Science Soon Resumes on Cosmic Ray Detector, Crew Packs Cargo Ship for Departure

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano
Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano work on get-ahead tasks after completing thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Engineers on the ground have begun powering up the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal system following a successful repair spacewalk over the weekend. The Expedition 61 astronauts are now preparing a U.S. cargo craft for its departure at the end of the week.

It took four spacewalks over three months to restore and upgrade thermal operations on the AMS. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano wrapped up the complex repair job on Saturday for the 8-year-old cosmic particle detector. Soon after the spacewalk, payload controllers reported stable cooling operations on the AMS, and are continuing to monitor its thermal conditions. The AMS will soon resume its search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter once the system checkouts are complete.

The crew are now turning their attention to packing Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship with trash and discarded hardware. Robotics controllers in Mission Control will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST after 88 days attached to the Unity module. The private cargo carrier will reenter Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific for a fiery, but safe disposal.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch started Monday on housecleaning tasks. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano cleaning fans and filters and disinfecting surfaces containing microbes and condensation.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov is getting the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship ready for its return to Earth on Feb. 6. He will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Koch and Parmitano just three and half hours after undocking from the Poisk module. Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days on her first mission, second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Expedition 61 Ready for Saturday Spacewalk During Human Research Today

An aurora blankets the Earth beneath a celestial night sky
An aurora blankets the Earth beneath a celestial night sky as the space station orbited 261 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North America.

The Expedition 61 astronauts are ready to finish repairing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) after wrapping up their spacewalk preparations today. The International Space Station residents today also had time to explore what microgravity is doing to their muscles and digestive system.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano have readied the U.S. spacesuits they will wear for about six hours and thirty minutes beginning Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST. They will finalize the complex thermal repairs on the AMS, a dark matter and antimatter detector, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure.

Morgan and Parmitano were joined by NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch for a final procedures review with mission controllers on the ground. Meir and Koch will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm carefully making fine-tuned maneuvers to assist the spacewalkers at the AMS worksite.

Meir and Koch began their workday by performing scans of their neck, arm, leg and feet muscles with an ultrasound device. The scans are downlinked to doctors studying how weightlessness affects the biochemical properties of muscles. The pair also collected their blood samples and stowed them in a science freezer for the human research study. Insights my impact health strategies on future long-term space missions.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent Friday morning on a Russian digestion study today scanning their stomachs with another ultrasound device before and after breakfast. They split up in the afternoon working on a variety of station hardware maintenance and crew departure activities.

Spacewalk Preps Underway as Station Orbits Higher Ahead of Crew Departure

Astronaut Andrew Morgan
Astronaut Andrew Morgan holds on to a handrail during the second spacewalk to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on Nov. 22, 2019.

The International Space Station is orbiting higher today as three Expedition 61 crewmates get ready to return to Earth in two weeks. Meanwhile, two astronauts are finalizing preparations for a spacewalk early Saturday.

Russia’s Progress 74 cargo craft fired its engines twice boosting the space station’s altitude Thursday morning. The orbital adjustment sets up the correct trajectory for the undocking and landing of the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Feb. 6.

The Soyuz MS-13 will be commanded by Alexander Skvortsov returning home with astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:14 a.m. EST (3:14 p.m. Kazakh time). Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days, second only to U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days.

The third spacewalk of January 2020 is set to begin Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST with live NASA TV coverage getting under way at 5:30 a.m. Parmitano with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will complete the complex thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a dark matter and antimatter detector.

Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will assist the spacewalkers with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and are getting up to speed with the fine-tuned robotics maneuvers. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano as the quartet reviewed spacewalk tasks and procedures.

Spacewalking Team Relaxing as Cosmonauts Work Science, Crew Departure

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan
(From left) Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan work on U.S. spacesuits they will wear on a spacewalk scheduled for Jan. 25.

The Expedition 61 spacewalking team aboard the International Space Station is taking a light-duty day ahead of this weekend’s excursion. Meanwhile, the Russian space residents researched human biology and prepared for a crew departure early next month.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano took it easy on Tuesday, relaxing before they begin a six-hour spacewalk on Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST to repair a cosmic ray detector. The duo began organizing their spacewalk tools, custom-designed for the unique job, just after lunch today. NASA TV will start its live broadcast of the spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch spent an hour today reviewing Canadarm2 robotics procedures they will use to assist Saturday’s spacewalkers. Meir and Koch also spent the majority of the day relaxing, having completed two spacewalks in less than a week on Monday.

The Russian duo, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka explored ways to maximize the effectiveness of space exercise. They also studied wearing and operating a specialized suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit, which counteracts the upward flow of body fluids caused by microgravity.

Skvortsov is also packing the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship that will return him, Koch and Parmitano to Earth on Feb. 6. The trio will undock and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan. Koch will have accumulated 328 consecutive days in space upon landing second only to U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days.

Spacewalkers Switch Focus to Final Repairs on Cosmic Ray Detector

Reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir's spacesuit helmet
The reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir’s spacesuit helmet is fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch photographing her crewmate during a spacewalk

The Expedition 61 astronauts have one more spacewalk planned this weekend and they will finish the repair of a cosmic ray detector. This will be the ninth spacewalk for the crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch have turned their attention from Monday’s spacewalk to help two crewmates going on a very different spacewalk on Saturday. The pair completed a spacewalk yesterday upgrading power systems on the Port-6 truss structure.

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finalize thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on Saturday. The AMS, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure, is an astrophysics device searching for evidence of dark matter and antimatter.

