Crew Studies How Space Affects Time Perception, Exercise and Eyesight Today

Cygnus and Soyuz spacecraft
The Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK) Cygnus commercial space freighter with its cymbal-like Ultra-Flex solar arrays and the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft are pictured in this fish-eye lens view from a window on the International Space Station.

Quite a wide variety of science activities took place today aboard the International Space Station exploring time perception, exercise and eyesight. The Expedition 56 crew members also worked on station plumbing, stowed satellite deployer gear and checked out communications gear.

Two-time station resident Alexander Gerst started his morning helping doctors understand how living in space alters time perception and impacts crew performance. Later he strapped himself into an exercise bike and attached electrodes to his chest to monitor his pulmonary function during the workout session.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor teamed up for eye exams with an ultrasound device to study microgravity’s effects on eyesight. The scans were downlinked real-time to scientists on Earth observing the retina and optic nerve while monitoring the health of the astronaut’s eyes.

Auñón-Chancellor started her day changing out a filter and valve in the station’s bathroom located in the Tranquility module. She then checked out Wi-Fi gear connected to antennas installed during a March 29 spacewalk after assisting Feustel in the Japanese Kibo lab module. The duo stowed gear after Wednesday’s successful deployment of a satellite to demonstrate space junk clean up.

Arnold was set to install radio frequency tags today to improve tool tracking but that task was postponed till after the Cygnus cargo ship departs July 15. He then moved on to emergency communication tests with control centers around the world before light maintenance work on a 3D manufacturing device.

Crew Returns to Earth as Another Prepares for Launch

The Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft is seen as it lands
The Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft is seen as it lands with three Expedition 55 crew members after 168 days in space. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station have landed safely in Kazakhstan.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos landed at 8:39 a.m. EDT (6:39 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

The crew completed hundreds of experiments during their 168-day stay aboard the station. Highlights from this research include materials testing, a study of the effect of microgravity on the bone marrow, and research into plant growth in space.

The crew also welcomed four cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft arrived at the station in December, followed by another Dragon in April and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft in May. A Russian Progress cargo craft arrived at the station in February.

Tingle and Kanai logged 168 days in space on their first missions. Tingle and Kanai ventured outside the station on separate spacewalks to perform work on parts of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. They also participated in dozens of educational events as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station.

Shkaplerov conducted one record-setting spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin to replace an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module. The spacewalk timed out at 8 hours and 13 minutes, the longest in Russian space program history. Shkaplerov now has spent 552 days in space on his three flights.

The Expedition 56 crew – Commander Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA, and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos – will operate the station and prepare for the arrival of three new crew members on Friday, June 8. Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch Wednesday, June 6, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking.

Coverage of Expedition 56 launch activities will be as follows (all times EDT):

Wednesday, June 6

  • 6:15 a.m. – Soyuz MS-09 launch coverage (launch at 7:12 a.m.)

Friday, June 8

  • 8:15 a.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 9:07 a.m.)
  • 10:30 a.m. – Hatch opening and welcome coverage

A full complement of video of the crew’s prelaunch activities in Baikonur will air on NASA TV in the days preceding launch.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Expedition 55 Trio Undocks, Begins Ride to Earth

Expedition 55 crew members
Expedition 55 crew members Anton Shkaplerov, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle pause for a final portrait before entering their Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft for the ride home. Credit: @OlegMKS

Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos undocked from the International Space Station at 5:16 a.m. EDT to begin their trip home.

Deorbit burn is scheduled for approximately 7:47 a.m., with landing in Kazakhstan targeted for 8:40 a.m. (6:40 p.m. Kazakhstan time). NASA TV coverage will resume at 7:15 a.m. for deorbit burn and landing coverage.

At the time of undocking, Expedition 56 will begin formally aboard the station, with Commander Drew Feustel of NASA, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos comprising a three-person crew for several days.

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) are preparing to launch in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft Wednesday, June 6, on a two-day journey to dock to the station.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Crew to Swap Command Before Return to Earth

Expedition 55 Crew Portrait
The six member Expedition 55 crew poses for a portrait in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Clockwise from left are Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai, Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev and Scott Tingle. In the center is International Space Station Commander Anton Shkaplerov.

Three Expedition 55 crew members are returning to Earth Sunday, but first the Commander will hand over control of the International Space Station in a ceremony Friday afternoon. In the meantime, the crew managed to continue ongoing space research and station maintenance.

