Thanksgiving Bringing Harvest, Spacewalk Preps and Disease Research

Astronaut and spacewalker Luca Parmitano
Astronaut and spacewalker Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) takes a photograph with a camera protected from the hazards of microgravity by shielding.

The Expedition 61 crew is heading into Thanksgiving with more blood and cell research to improve human health. There will also be a harvest on the U.S. holiday as spacewalk preparations continue.

Rodents living aboard the International Space Station are being observed this week with their blood and cell samples being collected and stowed in science freezers. Doctors are exploring how microgravity affects the cellular level systems of mice to gain insights into afflictions such as cancer and diabetes. Results may inform the development of advanced therapies for Earth-bound and space-caused ailments.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are conducting the advanced biomedical research in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano have been assisting the duo while also practicing repair techniques for the next spacewalk on Monday.

Morgan and Parmitano will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at 6:50 a.m. EST on Monday signifying the start of their spacewalk. They will use new tools and techniques never performed in space for the intricate task of replacing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s thermal control system. NASA TV begins its live broadcast at 5:30 a.m.

The crew will be busy on Thanksgiving with more disease therapy studies and a space crop harvest as well. Koch and Meir will be harvesting Mizuna mustard greens and sharing the leaves with the crew for a taste test on Thursday. The rest of the crop will be packed in a lab freezer for later analysis.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka are readying the Progress 73 resupply ship for its undocking on Friday at 5:25 a.m. This will clear the Pirs docking compartment for the Progress 74 cargo craft to arrive Dec. 9 after its launch on Dec. 6. Skvortsov also investigated space cardiology today while Skripochka explored using acoustics to locate micrometeoroid impacts on the station.

Astronauts Research Disease Therapies Ahead of Complex Repair Spacewalk

NASA astronaut and spacewalker Andrew Morgan
Astronaut Andrew Morgan points his camera towards himself to take an out-of-this-world “space-selfie” during the second spacewalk to repair the the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Two Expedition 61 astronauts are getting up to speed with the fine repair techniques they will use next week during the 11th spacewalk of 2019. The International Space Station is also hosting intense biology work this week to improve the health of humans in space and on Earth.

The orbiting lab’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), is getting a new thermal control system that requires innovative spacewalking repair techniques. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano are studying the careful, deliberate procedures with new tools specifically designed for the job. The AMS, which has exceeded its three-year operational lifespan by five-and-a-half years, was never designed to be repaired in space.

Morgan and Parmitano will continue the AMS repair job during their third spacewalk together beginning Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. This will be the third of four planned spacewalks to ensure the astrophysics device continues searching for evidence of dark matter and antimatter for years to come. NASA TV will start its live broadcast at 5:30 a.m.

The Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) in the Japanese Kibo lab module is seeing a lot of biology research work this week. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are looking at blood and cell samples in the LSG to understand the stresses microgravity imposes on organisms. Doctors are looking for advanced therapeutic insights into Earth-bound diseases such as cancer and diabetes as well as space-caused ailments. Morgan and Parmitano are also on life science duty this week assisting the duo in between spacewalk preparations.

In the Russian segment of the station, Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Skripochka attached sensors to his legs to observe how his veins are adapting to long-term spaceflight. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov worked on computer hardware and life support gear.

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.