Fluid Pressure Research and Robotic Preps for Dragon Release

Bahama Island Chain
Oblique south-looking view of the main Bahama island chain as seen from the International Space Station.

The astronauts onboard the International Space Station are researching how microgravity affects fluid shifts in a crew member’s body. Ground controllers are also guiding Canada’s robotic arm into position before next week’s grapple and release of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

The Fluid Shifts experiment will wrap up operations this week with the crew wearing specialized body suits. The suits, known as Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure devices, measure how fluids move from the lower body to the upper body while living in space. The research also observes fluid shifts in and out of cells and blood vessels which may impact head pressure potentially affecting vision.

Robotics controllers are remotely guiding the Canadarm2 to the Harmony module where it will grapple Dragon ahead of the spacecraft’s May 11 release and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Yesterday, the controllers surveyed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s condition with the Canadarm2 and its cameras.

Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka is on his second mission aboard the space station. His first mission during Expedition 25/26 lasted 159 days. Currently, he is Expedition 47 Flight Engineer and today is his 47th day aboard the orbital lab since his March arrival with fellow crew members Jeff Williams and Alexey Ovchinin.

Crew Looks at Plants and Mice for Health Insights

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake from the European Space Agency talks to science and space journalists gathered at The Royal Institution in London, England. Credit: NASA TV

Today, the crew is observing how the lack of gravity affects plants and rodents. NASA is using the observations to improve the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

The crew is stowing plant samples harvested for the Plant Gravity Sensing botany study to understand how roots sense gravity. The samples are being inserted into a science freezer for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon next week. Results may help astronauts grow their own food while living in space.

Rodents are also being observed in a habitat designed to house them in space. The Rodent Research-3 experiment is studying how space changes the musculoskeletal system and if an antibody that prevents muscle weakening on Earth works in space.

Dragon is still being loaded with gear and science for analysis on the ground. The private space freighter will be removed from the Harmony module and released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean May 11.

May Starts With Botany, Genetic Study and Dragon Packing

Commander Tim Kopra
NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, commander of Expedition 47, floats inside the Russian segment on Cosmonautics Day 2016.

The Expedition 47 crew began May exploring botany, genetic analysis and life science. SpaceX is also getting ready for the May 11 release and splashdown of its Dragon spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams harvested and fixated plants grown for the Plant Gravity Sensing study. Scientists seek to understand the chemical process that guides the direction of roots and how they sense gravity. Williams is also validating the new WetLab-2 system hardware to extract RNA from a cell sample in microgravity.

British astronaut Tim Peake swapped gear on a specialized microscope that can download imagery and video to scientists on the ground. Peake also saved data collected from an armband for the Energy study then moved on to the Rodent Research study that observes muscle and bone loss in space.

Commander Tim Kopra and Williams are packing and securing cargo inside Dragon for return to Earth next week. SpaceX engineers on a ship will retrieve the Dragon in the Pacific Ocean and return it to a port in southern California. The gear and research will be returned to NASA for analysis.

This Week’s Research Improving Health as Dragon Preps for Departure

SpaceX Dragon
Morning breaks for astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft sits on the left side of the frame, attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

The International Space Station crew is wrapping up the week after working on a series of ongoing life science and robotics studies. The SpaceX Dragon is also nearing the end of its stay and preparing for a return to Earth.

The astronauts have been helping scientists gather data on what happens to the human body when exposed to microgravity to help NASA plan longer missions farther out into space. Observations from the human research studies help doctors design exercise techniques, diets and other countermeasures to keep astronauts healthy.

British astronaut Tim Peake collected tap water and body samples for the Energy experiment today. That study is aiding doctors’ efforts to determine an astronaut’s energy requirements to improve crew health and performance. He also tested the ability of controlling a rover on Earth, or any planetary surface, from a computer on a spacecraft. The METERON experiment may benefit future missions to Mars or hazardous tasks on Earth.

Experiment samples, gear and other hardware is being packed inside the Dragon space freighter attached to the Harmony module. Dragon will be released from Harmony May 11 ending a month-long stay. After its departure it will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later where the spacecraft and its cargo will be retrieved by SpaceX engineers.

Filipino Satellite Deployed from Japanese Lab

Filipino Satellite and Japanese Lab
The Filipino DIWATA-1 satellite is deployed (left) from the Japanese Kibo lab module (right). Credit: NASA TV

A microsatellite designed in the Philippines was deployed outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module this morning for climate research. Inside the International Space Station, the crew continued more human research to improve the health of astronauts in space and citizens on Earth.

DIWATA-1, Filipino for “fairy”, is orbiting Earth after being released today from a satellite deployer mechanism outside the Kibo module’s airlock. The 50-kilogram-class microsatellite will observe the Earth’s climate to improve weather forecasting and natural disaster response.

The Expedition 47 crew is continuing its research today into how the lack of gravity affects the fluid shifts and pressure inside a crew member’s head. Scientists are also looking at how astronauts work with detailed, interactive tasks for the Fine Motor Skills study using a touchscreen tablet.

The space station regularly experiences stresses on its structure when spaceships dock, during spacewalks and crew exercise sessions. Researchers will look at some of the vibration data sent down by the crew today for the long-running Identification study.

