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.

Space Health and Station Gardening Fill Today’s Research Schedule

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA works on a U.S. spacesuit in the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged aboard the International Space Station.

Biomedical research and space agriculture dominated the Expedition 60 crew’s schedule today. The investigations aboard the International Space Station are helping scientists, doctors and engineers plan human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Nick Hague of NASA started Tuesday morning collecting and stowing his blood and urine samples for a pair of life science studies. His blood samples are being compared with samples from space mice, other astronauts and ground patients for changes in protein expression. Another study is comparing the biological samples taken before, during and after a spaceflight.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch set up a 360-degree camera to record station gardening activities. The crew has been recording immersive, cinematic experiences throughout the year to share with audiences on Earth.

It was harvest time during the afternoon in the orbiting lab’s Harmony module today. Hague and Koch were picking salad-type plants after 28 days of growth, stowing samples for analysis and taste testing the rest. The VEG-04 botany study is exploring the viability of growing fresh food in space to support astronauts on long-term missions.

Exercising in microgravity is critical to maintain a crewmember’s health and ensure successful space missions. Commander Alexey Ovchinin spent Tuesday morning supporting a Russian study investigating the effectiveness of space workouts. In the afternoon, he moved on to lab maintenance changing out life support system components.

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.