A U.S. resupply ship is being prepared for its departure from the International Space Station on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the Expedition 67 crew continued its space gardening and human research activities today to promote mission success and improve health on Earth.
Cygnus will be detached from the Unity module overnight by the Canadarm2 robotic arm remotely controlled by engineers on the ground. The Canadarm2 will maneuver Cygnus away from the station and release the cargo craft at 6:05 a.m. EDT completing a four-month stay at the orbital lab. NASA TV starts its live Cygnus release coverage at 5:45 a.m. on Tuesday on the agency’s app and its website.
Hines finished his work day servicing oxygen components on a U.S. spacesuit. Watkins and Cristoforetti also partnered together and filmed station operations to train future crews preparing for upcoming missions to the orbiting complex. Watkins later setup camera gear that students on Earth can operate remotely and photograph landmarks on the ground. Finally, Cristoforetti swapped batteries inside the Astrobee robotic free-flyers and worked on NanoRacks Bishop airlock maintenance.
Advanced space research is always ongoing amidst the constant array of visiting vehicles and other mission activities taking place at the orbital lab. Monday’s science experiments mainly focused on growing plants without soil, cardiac research, and Earth observations.
NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren kicked off another plant growing session for the XROOTS space botany study. He set up seed cartridges and root modules for the experiment to demonstrate using hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow edible plants in microgravity. Growing crops in space can reduce costly cargo missions and help sustain crews as NASA and its international partners plan missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Roscosmos cosmonauts Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov worked on cardiac research today exploring how the human circulatory system adapts to weightlessness. Matveev later worked on nanosatellites to be deployed on an upcoming Russian spacewalk. Korsakov also conducted ear, nose, and throat research. Commander Oleg Artemyev worked on Russian maintenance activities and later filmed station operations for audiences on Earth.
NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website continue to provide live coverage of the landing of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.
At 6:05 p.m. EDT, the spacecraft began its deorbit burn that puts Starliner on the right path to land at 6:49 p.m. White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. The service module has successfully separated from the crew module containing Rosie the rocketeer, an anthropometric test device who will help maintain Starliner’s center of gravity from ascent through landing. During OFT-1, Rosie was outfitted with 15 sensors to collect data on what astronauts will experience during flights on Starliner.
At 6:44 p.m. the drogue parachute will be released, pulling out the spacecraft’s three main parachutes at 6:45 p.m. that will slow the capsule to a safe landing on Earth.
UPDATE (7 p.m. EDT): During Wednesday evening’s daily planning conference, the International Space Station crew was notified of a possible conjunction with orbital debris late Thursday, May 19. Flight control teams in Houston are assessing options for a potential debris avoidance maneuver on Thursday, pending additional tracking data on the debris expected overnight. Initial plans for an avoidance maneuver would not impact the launch of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission, scheduled to liftoff at 6:54 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 19, but might slightly alter the timing of some of the rendezvous maneuvers leading to Starliner’s docking to the station. The crew began its sleep shift as scheduled and will resume preparations for the Friday arrival of OFT-2 when it awakens about 2 a.m. Thursday.
Boeing’s Starliner crew ship sits atop the Atlas-V rocket from United Launch Alliance counting down to its launch from Florida to the International Space Station on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Expedition 67 crew concentrated on medical training, exercise systems maintenance, and a variety of advanced space science on Wednesday.
Two NASA astronauts continued preparing for the arrival of Boeing’s uncrewed Starliner spaceship on the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines reviewed Starliner systems and approach and rendezvous procedures ahead of the spacecraft’s automated docking to the Harmony module’s forward port at 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday. The uncrewed spacecraft is targeted to launch at 6:54 p.m. on Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The duo will be on duty Friday monitoring Starliner during its three-and-a-half hours of automated approach maneuvers.
Lindgren started his day servicing the advanced resistive exercise device which mimics free weight exercises in microgravity. Hines collected and stowed his urine samples in a science freezer for later analysis to understand the long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body.
Flight Engineers Jessica Watkins of NASA and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) worked on a variety of orbital plumbing tasks during Wednesday morning. Watkins also wrapped up a blood pressure measurement session and prepared the health data for downlinking to doctors on Earth. Cristoforetti trained on a computer to increase her proficiency when commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
The quartet also joined Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov, for a medical emergency training session on Wednesday. The four astronauts and three cosmonauts practiced cardiopulmonary resuscitation, reviewed medical hardware, and discussed coordination of care in the event of an emergency on the space station.
Artemyev, the commander of the orbiting lab, also tested using ultrasound sensors for more accurate Earth photography sessions. The veteran cosmonaut then studied ways to improve international coordination between space crews and mission controllers. Matveev joined Artemyev participating in the photography tests and the crew coordination study. Korsakov inventoried and stowed medical gear and also inspected and photographed windows in the Zvezda service module.
NASA television is underway for the capture of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft which launched Saturday at 12:40 p.m. on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. At about 4:35 a.m., NASA astronaut Raja Chari will capture Cygnus, with NASA astronaut Kayla Barron acting as backup. After Cygnus capture, mission control in Houston will send ground commands for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the station’s Unity module Earth-facing port.
This is Northrop Grumman’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying a fresh supply of 8,300 pounds of scientific investigations and cargo to the orbiting laboratory.
This Cygnus mission is the first to feature enhanced capabilities that will allow the spacecraft to perform a reboost, using its engines to adjust the space station’s orbit as a standard service for NASA. The agency has one reboost is planned while Cygnus is connected to the orbiting laboratory. A test of the maneuver was performed in 2018 during Cygnus’ ninth resupply mission.
The Cygnus spacecraft is named the S.S. Piers Sellers in honor of the late NASA astronaut who spent nearly 35 days across three missions helping to construct the space station.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Airlock, the 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.
A 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.