Robotics, Space Tech and Heart Research Wrap Up Work Week

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses with two Astrobee robotic assistants during visual and navigation tests inside the Kibo laboratory module.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses with two Astrobee robotic assistants during visual and navigation tests inside the Kibo laboratory module.

A set of free-flying robotic helpers buzzed around the International Space Station today for visual tests. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 trio conducted a variety of advanced space research and maintained the upkeep of the orbiting lab.

Astrobee is the name given to a trio of small cube-shaped, autonomous robots being tested on the station for its ability to help crews in space. Commander Chris Cassidy powered up the robotic assistants this morning and set them free inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Ground engineers are testing Astrobee’s visual and navigation system and watching video streamed from station cameras and from the devices themselves.

Cassidy then spent the rest of the afternoon tearing down the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment that is exploring technology to support water recovery, planetary surface processing and oxygen production. The research hardware observes gas and liquid flows that could inform the optimal design of chemical and biological reactors benefitting Earth and space industries.

Cardiac research is also a space research priority as doctors learn to keep astronauts safe and healthy during long-term exploration missions. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin attached sensors to himself Friday morning to monitor the adaptation of his blood circulation system for the Russian Cardiovector study. He then moved on to a technology investigation that observes the magnetic and dynamic forces the space station experiences on orbit.

Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner continued the weeklong power connection and life support systems checks. Vagner also was back on photography duty shooting Earth landmarks to help scientists forecast natural and man-made catastrophes.

DNA Repairs, Self-Replicating Materials Highlight Thursday’s Research

(From left) Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are pictured during various station activities.
(From left) Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner pictured during various station activities.

Thursday’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station focused primarily on DNA and physics research including ongoing Earth photography sessions. The Expedition 63 trio also maintained life support gear and packed a Russian cargo ship.

The space environment affects a variety of biological and physical phenomena adapted and designed for Earth’s gravity and atmosphere. Organisms from microbes to humans experience a variety of critical changes in microgravity. Fuels, materials and a host of other physical conditions also go through a series of important modifications. NASA and its international partners study these effects to ensure the health of astronauts and safety of spacecraft planned for future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

DNA studies have been ongoing for years on the station to understand the long-term impacts of radiation and weightlessness on biology. This morning, Commander Chris Cassidy set up and checked out a DNA-monitoring device for the Genes In Space-6 experiment. The portable, handheld miniPCR-16 device, also used in Earth laboratories, provides insight into the repair mechanisms of DNA-damaged cells caused by space radiation.

Cassidy then turned his attention to unique materials that self-assemble and self-replicate with powerful implications for future space voyages. He set up a specialized microscope during the afternoon to observe particles suspended in fluids that self-organize into crystalline structures. The experiment takes place inside the Fluids Integrated Rack and explores the possibilities of 3D printing and additive manufacturing in microgravity.

The two station cosmonauts from Russia, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, swapped out and activated Earth observation hardware to continue monitoring and forecasting natural and man-made catastrophes. Ivanishin then serviced communications equipment before cleaning ventilation filters in the Zarya module. Vagner contributed to the ventilation system cleaning inside the Zvezda service module while also loading the Progress 75 resupply ship with trash and discarded gear.

Science Hardware Upkeep All Day on Station

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses for a portrait wearing his flight suit inside the cupola, the International Space Station's window to the world.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses for a portrait wearing his flight suit inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s window to the world.

The International Space Station’s advanced microgravity research systems continue to be serviced today ensuring innovative results and insights to benefit humans on and off the Earth.

The Kibo lab module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) contains an airlock used to transfer science experiments into the vacuum of space. Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy installed a variety of components and connected cables this morning that operate the airlock and control the pressure.

JAXA’s robotic arm grapples and maneuvers the experiments back and forth from the airlock to an external pallet. Air pressure inside the airlock is turned off and on as materials exposure investigations are installed outside Kibo or retrieved for analysis.

