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.