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who has been leading the station crew since February, will turn over command of the orbital laboratory to NASA astronaut Drew Feustel during the traditional Change of Command Ceremony at 2:25 p.m. EDT Friday live on NASA TV.

Next, the International Space Station Program turns its attention to the undocking Sunday at 5:16 a.m. of Shkaplerov with crewmates Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai inside the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 8:40 a.m. (6:40 p.m. Kazakh time) after 168 days in space. NASA TV begins it live coverage starting at 1:30 a.m. when the crew says farewell and closes the hatches to their Soyuz vehicle.

Feustel worked throughout Thursday installing improved communications gear inside Europe’s Columbus lab module. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold strapped himself into an exercise bike to research how exercising in microgravity affects the human body.

Captain’s Log – The Last Week

Expedition 55 Crew Portrait
The six member Expedition 55 crew poses for a portrait in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module.

  • Crew: Captain Scott ”Maker” Tingle, USN
  • ISS Location: Low Earth Orbit
  • Earth Date: 4 March 2018
  • Earth Time (GMT): 13:30

Wow, time has gone by extremely fast. The mid-deployment phase will be short-lived for me this time, as the new crew (Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev) will arrive on March 23rd, and then we have at least one spacewalk on the 29th, followed by a planned SpaceX Dragon cargo craft arrival on the 4th of April. It’s a little strange being up here with only two other crewmates. We are still very busy, but the overall work effort is half of what it was just a week ago. My crewmate, Nemo (Norishige Kanai), and I are trying to use the time to prepare for the upcoming very busy schedule, and we have been having some great success getting a ton of details taken care of.

I can’t believe that Expedition 55 is already over. Today is Sunday, and we will depart the International Space Station (ISS) next Sunday morning. 168 days in space. There have been many challenging moments, but even more positive highlights of our time on ISS. The new crew from the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft (Oleg Artymyev, Drew Feustel, and Ricky Arnold) joined Norishige Kanai (Nemo), Anton Shkaplerov, and I last March. Since then, we have completed two spacewalks, captured and released the SpaceX Dragon-14 cargo craft, captured the Cygnus OA-9 cargo craft, and completed a myriad of maintenance and science activities. The team on the ground controlling, monitoring, supporting, and planning has been amazing. It is always great to work with them, and especially during the moments where the equipment, tools, procedures or crew need help. It is incredible to see how much a good team can accomplish when methodically placing one foot in front of the other. I have been lucky in that the first crew (Mark Vande Hei, Joe Acaba and Alexander Misurkin (Sasha)) and the second crew (Drew, Ricky and Oleg) were all amazing to work with. I do believe the planets aligned for my mission onboard ISS. Drew and Ricky have been friends forever, and listening to them nip at each other provided a ton of great humor for the ground and for us. Their one-liners to each other reminded me of several scenes from the movie Space Cowboys. This a great example that happened as I was writing this log entry:

Ricky:  Hey Maker, is this your smoothie?
Maker:  No.
Ricky:  It must Drew’s.
Drew:  Hey Ricky, don’t drink my smoothie.
Ricky:  What smoothie? This one has my name on it (as he writes his name on it).
Drew:  Okay, Grandpa Underpants, hands off my smoothie.
Ricky:  Okay, Feustelnaut – we have rules around here, so this is my smoothie now!
All:  Much laughing.

To quote my kids: “LOL!”