Cassidy also checked a memory card for a laptop computer that runs the COLBERT treadmill inside the Tranquility module. The NASA astronaut then photographed the front panel display of a GLACIER science freezer for review on the ground. Finally, he cleaned dust and debris inside a server supporting the MUSES Earth-imaging platform.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner spent a good portion of Wednesday checking Russian power supply connections and battery temperatures. Ivanishin then researched ways to optimize interactions between station crews and mission controllers from around the world. Vagner also worked on fluid and pressure checks inside the Progress 76 resupply ship docked to the Pirs docking compartment.

Biology, Physics Hardware and Software Updates During Pilot Studies

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy replaces components inside the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, the International Space Station's bathroom located inside the Tranquility module.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy replaces components inside the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, the International Space Station’s bathroom.

The Expedition 63 crew tended to a variety of science hardware Tuesday servicing the gear and updating software that operates the advanced research devices. Fitness tests and ongoing lab maintenance rounded out the schedule aboard the International Space Station.

A trio of science facilities supporting physics and biology investigations received hands-on attention throughout the day. Commander Chris Cassidy first connected a laptop computer to the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) and updated the software that runs the extreme temperature research device.

The veteran NASA astronaut also set up the Confocal Space Microscope, which observes cellular and tissue functions using fluorescence and spatial filtering techniques. Cassidy then replaced filters inside the Life Science Glovebox (LSG) which enables two crew members to conduct biology and technology research at the same time.

The ELF, among numerous other research facilities, is housed inside the Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency (ESA). The specialized confocal and wide-field microscope and the LSG reside in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo lab module. Columbus has been attached to the station since February 2008, while the three-part Kibo was installed over a period between March and July 2008.

Today was cosmonaut Ivan Vagner’s turn to take a fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill. The once-a-month physical evaluation sends data down to researchers collected from sensors attached to a crew member during the 90-minute exercise. Vagner also studied ways cosmonauts might pilot spacecraft and robots on future planetary missions.

Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin deactivated gear that observed Earth’s nighttime atmosphere in near-ultraviolet wavelengths. The three-time station resident then spent the rest of the day inspecting Russian life support gear.

Crew Sets Up Advanced Science Gear, Loads Cargo Ship With Trash

A glacier, pictured from the International Space Station, in the Laguna San Rafael National Park ends at the Rio Nevado in Aysén, Chile.
A glacier, pictured from the International Space Station, in the Laguna San Rafael National Park ends at the Rio Nevado in Aysén, Chile.

The Expedition 63 crew started the workweek checking out hardware supporting life science, combustion research and ongoing Earth observations. A Russian cargo craft docked to the International Space Station is also being packed with old gear for disposal toward the end of the year.

The multitude of microgravity research that takes place every day on the orbiting lab, requires regular maintenance and monitoring by the crew or scientists on the ground. The ongoing research supports innovative applications and insights benefitting Earth and space industries.

Today, Commander Chris Cassidy serviced an advanced space microscope and swapped components supporting safe combustion investigations. Cassidy first configured the Light Microscopy Module, part of the Fluids Integrated Rack, which supports basic physics and biology research. Next, the veteran NASA astronaut replaced a burner and igniter tip inside the Combustion Integrated Rack that supports fuel and flame research.

On the Russian side of the space station, two cosmonauts focused on their slate of space research and lab maintenance.

Veteran Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin tested battery temperatures and connections then took a 90-minute fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill. During the afternoon, Ivanishin changed out dust filters before activating hardware that measures the Earth’s nighttime atmosphere in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.

Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, five weeks away from ending his first long-term space mission, joined Ivanishin for the morning battery inspections. Afterward, the first-time space flyer packed Russia’s Progress 75 cargo craft, docked to Zvezda’s rear port, with old and discarded station gear for disposal at the beginning of December.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Research into Fluid Dynamics, Astronaut Health and Earth Wraps Up Science-Centered Week

A view of Earth from the International Space Station, taken using an external high-definition camera. Credits: NASA
A view of Earth from the International Space Station, taken using an external high-definition camera. Credits: NASA

Aboard the International Space Station, a flurry of research activity is underway before the Expedition 63 crew winds down to the weekend, along with essential maintenance tasks to ensure the longevity of the orbiting laboratory.