Bone and Muscle Research, Future Spacecraft Preps Today

Astronauts Jeff Williams and Tim Peake
Astronauts Jeff Williams and Tim Peake talk to students in Dallas, Texas for an educational event. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 47 crew members were back at work Tuesday exploring life science and other fields to advance humanity on and off Earth. The International Space Station residents also checked out new spacecraft communications gear.

Scientists are researching how the lack of gravity weakens bones and muscles. They are testing an antibody used on Earth that prevents this weakening in mice. The facility that houses the mice on the station for this study was inspected today then restocked with food.

Hardware was set up today that will measure fluid pressure in an astronaut’s head for the Fluid Shifts experiment. That study observes how living in space impacts cells and blood vessels and researches the possibility that it may affect vision.

The crew continues to document its living conditions on the space station to help engineers design future spacecraft with habitable accommodations. New radios that were installed in March are also being tested that will communicate with future spacecraft to visit the station.

Astronaut Completes London Marathon, Station Trio Relaxes

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake, from the European Space Agency, checks science hardware inside the Columbus lab module.

Three Expedition 47 crew members are relaxing today after several weeks of supporting the arrival and departure of numerous cargo vehicles. The other three Russian crew members continued their science and maintenance duties.

British astronaut Tim Peake strapped himself into the Tranquility module’s treadmill Sunday and ran the 26.2 mile London Marathon. The last time an astronaut ran a marathon in space was April 16, 2007, when Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Suni Williams completed the Boston Marathon on a treadmill in the Zvezda service module.

Some of the science taking place onboard the orbital laboratory looked at an astronaut’s energy requirements necessary to sustain a long-term mission beyond low-Earth orbit. The crew also looked at cardiovascular performance, the forces the space station experiences during dynamic mission events and observed the health of forests on Earth.

Research Promotes Astronaut Health for Long-Term Missions

Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams
Expedition 47 flight engineer Jeff Williams works on the WetLab-2 gene research hardware.

The International Space Station residents were back at work today continuing this week’s slate of life science experiments. The ongoing biomedical space research helps scientists understand how living in space long term affects astronauts. Results and observations have the potential to benefit future crews and citizens on Earth.

The new Genes in Space student experiment launched aboard the new SpaceX Dragon cargo craft began operations this week. The research is studying the link between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems caused by the lack of gravity.

The crew began WetLab-2 validation operations this week. WetLab-2 is a research platform for conducting real-time quantitative gene expression analysis aboard the space station. It will allow scientists and crew members to accelerate the pace of research aboard the orbiting laboratory while saving time and cost.

Exercise is necessary to counter the muscle and bone loss associated with long-term space missions. Doctors are exploring high intensity, low volume space exercise techniques to prevent this loss as NASA plans human journeys beyond low-Earth orbit. The Sprint study, with operations set to begin this weekend, allows doctors to observe an astronaut’s skeletomuscular and cardiovascular system during an exercise session.

Hardware and sensors are being attached to crew members this week and will give scientists insights into an astronaut’s energy usage and metabolic rate. The 10-day experiment will provide an assessment of the energy requirements necessary to support an astronaut on a mission farther out into space.

Crew Tests How Cells, Bones and Muscles Respond to Lack of Gravity

Crew Members Tim Kopra and Alexey Ovchinin
Expedition 47 crew members Tim Peake and Alexey Ovchinin are the 221st and 222nd individuals to visit the International Space Station.

The Expedition 47 crew is researching how plants sense gravity today and exploring how fluids shift in an astronaut’s body. The orbital residents are also learning how living in space affects the structure of bones and muscles.

The crew set up botany gear and collected samples for the Plant Gravity Sensing-3 experiment. The study seeks to determine if plants sense gravity and if the concentration of calcium in their cells change.

Fluids in an astronaut’s cells and blood vessels respond to the lack of gravity and can impact brain pressure and potentially affect vision. Scientists on the ground are researching this phenomenon by analyzing blood, saliva and urine samples collected from astronauts while on orbit.

Lack of gravity also weakens bones and muscles, and scientists are testing an antibody that has been effective on Earth to prevent that weakening. Doctors are observing those muscular and skeletal changes in mice to learn how to prevent muscle and bone atrophy in astronauts.

Crew Starts Work on Student-Designed Gene Experiment

Astronaut Tim Kopra
Astronaut Tim Kopra sets up the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox for experiment work. The glovebox is one of the major dedicated science facilities inside the Destiny laboratory module.

Human research and life science studies took precedence on the orbital laboratory today. The Expedition 47 crew also checked out a spacesuit and transferred cargo from a pair of resupply ships.

The Genes in Space study, a student-designed experiment, began on the station this morning. It is studying the linkage between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems caused by the lack of gravity. NASA encourages students to become future engineers and scientists to benefit Earth and promote exploration. As a result, students periodically design and interact with advanced research on the International Space Station.

The crew is also recording its observations of their living area on the space station for the Habitability study. The crew’s inputs may help engineers design future spacecraft with better accommodations for astronauts on long-term space missions.

The station’s inventory is being updated as the crew transfers gear back and forth from the Progress 63 and the SpaceX Dragon resupply ships. A U.S. spacesuit is also being readied for return to Earth on the Dragon when it departs the station and splashes down in the Pacific Ocean May 11.