Space botany and CubeSats were the dominant research theme Friday as the Expedition 64 crew looks ahead to its first spacewalk in November.
NASA and its international partners are exploring ways to sustain healthy crews on space missions farther away from Earth. Growing food on spacecraft and space habitats is critical if astronauts are going to successfully explore the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, who was also a scientist before being recruited as a NASA astronaut, put on her green thumb today and installed new components inside the Advanced Plant Habitat. The botany research gear resides in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module and allows scientists to observe how plants grow and thrive in microgravity.
Rubins also spent some time Friday reviewing an upcoming CubeSat deployment that will take place outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. She will be readying several tiny satellites that will provide insights into oceanography, weather, ship and aircraft tracking, as well as GPS and satellite communication technologies.
Two cosmonauts are getting ready for a spacewalk targeted for Nov. 18 on the outside of the International Space Station’s Russian segment. Commander Sergey Ryzhikov joined Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on Friday and began setting up the Pirs docking compartment where they will stage their tools and suit up for the planned six-hour excursion. The duo will be primarily be servicing external station hardware and science experiments during their mission’s first spacewalk.
The three-member Expedition 64 crew is helping scientists understand how to keep astronauts healthy and maintain spacecraft systems on long-term exploration missions. The trio aboard the International Space Station also cleaned lab ventilation systems and worked on orbital plumbing tasks.
Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA had a regularly scheduled health check up this morning and measured her temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. Afterward, she serviced computer components that support the European Physiology Module which enables neuroscientific, cardiovascular, and physiological studies.
Research into space exercise is ongoing inside the station as doctors around the world study how to keep crew members in good shape while living and working in weightlessness. Once again, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov attached variety of sensors to themselves and worked out Thursday morning providing insights into how their bodies react to physical activities in space.
Ryzhikov then moved on to Russian plumbing work and transferred urine from the station into tanks located on the Progress 76 resupply ship. Kud-Sverchkov was in the Zvezda service module during the afternoon working preventive maintenance on the ventilation system’s fans and filters.
The Expedition 64 crew continued this week’s run of space physics and human research aboard the International Space Station today. The orbital trio also spent the day servicing laptop computers and life support systems.
During Wednesday morning, Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA installed material samples inside the Handhold Experiment Platform (HXP) that will soon be exposed to the harsh environment of space. She then placed the Japanese external experiment platform inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock. From there the Japanese robotic arm will grapple the HXP with the samples inside and install it outside Kibo. Scientists observe the materials over time to understand how space radiation and extreme temperatures affect a variety of samples, impacting the design of future spacecraft and advanced materials.
Rubins then moved onto fluid physics during the afternoon, setting up hardware for the Drop Vibration experiment. Engineers may be able to take advantage of the results to design advanced fuel, water, and air systems on spacecraft.
Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos began wrapping up operations for a Russian immune system study. After collecting his saliva samples, he stowed the experiment’s hardware and transferred science data for later analysis. He also participated in a space exercise study to maintain a crew member’s health during long-term missions.
During the morning, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov took part in the same exercise study as his fellow cosmonaut. The veteran cosmonaut then explored ways to improve interactions among international crews and mission control teams. Ryzhikov also upgraded software on a variety of laptop computers and checked airflow sensors throughout orbiting lab’s Russian segment.
Physics and biology research filled the majority of the science schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew also put on their technician caps and worked hardware, including life support gear and air conditioning systems.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins swapped out sample containers Tuesday morning on an experiment platform that can be placed outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Scientists use experiments installed on the outside of the station to understand how space radiation and extreme temperatures affect a variety of materials. Results may improve the design of future spacecraft and the production of stronger, safer materials on Earth.
Rubins then spent the afternoon working on hardware maintenance servicing life support hardware and science gear. She first swapped batteries and chips inside ammonia measurement kits, then installed a pair of portable science freezers inside the Kibo and U.S. Destiny lab modules.
Immune system studies continued throughout Tuesday in the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov processed their own blood and saliva samples in the morning and evening to understand how spaceflight stresses the immunity of a crew member.
