Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are beginning their final week aboard the International Space Station and readying their spacesuits and Soyuz crew ship for the return to Earth. The orbital residents also continued a variety of human research activities amidst the deployment of tiny satellites today.
Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are set to return to Earth June 24 with Commander Oleg Kononenko at the helm of the Soyuz MS-11 crew craft. The homebound residents checked their Sokol launch and entry suits for leaks today. The trio also tested sensors that will monitor the crew’s blood pressure during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
McClain also packed personal items she will take back to Earth with her. Kononenko and Saint-Jacques practiced Soyuz descent procedures the crew will use on its way to a landing in Kazakhstan. The threesome have been living aboard the space lab since Dec. 3 and will have accumulated 204 days on orbit when they complete their mission next week.
Science continues unabated aboard the orbital lab with the crew exploring a wide variety of phenomena to help NASA plan missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Payload specialists on the ground also remotely operate many of the hundreds of experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab.
Four small satellites, or CubeSats, were ejected this morning outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA monitored and photographed the CubeSats deployed for technology demonstrations. The first set of CubeSats deployed were from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Japan as part of the BIRDS-3 mission. The last CubeSat was from Singapore. All four arrived at the station April 19 aboard the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter.
Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are getting ready to end their stay at the International Space Station after six and a half months in space. Meanwhile, mission scientists continue exploring how microgravity impacts the human body.
Saint-Jacques and Kononenko began gathering items to take back home inside their Soyuz crew ship. The duo collected personal items such as shoes and clothes as well as tools and trash that will be soon be stowed aboard the Soyuz for the ride to Earth.
Saint-Jacques also researched ways to supplement crew nutrition during future long-term space missions, such as missions to the Moon and Mars. Food stowed for long periods can lose nutritional value. The BioNutrients-1 study is exploring manufacturing nutritional compounds in space to maintain healthy crews for successful missions.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague started Monday morning by drawing blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge before stowing them in science freezer. Doctors on the ground will analyze the samples to detect critical changes to a crewmember’s physiology while living in space. The pair also participated in visual acuity tests using an eye chart in the afternoon.
The Expedition 59 crew is unloading one U.S. cargo ship today and preparing for the arrival of another after it launches from Florida next week. The orbital residents also continued exploring how microgravity impacts the human body and a variety of terrestrial materials.
Astronauts Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques worked Wednesday afternoon to offload some of the 7,600 pounds of cargo the Cygnus space freighter delivered last week. Saint-Jacques is also training today to capture the SpaceX resupply ship with the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it arrives next Thursday. Dragon will be the sixth spaceship parked at the station and occupy the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port.
The duo also split the day working with a variety of biomedical hardware and research gear to ensure healthy astronauts and successful space research. Koch and Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans for ongoing health checks. Koch then explored the feasibility of manufacturing fiber optic cables in space. Saint-Jacques set up Kubik incubator hardware inside Europe’s Columbus lab module.
NASA Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Nick Hague were back collecting more blood, urine and saliva samples today. The samples are spun in a centrifuge, stowed in a science freezer then analyzed for the long-running Fluid Shifts study. The experiment seeks to understand and prevent the upward flow of body fluids in space that cause head and eye pressure in astronauts.
The Expedition 59 crew spent the majority of Tuesday conducting space experiments and setting up research hardware. The International Space Station residents are also continuing to unpack a pair of recently arrived cargo ships while training for the next U.S. cargo mission.
The weightless conditions of microgravity pull fluids towards an astronaut’s head causing a common space phenomenon sometimes called “puffy-face.” Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA spent the morning collecting and stowing his blood, urine and saliva samples for the long-running Fluid Shifts study. The research observes and seeks to reverse the upward flow of fluids causing increased head and eye pressure that concerns flight surgeons.
A new materials exposure experiment is ready for deployment outside Japan’s Kibo lab module. NASA astronaut Anne McClain installed the MISSE-FF gear inside Kibo’s airlock before depressurizing the unit. Robotics controllers will deploy the exposed sample trays outside the airlock. The study will help scientists understand how radiation, the vacuum of space and micrometeoroids affect a variety of materials.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is training for his role to capture the next SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Hague joined him today for the robotics training and will back him up in the cupola. Dragon is scheduled to launch April 30 from Florida and take a two-day trip to the station where it will be grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Harmony module.
Commander Oleg Kononenko helped attach sensors to Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin as the duo researched cardiovascular activity during exercise in space. Kononenko went on to replace smoke detectors as Ovchinin worked on life support maintenance.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is due to join the five other spacecraft parked at the station after it launches from Florida April 30. Dragon is scheduled to arrive May 2 and Saint-Jacques will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture the cargo vessel. Dragon will deliver over 5,000 pounds of new science, supplies and hardware to the orbital lab.
Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin stayed focused on the Russian side of the station with their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Commander Kononenko updated communications gear, cleaned fans and filters and explored enzyme behaviors. Flight Engineer Ovchinin offloaded cargo from the new Progress 72 resupply ship and studied radiation exposure.
After its capture this morning at 5:28 a.m. EDT, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. At the time of installation, Cygnus was flying 255 miles above the Indian Ocean just south of Singapore.