Commander Chris Cassidy crossed off a few housekeeping items, like replacing the carbon dioxide sensor for the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and stowing Rodent Research hardware for return on a future SpaceX mission, in addition to completing additional tests runs and closeout activities in support of the Fluidics experiment. Future spacecraft and their fuel systems will get a boost from this investigation, which uses the measurement of liquid displacement within a sphere to gather observations in how fluids behave inside a fuel tank.

Cassidy also spent time working with the Advanced Plant Habitat mounted in the station’s EXPRESS rack to gather sound-level measurements. The habitat itself provides a large and enclosed chamber with stringent environmental controls, designed to give commercial and other bioscience research suitable conditions in which to grow despite the hostile environment to the station’s exterior: space.

Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, cosmonauts from the Russian space agency Roscosmos, worked together to complete life-support hardware maintenance tasks such as inspecting and inventorying the gear. Ivanishin continued the routine chores, cleaning out the ventilation system within the Zvezda service module and also doing a check of Russian video-recording equipment.

After setting up an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour survey of his own heart health, Vagner terminated the test. In addition to investigating the effects of long-duration space travel on astronauts, he continued with setup and observation of our own planet using Earth photography. While the universe remain the ultimate unknown, there are still phenomena on Earth that scientists do not fully understand. For those particular mysteries, observations from station could prove eminently useful.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Space Station Upkeep a Priority as Astrobee Sweeps the Interior

This long-exposure photograph from the International Space Station was taken during an orbital night period and reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth's horizon. Credits: NASA
This long-exposure photograph from the International Space Station was taken during an orbital night period and reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth’s horizon. Credits: NASA

As a free-flying, cube-shaped robot dubbed Astrobee zipped through the International Space Station today, the Expedition 63 trio aboard was occupied with upkeep and experiment maintenance tasks.

Astrobee is autonomous, and therefore no additional burden to the busy schedule of Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Masterminded to assist the spare-faring crew with routine chores and give controllers on the ground an easy way to survey the station’s interior, the robot is currently flying about to capture additional video and imagery for later study.

Cassidy spent significant time in the Columbus laboratory module installing Fluidics hardware and setting it up for test runs. The experiment itself consists of three small transparent spheres with a centrifuge to move the liquids within. Data compiled from the investigation will one day improve applications in space, optimizing fuel systems, as well as on Earth, providing insight into how oceans work and the phenomenon of “rogue waves.” In addition, Cassidy replaced components in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment and performed life-support maintenance.

Vagner, meanwhile, helped with the life-support maintenance and serviced the Russian oxygen generator. With Ivanishin accompanying, they tackled cleaning air vents and dust filters to ensure the smooth running of the orbiting outpost. Smoke detectors within the Zarya module were also changed out during the housekeeping work.

The Russian crewmates contributed to the space station’s legacy as a microgravity testbed by furthering research objectives, with Ivanishin monitoring and identifying catastrophic events through the aid of Earth photography. Vagner added to the heart health study his counterpart had completed earlier in the week by setting up his own wearable monitor for a 24-hour electrocardiogram evaluation.

At 4:32 p.m. EDT, a planned reboost will put the orbiting laboratory in the proper positioning for the anticipated Soyuz launch of Expedition 64 on Oct. 14, followed by the landing of the current crew on Oct. 21.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Scans and Housekeeping Tasks Dominate with an Eye for the Future

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy servicing microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the International Space Station. Credits: NASA
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy servicing microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the International Space Station. Credits: NASA

The three Expedition 63 crewmates continued working on tasks aboard the International Space Station that will not only extend the outpost beyond its current 20-year tenure maximizing science in space, but also facilitate human travel deeper into the solar system.

Commander Chris Cassidy was again in the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module to continue setup with the Confocal Space Microscopy. The apparatus provides many advantages over conventional optical microscopy, some of which include the ability to control depth of field and collect sequential optical sections from thick biological specimens. Next up, Cassidy disconnected and stowed the Biomolecule Sequencer, which he had just used the day before with the Genes in Space 6 investigation.

