The International Space Station has all but one of its seven ports occupied by two crew ships and four cargo ships today. With plenty of food, fuel and supplies, the Expedition 59 crew is busy conducting new science experiments delivered to the orbital lab.
The crew researched an array of space biology today including pathogen virulence, immune system changes and upper body pressure that can affect mission success. Human research and life science is key in microgravity as NASA learns to support healthy astronauts for longer missions farther into space.
NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch continued studying why pathogens increase in virulence due to the weightless environment of space. She performed inoculation procedures on cell cultures to help scientists understand critical cellular and molecular changes that occur on the absence of gravity.
Koch then joined fellow astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques in the afternoon exploring how the immune system responds during a long-term space mission. The crew is observing dozens of mice on the orbital lab to characterize the response changes since the mouse immune system closely parallels that of humans.
McClain also participated on more Fluid Shifts research with Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague. The trio worked with a variety of biomedical hardware today observing the impacts of increased head and eye pressure caused by microgravity. The long-running human research experiment seeks to reverse the upward flow of fluids and alleviate the symptoms reported by astronauts.
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.
The Expedition 51 crew members are back at work today on human research after a historic 200th spacewalk at the International Space Station on Friday. More Cubesats also are being prepared for deployment outside the Japanese Kibo lab module this week.
Commander Peggy Whitson continued studying bone cells using the Microgravity Science Glovebox research facility. She swapped out bone cell samples inside the glovebox and stowed them inside a science freezer to be analyzed later back on Earth. The experiment may help doctors treat bone diseases on Earth and keep astronauts strong and healthy in space.
Flight Engineers Jack Fischer, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Novitskiy tested a unique suit that reverses the upward flow of fluids in an astronaut’s body. Fluid Shifts is a joint NASA-Russian experiment that investigates the causes of lasting physical changes to astronauts’ eyes. Results from this study may help to develop preventative measures against lasting changes in vision and eye damage. Fischer and Novitskiy wore the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit undergoing fluid pressure checks and ultrasound scans. Yurchikhin and ground support personnel assisted the duo.
Fischer started his day loading a CubeSat deployer in the Kibo lab module’s airlock. The deployer will be extended outside the airlock into the vacuum of space and eject more CubeSats studying a variety of Earth and space phenomena.
Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency shared their plans for a New Year’s Eve celebration and some resolutions during an interview with CBS News and the BBC.
The crew spent most of its day conducting a variety of experiments, ranging from human life sciences to physics and Earth observations, and threw in a good measure of routine maintenance on station systems.
Cristoforetti set up hardware for eye exams using ocular coherence tomography, which records a detailed 3-D image of the retina and the interior of the eyes, so doctors may look to better understand why some astronauts return to Earth with long-term vision problems. Wilmore then conducted the tests on both Cristoforetti and NASA Flight Engineer Terry Virts.
Wilmore also continued work setting up and conducting experiment runs with the European Space Agency Haptics-1 experiment, using a body-mounted force-feedback joystick and a tablet computer to help scientists learn how people in weightlessness might use such game-like hardware to someday control robots on another planet, moon or asteroid from an orbiting human spacecraft.
Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov spent their day performing station life support system maintenance, testing a procedure for detecting air leaks on the station and conducting a Russian physics experiment on the dynamics of charged particles in space.