and spacewalk at the station in 2021.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Successfully Docks to Station

Aug. 30, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter; the SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragon vehicles; and Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.
Aug. 30, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter; the SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragon vehicles; and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.

While the International Space Station was traveling about 260 miles over the Western Australia, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the forward-facing port of the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module at 10:30 a.m. EDT, Monday, Aug. 30. Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA monitored operations.

Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:

Building bone with byproducts
REducing Arthritis Dependent Inflammation First Phase (READI FP) evaluates the effects of microgravity and space radiation on the growth of bone tissue and tests whether bioactive metabolites, which include substances such as antioxidants formed when food is broken down, might protect bones during spaceflight. The metabolites that will be tested come from plant extracts generated as waste products in wine production. Protecting the health of crew members from the effects of microgravity is crucial for the success of future long-duration space missions. This study could improve scientists’ understanding of the physical changes that cause bone loss and identify potential countermeasures. This insight also could contribute to prevention and treatment of bone loss on Earth, particularly in post-menopausal women.

Keeping an eye on eyes
Retinal Diagnostics tests whether a small, light-based device can capture images of the retinas of astronauts to document progression of vision problems known as Space-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS). The device uses a commercially available lens approved for routine clinical use and is lightweight, mobile, and noninvasive. The videos and images will be downlinked to test and train models for detecting common signs of SANS in astronauts. The investigation is sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency) with the German Aerospace Center Institute of Space Medicine and European Astronaut Centre.

Robotic helpers
The Nanoracks-GITAI Robotic Arm will demonstrate the microgravity versatility and dexterity of a robot designed by GITAI Japan Inc. Results could support development of robotic labor to support crew activities and tasks, as well as inform servicing, assembly, and manufacturing tasks while in orbit. Robotic support could lower costs and improve crew safety by having robots take on tasks that could expose crew members to hazards. The technology also has applications in extreme and potentially dangerous environments on Earth, including disaster relief, deep-sea excavation, and servicing nuclear power plants. The experiment will be conducted inside the Nanoracks Bishop Airlockthe space station’s first commercial airlock.

Putting materials to the test
MISSE-15 NASA is one of a series of investigations on Alpha Space’s Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility, which is testing how the space environment affects the performance and durability of specific materials and components. These tests provide insights that support development of better materials needed for space exploration. Testing materials in space has the potential to significantly speed up their development. Materials capable of standing up to space also have potential applications in harsh environments on Earth and for improved radiation protection, better solar cells, and more durable concrete.

Helping plants deal with stress
Plants grown under microgravity conditions typically display evidence of stress.  Advanced Plant EXperiment-08 (APEX-08) examines the role of compounds known as polyamines in the response of the small, flowering plant thale cress to microgravity stress. Because expression of the genes involved in polyamine metabolism remain the same in space as on the ground, plants do not appear to use polyamines to respond to stress in microgravity. APEX-08 attempts to engineer a way for them to do so. Results could help identify key targets for genetic engineering of plants more suited to microgravity.

Easier drug delivery
The Faraday Research Facility is a multipurpose unit that uses the space station’s EXPRESS payload rack systems, which enable quick, simple integration of multiple payloads . On this first flight, the facility hosts a Houston Methodist Research Institute experiment and two STEM collaborations, including “Making Space for Girls” with the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council in Orlando, Florida.

The Faraday Nanofluidic Implant Communication Experiment  (Faraday-NICE) tests an implantable, remote-controlled drug delivery system using sealed containers of saline solution as surrogate test subjects. The device could provide an alternative to bulky, cumbersome infusion pumps, a possible game changer for long-term management of chronic conditions on Earth. Remote-controlled drug delivery could simplify administration for people with limitations.

partnership between Faraday and Girls Scouts allows troops to play a role in conducting the control experiments, including providing them with images of the same experiments that are happening in space. The studies involve plant growth, ant colonization, and the brine shrimp lifecycle.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through Artemis.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.