The station commander also served as the test subject for additional ultrasound eye scans, performed by cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, who serves as the crew medical officer approximately 240 miles above Earth. It has now long been understood that crew members’ bodies change in a variety of ways during spaceflight, and some can even experience impaired vision. Gathering data on how ocular health changes during the course of a months-long mission will help inform scientists and mission planners for future expeditions requiring greater time in space and exploration at different destinations, like the Moon and Mars.

Vagner, along with fellow cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, spent time transferring waste to the two cargo vehicles docked at station, Progress 75 and Progress 76. In addition, Ivanishin wiped down surfaces in the Russian segment and disconnected his electrocardiogram monitor after a full 24-hour test that surveyed the health of his heart.

NASA commercial provider Northrop Grumman announced that it will name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft, the cargo ship slated to launch Sept. 29 to replenish station with supplies and new science, after astronaut Kalpana Chawla. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight, and Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Studies on the Human Condition Take Flight Along With Piloting Investigation

A view of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy during hardware setup aboard the International Space Station. Credits: NASA
A view of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy during hardware setup aboard the International Space Station. Credits: NASA

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner spent a full day after the holiday weekend on investigations that will help demystify the effects of space on the human body, as well as some routine maintenance tasks to ensure the health of the International Space Station — now in its 20th year supporting crews in space.

In the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module, Cassidy spent the first part of his Tuesday with Aquatic Habitat, a unique closed-water circulatory aquarium capable of accommodating small freshwater fish such as medaka or zebrafish, which serve as ideal subjects in the study of vertebrates. The station commander performed lens collection for the Confocal Space Microscopy setup and closeout, helping to maintain the microscope capable of providing fluorescence images of biological samples that inform scientists on the ground about the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue structure and functions. Cassidy later used the Biomolecule Sequencer for Genes in Space 6, which evaluates how exposure to radiation affects the long-term health of astronauts. The investigation, part of a series, will aid in finding the optimal DNA repair mechanisms that cells use in microgravity.

Meanwhile, on the Russian segment, Ivanishin furthered understanding in how the heart performs during long-duration spaceflight by setting up, and then wearing, an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour period. The crew member also wiped down instrumentation during routine maintenance and configured Earth-observation hardware to capture changes in the planet below.

Vagner, too, did some housekeeping for the outpost, performing transfers to Progress 75 cargo ship tanks in anticipation of its deorbit in Earth’s atmosphere sometime in December. The cosmonaut also focused on the Pilot-T piloting spacecraft and robots study, which uses a mathematical assessment model to develop recommendations and improve the training for cosmonauts expected to perform complicated operator tasks such as docking or flying spacecraft.

Heart Studies, AC and Plumbing Work Fill Orbital Schedule

An Expedition 63 crew member aboard the space station photographed the well-lit, highly populated areas of Pakistan and northern India during an orbital night period.
An space station crew member photographed the well-lit, highly populated areas of Pakistan and northern India during an orbital night period.

The three-person Expedition 63 crew focused its attention today on Japanese science hardware and Russian cardiac studies. The International Space Station trio also serviced air conditioning and plumbing systems.

The Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) enables a multitude of space science taking place both inside and outside the orbital lab. Kibo has an airlock that the crew can place external experiments and even satellites for deployment into the vacuum of space.

Commander Chris Cassidy spent the first part of Thursday removing a commercial science payload from Kibo’s airlock. The NanoRacks External Platform supports a variety of research requiring exposure to the space environment. The automated science experiments look at different technologies and phenomena including robotics, physics, and microbiology that can benefit Earth and space industries.

Cassidy switched roles in the afternoon from space scientist to orbital maintenance man. The veteran NASA astronaut checked out spacecraft atmosphere monitor components and updated software supporting the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, the station’s restroom.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner continued a second day of heart research to understand how the human body adapts to long-term weightlessness. The duo explored the benefits of a negative pressure lower body suit that prevents blood and body fluids from pooling toward an astronaut’s head, a unique space condition commonly known as “puffy face.”

Ivanishin also replaced battery components before setting up advanced Earth photography gear. Vagner worked on fluid transfers throughout the station’s Russian segment then moved on and updated lab inventory files.