Cygnus will remain at the space station until July 23, when the spacecraft will depart the station, deploy NanoRacks customer CubeSats, then have an extended mission of nine months before it will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of NASA-sponsored research to advance exploration goals and enable future missions to the Moon and Mars include:
Models for growing increasingly complex materials
Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-10 (ACE-T-10) will test gels in a microgravity environment. This research could aid in the development of increasingly complex materials that may serve as the building blocks for a range of applications on Earth including foods, drugs, and electronic devices. The process also may provide an efficient method to build new materials and equipment in space.
Better life science research in a few drops
Although the space station is well equipped for health and life sciences research, the equipment available for cellular and molecular biology still is limited compared to capabilities found in laboratories on Earth. To address this limitation, CSA designed Bio-Analyzer, a new tool the size of a video game console that astronauts on station easily can use to test body fluids such as blood, saliva, and urine, with just a few drops. It returns key analyses, such as blood cell counts, in just two to three hours, eliminating the need to freeze and store samples.
Analyzing aging of the arteries in astronauts
The Vascular Aging investigation uses ultrasounds, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance tests, and wearable sensors to study aging-like changes that occur in many astronauts during their stay on the space station. It’s one of three Canadian experiments exploring the effects of weightlessness on the blood vessels and heart, and the links between these effects and bone health, blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation exposure. Increased understanding of these mechanisms can be used to address vascular aging in both astronauts and the aging Earth population.
Testing immune response in space
Spaceflight is known to have a dramatic influence on an astronaut’s immune response, but there is little research on its effect following an actual challenge to the body’s immune system. The rodent immune system closely parallels that of humans, and Rodent Research-12: Tetanus Antibody Response by B cells in Space (TARBIS) will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. This investigation aims to advance the development of measures to counter these effects and help maintain crew health during future long-duration space missions. On Earth, it could advance research to improve the effectiveness of vaccines and therapies for treating diseases and cancers.
Big buzz for new robot
A fleet of small robots is set to take on big jobs aboard the space station. Building on the success of SPHERES, NASA will test Astrobee, a robotic system comprised of three cube-shaped robots and a docking station for recharging; the first two are aboard Cygnus. The free-flying robots use electric fans for propulsion and cameras and sensors help them navigate their surroundings. The robots also have an arm to grasp station handrails or grab and hold items. Astrobee can operate in automated mode or under remote control from the ground as it assists with routine chores on station, and requires no supervision from the crew. This has the potential to free up astronauts to conduct more research.
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA will capture the spacecraft assisted by David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, who will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach for capture. They will use the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.
NASA Television coverage of capture has begun. Watch live online at www.nasa.gov/live
A timeline of remaining Cygnus and space station activities for the earliest capture attempt is below:
Time (EDT) Event
4:14 a.m. Cygnus within 300m of Space Station
4:21 a.m. 250m Hold Point Arrival
4:36 a.m. 250m Hold Point Departure
4:47 a.m. Cygnus within 100 meters of Space Station
5:00 a.m. 30 meters Hold Point Arrival
5:05 a.m. Earliest “Go” for Capture
5:19 a.m. Capture Point Arrival
5:24 a.m. “Go” or “No-Go” for Capture
5:30 a.m. Capture
When Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee, arrives to the space station on Friday, April 19, Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain will use the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft at about 5:30 a.m. Fellow crew member David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will assist McClain. NASA astronaut Nick Hague will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach for capture. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module for a three-month stay.
Live coverage will begin on NASA TV at 4 a.m. and return to the air at 7 a.m. for installation coverage. Watch at www.nasa.gov/live
The Cygnus space freighter is on orbit today and refining its approach to the International Space Station following its launch from Virginia Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Expedition 59 crew is juggling a variety of science and maintenance activities today before Friday morning’s space shipment arrives.
Astronaut Anne McClain, with Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques as her back up, will capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 5:30 a.m. Friday. Ground controllers will take over afterward and remotely install Cygnus to the Unity module where it will stay until the end of July.
Cygnus is packed with about 7,600 pounds of science, supplies and crew hardware to replenish the orbital lab. Among its science payloads are mice, free-flying robots and a host of other experiments and research gear. The astronauts set up hardware today that will house the rodents and enable research into how the immune system responds to microgravity. The crew will also test the ability of tiny, autonomous robots to provide assistance with routine space chores and lab monitoring.
Commander Oleg Kononenko and fellow cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin worked throughout the day on Russian life support maintenance. Ovchinin also researched enzyme behavior in space and photographed plants for a botany investigation.
The U.S. Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman is encapsulated atop the Antares rocket and standing at its launch pad in Virginia. The Expedition 59 crew is training for its capture at the end of the week in the midst of ongoing life science aboard the International Space Station.
The duo continued sharpening their robotics skills today as they practiced Friday’s Cygnus capture maneuvers and techniques on a computer. NASA TV will broadcast the space freighter’s launch and capture activities live.
McClain started the day setting up a mouse habitat that will house rodents to gain insight into the immune system’s response to long-term spaceflight. Saint-Jacques set up the 360° camera in Tranquility module for more virtual reality filming of crew life on the station.
Flight Engineer Christina Koch started Tuesday collecting and spinning her blood samples in a centrifuge for the Myotones muscle study. She then joined NASA astronaut Nick Hague for body measurements and ultrasound scans to research how microgravity impacts the biochemical properties of muscles.