Crew Packs Dragon With Science While Continuing More Space Research

Flight Engineer Drew Feustel
Flight Engineer Drew Feustel holds a bag containing samples that had been collected, documented and inspected for the Protein Crystal Growth-9 experiment.

The Expedition 55 crew members are packing up the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft today for its return to Earth on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the six International Space Station residents continue operating a multitude of space experiments while ensuring the orbital lab remains in tip-top shape.

NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold transferred an array of biological samples from station science freezers to specialized freezers stowed inside Dragon. The research samples are for analysis by scientists and are among a variety of cargo, including station hardware for refurbishment, returning to Earth inside Dragon Wednesday.

NASA TV begins its live coverage of the Dragon departure at 10 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. Robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon at 10:22 a.m. Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring the release and departure activities. Dragon will fire its engines for the final time at 3:06 p.m. beginning its descent back into Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 4 p.m. NASA TV will not cover Dragon’s splashdown about 260 miles southwest of Long Beach, Calif.

Flight Engineer Drew Feustel tended to a variety of experiment hardware today supporting life science and biomedical research. He spent the morning working on the Multi-Use Variable-G Platform that houses tiny organisms such as fruit flies, flatworms, plants, fish and cells. Feustel then configured the Human Research Facility-2 with gear enabling ongoing observations of the physical and mental changes taking place in astronauts living in space.

Astronauts and Robotics Controllers Prepping Dragon for Departure

Houston and Galveston Bay
Houston, Texas, the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and Galveston Bay are pictured from the space station at an altitude of about 250 miles.

Robotics controllers and Expedition 55 crew members are getting ready for the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship next week. The commercial space freighter will leave the International Space Station and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday loaded with cargo for retrieval and analysis.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold powered up command and communications gear today that will aid the crew when Dragon departs the station on Wednesday at 10:22 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the departure activities at 10 a.m. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean about six hours later to be recovered by SpaceX and NASA personnel. The splashdown off the southern coast of California will not be seen on NASA TV.

The Canadarm2 will be remotely maneuvered today to grapple Dragon today while it is still attached to the Harmony module. In the meantime the 57.7-foot-long robotic arm and its fine-tuned robotic hand, also known as Dextre, are completing the installation of an external materials exposure experiment outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Scott Tingle are still packing Dragon today with a variety of cargo including space station hardware and research samples. The STaARS-1 experiment facility has completed a year of operations at the station and is being readied for its return aboard Dragon next week. The research device supported observations of living systems exposed to simulated gravity such as Earth, the Moon and Mars. Feustel also stowed faulty life support gear in Dragon for refurbishment back on Earth.

Astronauts Explore Life Science and Prepare for Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle prepares video equipment for a series of education videos being recorded for the STEMonstration campaign which demonstrates scientific concepts in space for students and teachers.

A wide variety of life science is being explored today aboard the International Space Station as Expedition 55 crew members prepare for a spacewalk planned for next month. The space residents also continued the upkeep of the orbital lab while robotics controllers set up an external experiment.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai split his time today between tending mice and removing sensors attached to his arm. The rodents are being observed to detect the chemical signals that lead to muscle and bone loss in space and to provide therapies to keep astronauts healthy. Kanai also removed an armband monitor and sensors he wore for 36 hours that recorded alterations in his circadian rhythm caused by living in space.

Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are getting ready for a May 16 spacewalk to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool. The duo readied their spacewalk tools today then dumped water and purged gases from a pair of U.S. spacesuits.

Scott Tingle of NASA worked inside the Harmony module today to replace a deteriorating Pump Package Assembly (PPA) with a spare device. The PPA is a thermal control system that provides water cooling to station payloads and critical systems avionics.

Science is also taking place outside the space station and robotics controllers are working to transfer a tray for the materials exposure experiment (MISSE-FF) outside of the Kibo lab module through the lab’s airlock for reconfiguration tomorrow. The complex robotic maneuvers are remotely controlled from the ground and use not only the Canadarm2 robotic arm but also the fine-tuning robotic hand known as Dextre. MISSE-FF will test materials, coatings, and components in the harsh environment of space.

Also, overnight, Russian flight controllers sent commands to deorbit the unpiloted ISS Progress 68 cargo craft that had been orbiting for the past month for engineering test following its undocking from the station March 28. It burned up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere over the southern Pacific.

Space Gardening, Dragon Packing and Spacewalk Work Aboard Lab

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold
Astronauts Scott Tingle (left) and Ricky Arnold wrap up spacesuit work following a successful spacewalk on March 29, 2018. The duo scrubbed cooling loops, performed the iodination of ion filters and tested the water conductivity inside a pair of U.S. spacesuits.

The Expedition 55 crew is experimenting with space gardening today while packing research samples and cargo for return to Earth. The space residents are also breaking down gear brought in from last month’s spacewalk and getting ready for the next spacewalk.

