Orbital Residents Supporting Human Research and Life Support Maintenance

Expedition 56/57 crew members
Expedition 56/57 crew members (clockwise from top) Alexander Gerst, Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev pose for a portrait inside the Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM).

The six residents aboard the International Space Station today continued exploring how living in space impacts their bodies. The Expedition 56 crew also worked on science hardware and life support gear to ensure the orbital complex is in tip-top shape.

Three astronauts helped doctors understand what is happening to their eyes in the weightless environment of microgravity. One crew member has also worked all week on a pair of European experiments researching what happens during exercise and cognition on long-term missions in space.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor joined ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst for more regularly scheduled eye checks today. Arnold led the morning’s retina scans using optical coherence tomography on the other two crewmates. Later in the afternoon, Auñón-Chancellor and Gerst swapped medical roles and peered into each other’s eyes looking out the optic disc and macula with a fundoscope.

Gerst continued working out today in a custom t-shirt in a specialized fabric testing its comfort and thermal relief for the SpaceTex-2 study. He then moved on to the GRIP study exploring how microgravity impacts an astronaut’s cognition when working with tools and interfaces aboard spacecraft.

Commander Drew Feustel worked on the Materials Science Research Rack today replacing gear inside the refrigerator-sized device that can heat research samples to a temperature of 2500° F. Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev spent the afternoon checking the Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal device for leaks in the Russian segment of the station.

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.