Ryzhikov, the station commander on his second space mission, also refilled freon bottles to maintain the orbiting lab’s air conditioning system. Kud-Sverchkov cleaned ventilation fans and filters before checking radiation readings and smoke detectors.
The Expedition 64 trio is nearing its second full week aboard the International Space Station and is beginning the work week with a host of biomedical studies today. The three station crew members will also bring in the 20th year of continuous human habitation of the orbital lab on Nov. 2.
Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov with Commander Sergey Ryzhikov started Monday collecting mass measurements before splitting up for the rest of the day. After waking up, they attached themselves to a device that applies a known force to a crew member and uses the resulting acceleration to calculate an astronaut’s mass in microgravity.
Ryzhikov then joined Kud-Sverchkov for a variety of studies exploring how their bodies are adapting to microgravity. The Russian duo logged their meals and drinks throughout the day for an investigation that seeks to understand bone loss in space. The pair also worked on an experiment to improve exercise techniques to sustain long-term space exploration missions. Kud-Sverchkov later collected and stowed his saliva samples for a study looking at how the human immune system adapts to microgravity.
On Nov. 2, Rubins with fellow crewmates Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will be part of 20 years of humans continuously orbiting Earth aboard the station. They are the 64th long-term crew to live and work on the orbiting lab. The first crew to board the station was Expedition 1 on Nov. 2, 2000, with Commander William Shepherd of NASA with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins began her day replacing batteries in devices that detect smoke and compounds in the station’s atmosphere. She then serviced a variety of research hardware including Spectrum which images proteins in fluorescent light. Rubins then worked on a device that applies a known force to a crew member and uses the resulting acceleration to calculate an astronaut’s mass in microgravity.
Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov had a light duty day Friday. The two-time resident of the orbiting lab spent some time dusting and cleaning crew quarters before replacing components in the Russian toilet.
First-time space flyer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov inspected Russian hardware today including a food warmer and an onboard control system. The cosmonaut Flight Engineer also configured a pair of laptop computers with assistance from mission specialists on the ground.
The next crew to visit the orbiting lab is targeting early to mid November to launch aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft from Florida. Four Commercial Crew astronauts, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker of NASA with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, are planned to live and work on the station until Spring.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed on Earth at 10:54 p.m. EDT in Kazakhstan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 7:32 p.m.
Cassidy now has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.
After post-landing medical checks, the crew will split up to return home; Cassidy will board a NASA plane back to Houston, and Vagner and Ivanishin will fly home to Star City, Russia.
Remaining aboard the station is the three-person crew of Expedition 64 with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and station commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. Upon the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission targeted to launch in November, the station’s long-duration crew will expand to seven people for the first time with the addition of NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
NASA Television and the agency’s website are now broadcasting live coverage of the return to Earth of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft carrying the trio is expected to make its deorbit burn at 10 p.m. to set the spaceship on its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere for a landing in Kazakhstan at 10:55 p.m.
While on station, Cassidy contributed to hundreds of experiments, including a study of the influence of gravity on electrolytic gas evolution, a complex electrochemical process with multiple applications on Earth and in space. Electrolysis generates bubbles that can be used to create pressure differentials in microfluidic devices, such as skin patches, used to deliver medications. Microgravity makes it possible to single out bubble growth and study its effect on the process.
Cassidy and Behnken completed four spacewalks, totaling 23 hours and 37 minutes, to upgrade station batteries. The final spacewalk was the 10th for both astronauts, making them two of only four only U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks. Cassidy now has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.
Cassidy also worked with Astrobee, cube-shaped, free-flying robots that may one day assist astronauts with routine duties, and conducted research for the Onco-Selectors experiment, which leverages microgravity to identify targeted cancer therapies.
The Soyuz spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:32 p.m. EDT, carrying three people back to Earth. NASA Television will air live coverage beginning at 9:30 p.m. for the deorbit burn at 10 p.m. and the spacecraft’s parachute-assisted landing.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are expected to land in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 10:55 p.m. on the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan (8:55 a.m. Oct. 22 Kazakhstan time).
Cassidy’s mission was filled with milestones for space exploration as well as numerous science experiments helping benefit life back on Earth. Take a look at his time as a space scientist in this video: https://youtu.be/u8L66TSXSxY