Botany research aboard the International Space Station helps scientists and astronauts learn how to grow food off Earth to sustain future missions. Today’s space gardening work performed by Flight Engineer Drew Feustel will test the automated nourishment of lettuce and mizuna greens grown in the Veggie facility. The plants will be harvested and samples sent back to Earth for analysis.

Botanical samples are just one example of the multiple types of research and cargo that is sent to Earth packed inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Radiation monitors that recorded exposure levels in the station’s crew quarters were collected by Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai today for stowage inside Dragon. Engineers on the ground will examine the radiation data and determine the exposure risk to the crew and develop countermeasures.

NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold disassembled an external television camera group (ETVCG) brought in from last month’s spacewalk. Tingle then replaced a failed light bulb in a light to be used on another ETVCG which will be installed on the next spacewalk scheduled for mid-May. Parts from the old ETVCG will be shipped back to Earth in Dragon for refurbishment.

Dragon is due for two more work days of packing before its return to Earth next week. Ground controllers will remotely detach Dragon from the Harmony module before releasing it from the grips of Canadarm2 into space at 10:22 a.m. EDT Wednesday, May 2. Tingle will monitor the robotics activities as NASA TV broadcasts the departure activities live starting at 10 a.m. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean is planned for 4:02 p.m. and will not be seen on NASA TV.

 

Astronauts Switch Roles Today from Scientists to Plumbers

Astronaut Drew Feustel
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel conducts science operations using the Multi-Use Variable-G Platform that enables research into smaller and microscopic organisms.

The six Expedition 55 crew members are not only space scientists but also space plumbers who periodically work on the International Space Station’s toilet. Aside from today’s science and bathroom work, the crew also installed computer networking gear and inspected spacewalk equipment.

Drew Feustel, who began his career as an auto mechanic, studied to become a geophysicist and finally trained as a NASA astronaut, became a space plumber this morning. U.S. Navy Captain Scott Tingle of NASA brought Feustel up to speed on maintenance operations inside the bathroom, also known as the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, before updating its software and firmware.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, who is on his second space mission, first as a space shuttle mission specialist and now as a station flight engineer, replaced a failed device inside the Human Research Facility-2 (HRF-2) today. The spare Rack Interface Controller controls various systems inside the HRF-2 which evaluates the physiological, behavioral, and chemical changes that take place in humans living in space.

Next, Feustel moved on to the Protein Crystal Growth-9 experiment with assistance from Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai. The duo photographed and videotaped crystal samples grown for the middle and high school student-based research.

Feustel wrapped up his day installing firewalls, power supplies and cables providing additional computer security aboard the orbital lab. Kanai inspected spacewalk tethers and tools for damage before wearing an arm monitor that will analyze how microgravity has altered his circadian rhythms.

New Research Activated as Biological Samples Packed for Earth Return Aboard Dragon

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle tends to plants grown inside the VEGGIE facility in support of space botany research.

The outside of the International Space Station is a harsh environment but scientists are taking advantage of the extreme conditions to conduct advanced space research. Astronauts are also researching what happens to a variety of organisms living for months at a time inside a spacecraft as NASA prepares for longer missions farther out into space.

The fifth and final external materials experiment (MISSE) delivered by the latest SpaceX Dragon resupply ship was activated outside the orbital lab today. Robotics engineers operating the Canadarm2 and Dextre extracted and installed the MISSE canisters one by one from Dragon’s trunk to areas on the station. The canisters were then remotely opened exposing a variety of materials to the vacuum of space to help engineers design safer and stronger spacecraft systems.

Back inside the orbital lab, Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA harvested and photographed plants for the APEX-06 study today. The botanical samples collected from the VEGGIE facility were later processed and stowed in a science freezer for return to Earth inside the Dragon cargo craft. They will be analyzed after being quickly shipped to scientists at NASA and the University of Wisconsin.

NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel once again partnered up and collected their blood and urine samples today for more biomedical experiments. Researchers are analyzing the samples as they continuously study how the human body adapts to extended periods of weightlessness. Results will help doctors provide therapies to maintain the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

Mice are also being observed on the space station so scientists can detect the chemical signals that lead to weakened bones and muscles. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai drew more blood samples from the rodents today and wrapped up a week-long run of the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. The blood samples will be processed in a centrifuge, stowed in biological science freezer then returned to Earth inside Dragon for analysis on Earth.

Station Biomedical and Exercise Studies Impact Health on Earth and in Space

Doha, the capital city of Qatar
Doha, the capital city of Qatar, was photographed as the space station orbited over the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Biomedical research to improve health on Earth and in space dominated today’s science activities aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 55 crew is helping scientists from around the world understand how life shaped by gravity adapts to living in outer space.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel joined forces today collecting and stowing their blood samples in a science freezer for a pair of human research studies. The samples will be analyzed later to detect the chemical responses and physiological changes that take place in the human body during a spaceflight mission.