The duo will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST signifying the official start of their spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of the planned six-hour AMS repair excursion at 5:30 a.m.

Meir and Koch will be getting up to speed this week with the Canadarm2 robotics procedures necessary to assist Morgan and Parmitano during Saturday’s spacewalk. The quartet gathered together Tuesday afternoon and began reviewing the spacewalk plan with specialists in Mission Control.

Astronauts Eye Wednesday Spacewalk as Space Science Continues

NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir collect biological samples for stowage inside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

The first spacewalk of 2020 is set for Wednesday and the Expedition 61 crew is finalizing spacesuit checks and procedure reviews. The residents aboard the International Space Station also had time set aside for more microgravity research today.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are preparing to step outside into the vacuum of space together in their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries upgrading station power systems on the Port-6 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST with the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin at 6:50 a.m.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan joined the spacewalkers today to review spacewalk procedures. The two astronauts will stay inside the station on Wednesday to provide Canadarm2 robotics support for Meir and Koch.

Parmitano and Morgan also juggled a variety of science and life support duties today. Morgan worked on orbital plumbing tasks before studying how flames spread in weightlessness. Parmitano cleaned cell science hardware and updated supplies in the Human Research Facility-1.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov investigated how microgravity affects blood circulation in order to maintain crew health during long-term space missions. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka set up hardware to observe a layer of the Earth’s upper atmosphere called the mesosphere at different wavelengths.

Eye Checks, Pain Studies and Spacesuit Checks Wrap up Workweek

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit, with a patch of the Italian flag on the left shoulder, that Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) wore during a spacewalk on Dec. 2, 2019.

The Expedition 61 crew is continuing more research today into how the human body adapts to living in microgravity. U.S. spacesuits aboard the International Space Station are also being readied for the first of three spacewalks planned to start Jan. 15.

Eye checks were on the schedule Friday afternoon as astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch took turns as Crew Medical Officer. The duo scanned the eyes of NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) using an ultrasound device and optical coherence tomography gear.

Morgan started the morning setting up a specialized mouse habitat that can create artificial gravity conditions aboard the orbiting lab. Mice physiology resembles that of humans, providing scientists fundamental insights into cellular and genetic alterations that occur in weightlessness.

Meir is getting the spacesuits ready she and Koch will wear on Jan. 15 and 20 for a pair of power maintenance spacewalks. She scrubbed cooling loops and filled water tanks before checking out suit hardware and checking for leaks. The spacewalking duo will replace older batteries with newer, more powerful batteries on the orbiting lab’s Port-6 truss structure.

In the Russian segment of the space station, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks. Skvortsov also researched how microgravity affects pain sensation while Skripochka photographed the condition of space-exposed hardware.

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Returning Science and Cargo

The SpaceX Dragon separates from the International Space Station
A camera on the tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm views the SpaceX Dragon as it separates from the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 10:42 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 271 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 19th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

A key component being returned aboard Dragon is a faulty battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU), which failed to activate following the Oct. 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss. The BCDU was removed and replaced during a spacewalk Oct. 18 by Expedition 61 flight engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA. The unit are being returned to teams on Earth for an evaluation and repair.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Dec. 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later with almost 3,400 pounds of science, supplies and cargo.

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.

Dragon Released from Station Carrying Science for Earth-Analysis

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after its release
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on January 7, 2020. Credit: @Space_Station

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft released from the International Space Station at 5:05 a.m. EST after flight controllers in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

Next up, Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station, then execute a deorbit burn as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown around 10:41 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Long Beach, California. The splashdown will not air on NASA TV.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

 Tiny Radiation Resistors

Rotifer-B1 examines the effects of spaceflight on tiny aquatic animals, called rotifers, which are found in freshwater ecosystems and soil and are highly resistant to radiation on Earth. The investigation specifically looks at the metabolism and genome of the rotifer Adineta vaga to determine whether they have similar adaptation mechanisms in microgravity.

 Mice in Space

Rodent Research-19 examines myostatin and activin, molecular signaling pathways that influence muscle degradation, as possible targets for preventing muscle and bone loss during spaceflight and enhancing recovery following return to Earth. This study also could support the development of therapies for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss on Earth.

 Finding the Perfect Solution

On Earth, our bodies deal with low-level radiation through a naturally occurring protein that helps our body safely process it. The Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) study, aims to help scientists find a way to deal with the problem of radiation during long-duration spaceflight missions using the same protein that is already at work in our bodies.

 Convection and Crystallization in Microgravity

The Polymer Convection study examines the effects of gravity on formation and crystallization of Broadband Angular Selective Material (BASM), an optical material with the ability to control the reflection and absorption of light. BASM has applications in polymer packaging, optical films, solar power and electronic displays.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to 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.

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.

Live Now on NASA TV Dragon Prepares for Station Departure

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments before its release
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments before its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on June 3, 2019.

NASA Television coverage is underway for departure of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. The spacecraft is scheduled for release at approximately 5:03 a.m. EST today.

Dragon will be released from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module after flight controllers at mission control in Houston deliver remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn to leave orbit, as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 202 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, at approximately 10:41 a.m. (7:41 p.m. PST). There will be no live coverage of deorbit burn or splashdown.

A key component being returned aboard Dragon is a faulty battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU), which failed to activate following the Oct. 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss. The BCDU was removed and replaced during a spacewalk Oct. 18 by Expedition 61 flight engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA. The unit will be returned to teams on Earth for an evaluation and repair.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Dec. 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later with almost 3,400 pounds of science, supplies and cargo on SpaceX’s 19th commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.

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.