Nervous System, Exercise Research Fills Science Schedule Wednesday

Expedition 64 Flight Engineers (from left) Kate Rubins and Shannon Walker called down to the Centers for Disease Control and talked about science on the space station. Credit: NASA TV
Expedition 64 Flight Engineers (from left) Kate Rubins and Shannon Walker called down to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today and talked about science on the space station. Credit: NASA TV

Human research was the main science focus aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew members also worked on spacesuit maintenance.

The space-exposed human nervous system may impact how an astronaut grips and manipulates objects during a mission. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover participated in the GRIP study today that could help engineers and doctors develop better spacecraft interfaces and treat neurological conditions on Earth.

Glover also checked out components on safety jetpacks that an astronaut would use in the unlikely event a spacewalker became untethered from the space station. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker worked during the afternoon on batteries that keep U.S. spacesuit life support systems powered during spacewalks.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins tried on the experimental AstroRad radiation protection vest during the afternoon testing it for fit and comfort while working. Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) serviced the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, an incubator that cultivates cells and plants for research, throughout the day.

Exercise research is also important as flight surgeons learn to maximize the effects of a crew member’s workout to account for the lack of gravity. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov strapped sensors to themselves and jogged on the Russian treadmill on Wednesday. Data will be sent down to doctors to review how a cosmonaut’s body adjusts to working out in space.

Week’s Last CubeSats Deployed as Crew Studies Space Health

CubeSat Deployment
A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth’s limb in the background, is seen moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the space station’s Kibo lab module.

The week’s final set of CubeSats were deployed today from outside the Japanese Kibo lab module’s airlock. Inside the International Space Station, the Expedition 51 crew continued exploring microgravity’s effects on muscles, bone cells and vision.

Over a dozen CubeSats were ejected into Earth orbit this week outside the Kibo module to study Earth and space phenomena for the next one to two years. Today’s constellation of tiny satellites will explore a variety of subjects including hybrid, low temperature energy stowage systems and the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere known as the thermosphere.

Commander Peggy Whitson started her morning with eye checks for the Fluids Shifts study to determine how weightlessness affects eyes. That same study is also analyzing the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit for its ability to offset the upward flow of blood and other body fluids possibly affecting crew vision. Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin assisted European astronaut Thomas Pesquet into the unique suit today that draws fluids into the lower body preventing face-swelling and elevated head pressure.

More bone cell samples were inserted into a science freezer during the crew’s afternoon. The samples are part of the OsteoOmics experiment researching the mechanisms that drive bone loss in space. Results may impact therapies benefitting astronaut health and those suffering bone diseases on Earth.

New station crew member Jack Fischer is studying how high intensity, low volume exercise may improve muscle, bone and cardiovascular health in space. He scanned his thigh and calf muscles with an ultrasound device to help doctors understand the impacts of the new exercise techniques.

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Astronauts Study How Lack of Gravity Impacts Muscles

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough
Expedition 50 crew members Peggy Whitson (left) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA (right) share fresh fruit that was recently delivered by the HTV-6 cargo vehicle to the International Space Station.

The crew wrapped up part of a muscle research program today while continuing other experiments to study the effects of living in space. Also, a new CubeSat deployer was installed in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Scientists want to understand how the lack of gravity impacts muscles that aren’t used due to working in the microgravity environment. The Sarcolab experiment is one study that measures how the calf muscle changes in space using an ultrasound and electrode stimulators. The first part of that experiment was completed today as its gear was stowed and data downlinked for analysis on Earth.

The station residents also explored how astronauts adapt to spaceflight conditions, the effects of a long-term mission on the human circulatory system and how charged particles behave in a magnetic field.

An enhanced small satellite deployer was installed in the Kibo module replacing an older model that deployed its last CubeSat on Monday. The new CubeSat deployer has twice the satellite deployment capacity than the previous version. CubeSats scheduled for release from the new deployer will study a variety of space phenomena and enable advanced satellite communications.