One the hardest things to do in space is to maintain positive control of individual items such as tools, spare parts, fasteners, etc. We try very hard not to lose things, but even with all of the attention and positive control, items can still float away and disappear. We generally hold items in a crew transfer bag (CTB).  Inside the CTB are many items for the system that it supports. When the CTB is opened, the items are free floating inside the bag and tend to escape. It is very difficult to maintain control of the items – especially if they are small, do not have Velcro, or when the daily schedule is so tight that we are rushing to stay on time.   We always try to close the CTB’s and Ziploc bags after removing or replacing each item to maintain positive control, but this takes much more time to do for individual items, and if the timeline is tight, we absorb more risk by rushing. The same applies for tools, which we usually keep in a Ziploc bag while working on individual systems and tasks. Last month, I was installing a new low temperature cooling loop pump that had failed a month or two earlier. I gathered the needed tools into my modified (with Velcro) Ziploc bag as I always do and floated over to the work area. When I got there, one of the tools that I had gathered was missing. I looked for 30 minutes, and could not find it. Lost items are very hard to find because the items that escape are usually barely moving and blend in with the environment very quickly. A lost item could be right in front of us and we would never see it. Our crew, after learning these lessons, decided that when anyone loses something, we would tell the other crew members what we had lost with a general location. This has had a huge impact on finding items. If a different crew member can help within the first minutes of losing an item, the new crew member has an excellent chance of finding the item. We have proven this technique several times during the expedition – and Nemo was the very best at quickly finding lost items.  But, in my case, we still could not find the missing tool. Our amazing ground team understood and vectored me to a replacement tool and I finished the job. I spent the next 3 weeks watching, looking, and never forgetting about the lost tool. Then, one day last week, Oleg came to the lab and handed us a tool he had found in his Soyuz spacecraft, way on the aft side of the ISS. Amazing. We finally found the tool and I was happy again. This was a lucky ending. ISS has many corners, crevices and hard-to-see areas where missing items could hide and never be found.

We captured a Cygnus cargo craft last Thursday. I was very impressed with the entire team. Our specialists and training professionals in Mission Control did a great job preparing the necessary procedures and making sure we were proficient and ready to conduct operations. The robotic arm is a wonderful system that we could not operate ISS without. Being in space, however, it has some very unique handling qualities. If you think about a spring-mass-damper system just as you did during physics or control theory class, and then remove the damper, you will see a system that is very subject to slow rate oscillations.  In test pilot terms, damping ratio is very low and the latency is well over a half of a second. Also in test pilot terms – this is a pilot-induced oscillations (PIO) generator. These characteristics require crew to “fly” the robotic arm using open-loop techniques, which requires a huge amount of patience. Test pilots are sometimes not very patient, but understanding the system and practicing with the incredible simulators that our ground team built and maintain help keep our proficiency as high as possible. The capture went flawlessly, and I was very impressed with the professionalism across the board – crew, flight controllers, and training professionals – what a great job!

Drew, Ricky and I got to play guitar a few times while on ISS. This was fun! Drew connected pickups to the acoustic guitars and then connected the pickups to our tablets for amplification. I’ve never heard an acoustic guitar sound like an electric guitar amped up for heavy metal before. We had a great jam on the song “Gloria”, and a couple others. Rock on!

Last night we had our last movie night. The entire crew gathered in Node 2 and watched Avengers Infinity Wars on the big screen. We enjoy each other’s company, as we did during Expedition 54, and this was a welcome break from the daily grind of trying to complete the required stowage, maintenance and science activities while preparing for departure.

Our last full weekend here on ISS. I gave myself a haircut. We usually clean our spaces each weekend to make sure we can maintain a decent level of organization, efficiency and morale. This weekend is no different, and it is time for me to vacuum out all of our filters and vents. You’d be amazed at what we find!

The top 5 things I will miss when I am no longer in space:

  1. The incredible team that supports ISS operations from our control centers
  2. The camaraderie onboard ISS
  3. The breathtaking view of the Earth, Moon, Sun and Stars
  4. Floating/flying from location to location with very little effort
  5. Operations in the extreme environment of space

Crew Juggles Science, Departure Preps and Spacewalk Work

The coast of Western Australia
The city of Perth, Garden Island and Rottnest Island are pictured as the International Space Station began an orbital pass across the coast of Western Australia.

 

International Space Station Commander Anton Shkaplerov will lead fellow Expedition 54-55 crewmates Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai back to Earth early Sunday morning. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module inside the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft on Sunday at 5:16 a.m. Just three and a half hours later the homebound crew will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space. NASA TV will broadcast live the undocking and landing activities.

Three more crew members are waiting in Kazakhstan to replace the Expedition 54-55 crew. Soyuz MS-09 Commander Sergey Prokopyev will launch with Expedition 56-57 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst on June 6 from Kazakhstan on a two-day ride to their new home in space.

The following week after the crew swap activities, NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will go out on their third spacewalk together this year. The duo will install new high definition cameras and route cables on the Harmony module during the 6.5-hour spacewalk planned for June 14. Tingle is readying some of the gear today that will be installed during that spacewalk.

Finally, Feustel and Arnold spent a little over half their day today setting up the new Cold Atom Lab (CAL). The duo installed the scientific gear in the Destiny lab module, connected cables and inspected fiber optics before powering up the low temperature research device. The CAL will chill atoms to temperatures barely above absolute zero allowing scientists to observe quantum behaviors not possible on Earth.

