A pair of German experiments took place aboard the International Space Station today including a space exercise study and the installation of an Earth spectral sensor. The Expedition 56 crew members are also looking ahead to Wednesday’s Russian cargo ship departure and a pair of U.S. spacewalks in September.
Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) exercised today in a t-shirt designed with a specialized fabric for the SpaceTex-2 study. The research, sponsored by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), is evaluating whether the custom t-shirt provides comfort, efficient thermal control and sweat evaporation during a workout in microgravity.
Commander Drew Feustel worked on another DLR experiment that will provide hyperspectral imagery of the Earth. Feustel is readying the German-built Earth spectrometer for its installation outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. It will monitor urban and agricultural development, the health of vegetation and water areas as well as the environmental effects of natural and manmade disasters.
Russia’s Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft loaded with trash is poised for its undocking Wednesday at 10:16 p.m. EDT from the aft port of the Zvezda service module. The 69P will orbit the Earth for seven more days of engineering tests before it deorbits over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery but safe disposal.
Two U.S. spacewalks are planned for Sept. 20 and 26 to replace batteries on the space station’s Port 4 truss structure power channels. Gerst will join Feustel on the first spacewalk then go out again on the second spacewalk with NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold. The batteries are targeted for delivery on Sept. 14 aboard Japan’s “Kounotori” HTV resupply ship.
The Expedition 56 crew members explored using algorithms to remotely control a robot on the ground and satellites from the International Space Station today. The orbital residents are also cleaning up after a Russian spacewalk while preparing for a pair of upcoming U.S. spacewalks and a Japanese cargo mission.
Astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency is testing the ability to control a robot on a planetary surface from an orbiting spacecraft. The study seeks to bolster the success and safety of future space missions with astronauts and robots sharing decision-making responsibilities.
Commander Drew Feustel joined Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold in the Japanese Kibo lab module monitoring a pair of tiny internal satellites, also known as SPHERES. They are evaluating an algorithm that controls the operation of the SPHERES in formation using six degrees of freedom.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev are cleaning up after Wednesday’s spacewalk enabling new science outside of the space station. The two dried out their Russian Orlan spacesuits and water feed lines then began stowing spacewalk tools and gear.
At the end of the day, Gerst started charging U.S. spacesuit batteries ahead of two maintenance spacewalks planned for Sept. 20 and 26. Gerst and fellow spacewalkers Feustel and Arnold will replace batteries on the Port 4 truss structure’s power channels. The Japanese “Kounotori” HTV-7 cargo ship is targeted to deliver the new batteries ahead of the two spacewalks on Sept. 14.
A pair of cosmonauts are going into the weekend preparing for the seventh spacewalk this year from the International Space Station. The rest of the Expedition 56 crew set up a student satellite competition, made space for a cargo mission and checked combustion experiment gear.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev are getting ready for a spacewalk Aug. 15 to conduct science and maintenance outside the station’s Russian segment. Artemyev, who has two previous spacewalks under his belt, and Prokopyev suited up Friday for a dry run of their upcoming spacewalk with assistance from NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. The duo will hand-deploy four tiny satellites, install antennas and cables and collect exposed science experiments.
Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold set up a pair of tiny satellites, known as SPHERES, for operation during the SPHERES Zero Robotics student competition. Middle school students in the United States are competing to write the best algorithms to operate the SPHERES simulating a mission on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Alexander Gerst of ESA joined Arnold before lunchtime making space for cargo due to be delivered in Sept. 14 aboard Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle. Gerst then opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack in the afternoon and took pictures of ACME (Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments) gear that supports five independent gaseous flame studies.
The Expedition 56 crew members explored how human health and physical processes are affected off the Earth today. The orbital residents are also configuring the International Space Station for a Russian spacewalk next week and a Japanese cargo craft mission in September.
A long-running human research study is helping doctors understand the impacts of microgravity shifting fluids upward in an astronaut’s body. Two astronauts, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA, joined forces today for that study using an ultrasound device for eye scans with assistance from specialists on Earth. The experiment aims to help researchers prevent the upward fluid shifts that put pressure on an astronaut’s eyes potentially affecting vision in space and back on Earth after a mission.
The orbital complex enables research into a variety of space physics including the observation of atoms nearly frozen still when exposed to the coldest temperatures in the universe. The Cold Atom Lab (CAL), which chills atoms to about one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero, had its fiber cables inspected by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold today during troubleshooting operations. CAL was delivered to the station in May aboard the Cygnus space freighter then installed in the Columbus laboratory module shortly after.
A spacewalk is scheduled for Aug. 15 when cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the station’s Russian segment for about 6 hours of science and maintenance tasks. The duo spent Wednesday afternoon checking their Orlan spacesuits in a pressurized configuration. They also installed U.S. lights and video cameras on the suits ahead of next week’s excursion.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning a Sept. 10 launch of its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) for capture and installation to the space station. HTV will be carrying cargo and new lithium ion batteries for installation on the station’s Port-4 truss power system. Commander Drew Feustel partnered with Gerst and Arnold throughout the day readying JAXA’s Kibo laboratory module for the upcoming delivery mission.
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.
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 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):
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.
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.
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?
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:
The incredible team that supports ISS operations from our control centers
The camaraderie onboard ISS
The breathtaking view of the Earth, Moon, Sun and Stars
Floating/flying from location to location with very little effort
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.