Crew Relaxes Day Before Spacewalk Preps and Cancer, DNA Research

Astronauts assist spacewalkers in the Quest airlock
NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) are suited up in U.S. spacesuits on Oct. 6, 2019. In the center, NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) assist the spacewalking duo.

Four of the six Expedition 61 crewmembers are relaxing today before ramping up final preparations for Friday’s spacewalk. The two cosmonauts maintained their normal schedule of Russian science and maintenance activities.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch have cleared their schedule for a well-deserved rest day and are taking it easy aboard the International Space Station. Commander Luca Parmitano and fellow NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir also had the day off. All four astronauts will get back to work Thursday with final preparations for their second spacewalk this month.

Morgan and Koch will not only ready their U.S. spacesuits for Friday’s spacewalk, they will also research cancer therapies and microbial DNA sequencing. Parmitano will assist the duo with the spacesuit preparations and help Meir with an aerobic fitness evaluation.

The two cosmonauts stayed busy today in the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka split their time between microgravity research and station maintenance. Skvortsov explored how leg veins adapt to weightlessness before checking on station air conditioning and smoke detectors. Skripochka explored pain sensitivity in space and shared a moment with ham radio operators on the ground for an educational opportunity.

Crew Departure Preps, Biochemistry Research Start Workweek

Four Expedition 60 crewmembers and a spaceflight participant
Four Expedition 60 crewmembers and a spaceflight participant gather inside the Unity module for a meal. Pictured from left are, astronauts Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and Christina Koch of NASA, spaceflight participant and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague.

The nine-member crew aboard the International Space Station will split up Thursday and see three humans return to Earth. Meanwhile, there is still a multitude of space research to conduct as well as a new Japanese space freighter to unload.

Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague are in their final week aboard the orbiting lab. The homebound residents are packing up their Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and handing over their duties to the crewmates staying in space.

They will undock Thursday from the Rassvet module at 3:36 a.m. EDT along with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 7 a.m. (5 p.m. Kazakhstan time). All three returning crewmates reviewed their undocking and landing procedures today.

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan took turns today exploring how astronauts grip and manipulate objects in microgravity. Observations may inform the design of intelligent, haptic interfaces for future crews on deep space missions.

Morgan then explored increasing the purity of protein crystals in space to improve pharmaceutical and biochemistry research. Veteran cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov conducted his own biochemistry research in the Russian segment of the space lab studying how the microgravity environment impacts enzymes in the human body.

New Expedition 61 crewmates Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos continue settling in for their 189-day mission inside the orbiting lab. Meir reviewed Canadarm2 robotics procedures today to support upcoming spacewalks. She wrapped up the day observing protein crystals to support cancer research. Skripochka tested a specialized suit that counteracts the headward flow of fluids in astronauts due to microgravity. He finally checked out the Magnetic 3D Printer that explores the benefits of printing organic tissue in space.

Japan’s eighth station resupply ship, also known as the Kounotori, is open for business and Parmitano and NASA astronaut Christina Koch are unloading its cargo and new science hardware today. Kounotori is due for a month-long stay attached to the Harmony module for internal and external cargo operations. Ground controllers will be commanding the Canadarm2 to remove new lithium-ion batteries delivered on Kounotori’s external pallets. The robotics work will be setting up a series of power upgrade spacewalks planned for October.