Crew Unloading Cygnus While New Trio Preps for Launch

Expedition 56 prime and backup crew members pose for pictures
The next three crew members to launch to the space station and their backups pose for a portrait at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. From left are Expedition 56-57 crew members Alexander Gerst, Sergei Prokopyev and Serena Auñón-Chancellor with back up crew members Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques.

The Expedition 55 crew is unloading the Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter today ahead of next week’s crew swap at the International Space Station. On top of the cargo transfers and crew departure activities, the orbital residents are also running space experiments to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Scott Tingle has been working inside Cygnus today unpacking station hardware and research gear delivered just last week. He removed science kits and spacewalking gear and stowed them throughout the orbital lab.

Tingle finally wrapped up his workday with his homebound crewmates Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai preparing for their June 3 return to Earth. The trio packed personal items and other gear inside the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft that will parachute the crew to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space.

Back on Earth, Soyuz MS-09 Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst are in final training in Kazakhstan ahead of their June 6 launch to the space station. The Expedition 56-57 trio will orbit Earth for two days before docking to the Rassvet module to begin a six-month stay in space.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, who are staying in space until Oct. 4, familiarized themselves today with the new Cold Atom Lab’s hardware and installation procedures. The device, delivered last week on Cygnus, will research what happens to atoms exposed to temperatures less than a billionth of a degree above absolute zero.

The two later split up as Arnold set up thermal hardware that will help scientists understand the processes involved in semiconductor crystal growth. Feustel moved on and began uninstalling a plant biology facility, the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), which has finalized its research operations. The EMCS will now be readied for return to Earth aboard the next SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Crew Begins Unloading Cygnus, Works Science Ahead of June Crew Swap

The Orbital ATK Space Freighter
This view taken from inside the Cupola shows the Orbital ATK space freighter moments before it was grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 24, 2018.

The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK is now open for business and the Expedition 55 crew has begun unloading the 7,400 pounds of cargo it delivered Thursday morning. The orbital residents are also conducting space research and preparing for a crew swap in early June.

There are now four spaceships parked at the International Space Station, the newest one having arrived to resupply the crew early Thursday morning. Astronauts Drew Feustel and Norishige Kanai opened Cygnus’ hatches shortly after it was installed to the Unity module. The cargo carrier will remain attached to the station until July so the astronauts can offload new supplies and repack Cygnus with trash.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, who caught Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm, swapped out gear inside a small life science research facility today called TangoLab-1. Tingle also joined Kanai later in the day transferring frozen biological samples from the Destiny lab module to the Kibo lab module.

The duo also joined Commander Anton Shkaplerov and continued to pack gear and check spacesuits ahead of their return to Earth on June 3 inside the Soyuz MS-07 spaceship. When the three crewmates land in Kazakhstan, about three and a half hours after undocking, the trio will have spent 168 days in space and conducted one spacewalk each.

Three new Expedition 56-57 crew members, waiting to replace the homebound station crew, are counting down to a June 6 launch to space. Astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst will take a two-day ride to the space station with cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft for a six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory.

Robotics Controllers Install Cygnus Resupply Ship on Station

May 24, 2018: International Space Station Configuration
May 24, 2018: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached to the space station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship, the Progress 69 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-07 and MS-08 crew ships.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 8:13 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft will spend about seven weeks attached to the space station before departing in July. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus was launched on the company’s Antares rocket Monday, May 21, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The spacecraft’s arrival brings about 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 55 and 56. Highlights include:

  • The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), an investigation to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station
  • The Cold Atom Laboratory, a physics research facility used by scientists to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to extreme cold temperatures
  • A unique liquid separation system from Zaiput Flow Technologies that relies on surface forces, rather than gravity, to extract one liquid from another
  • The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.
  • The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.
  • Three Earth science CubeSats
    • RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.
    • TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.
    • CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.

For more information about newly arrived science investigations aboard the Cygnus, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Cygnus Cargo Craft

Cygnus Captured
The Cygnus space freighter is grappled by the Canadarm2 after a three-day trip to the space station.

At 5:26 a.m. EDT, Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, backed by NASA Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. Robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

NASA TV coverage of operations to install the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson, to the space station’s Unity module will resume at 7:30 a.m.


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