Blood samples were also drawn from mice as Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai continued his week-long research activities for the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. Those samples will be processed in centrifuge, stowed in a freezer then analyzed to detect the processes that lead to muscle and bone loss in microgravity. Astronauts could benefit from the results and stay healthier on longer missions farther into space.

Exercise is a very important contributor to maintaining stronger bones and muscles in space. However, exercise devices are bulky and can impact spacecraft habitability. Arnold tested a newer, smaller device today called the Miniature Exercise Device-2 that provides a range of motion and resistance workouts while maximizing habitable spacecraft volume.

Lab Tests and Life Science as Station Orbits Higher Today

Mexico, Baja California and the southern coast of the state of California
Mexico, Baja California and the southern coast of the state of California are pictured as the International Space Station orbited above the Pacific Ocean.

A docked Russian cargo craft automatically fired its engines this morning boosting the International Space Station’s altitude a little higher. During the rest of the day, the Expedition 55 crew supported life science and swapped out station hardware.

Russia’s Progress 69 resupply ship docked to the Zvezda service module fired its thrusters boosting the station’s orbit today. The two-minute, six-second burn establishes the correct orbit when three crew members undock and land in June and a two-orbit rendezvous capability for the Progress 70P resupply craft when it launches in July.

NASA crewmates Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel became lab assistants today as they collected and stowed their own blood, urine and saliva samples in a science freezer. Two long-running human research experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, are basing their results on the analysis of these samples helping scientists understand how microgravity impacts the human body.

Tingle later tested the Miniature Exercise Device-2 for providing a range of motion and resistance exercise while taking up less space aboard the station. Feustel installed new firewall gear in the Harmony module before replacing manifold bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack. Arnold worked with commercial science hardware then processed samples for a protein crystal growth student experiment.

Mice are being observed on the orbital lab today to understand the physiological signals that lead to muscle and bone loss in space. Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency collected blood samples from the mice to be processed, analyzed and stowed in a science freezer. Scientists are studying the effectiveness of a drug therapy to prevent those stresses and signals that cause weakened bones and muscles.

Station Set to Orbit Higher as Crew Performs Biomedical Tests

Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Drew Feustel of NASA
Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Drew Feustel of NASA is inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module talking to dignitaries on Earth, including university officials, musicians and scientists, during an educational event that took place at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

The International Space Station is set to raise its orbit Wednesday ahead of upcoming cargo and crew missions. Meanwhile, the six Expedition 55 crew members are staying busy today with medical tests, cargo work and lab maintenance.

The space station will increase its altitude slightly when a docked Russian cargo craft automatically fires its engines for two minutes and six seconds early Wednesday. The maneuver will establish the correct orbit for the landing of three crew members in June and a two-orbit rendezvous capability for the next Russian Progress resupply craft in July.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle collected and stowed his own urine sample today for a pair of biomedical studies examining the effects of spaceflight on the human body. The U.S. Navy pilot also continued operations for the Metabolic Tracking (MT) experiment that observes how human tissue samples are impacted by a specific drug compound.

Expedition 55-56 crewmates Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold checked each other’s eyes today using optical coherence tomography gear inside the Harmony module. Feustel also installed and checked the station’s first updated printer since 2000 before wrapping up his day unloading cargo from the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Arnold finally collected water samples and changed out a cartridge as part of preventative maintenance on a U.S. oxygen generator.

Astronaut Norishige Kanai from Japan continued more upkeep work for the Mouse Stress Defense experiment that is exploring the causes of muscle and bone loss in space. The busy flight engineer later assisted his fellow crew members unloading SpaceX cargo before injecting human tissue samples with a drug compound for the MT study.

Medicine and Mice Research All Week Long for Astro-Scientists

The Bahamas
The clear blue waters surrounding the islands of the Bahamas were pictured April 4, 2018 from an Expedition 55 crew member aboard the space station.

Scientists on the ground and in space this week are exploring a wide variety of phenomena affecting humans living in space. The ongoing life science aboard the International Space Station is designed to improve astronauts’ health in space and benefit people on Earth.

Medicine plays an important role in an astronaut’s health and doctors want to know more about how drug therapies work in space. NASA Flight Engineer Drew Feustel supported the medicine research today and injected human tissue samples with a drug compound for the Metabolic Tracking study. Those samples will be incubated then frozen before returning to Earth to be analyzed. Results may help the pharmaceutical industry design better, cheaper drugs for humans on Earth and in space.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai is tending to mice today, cleaning their habitats and preparing for a week-long run of the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. The Expedition 55 crew and doctors on Earth are observing the mice to understand the processes leading to muscle and bone loss in microgravity. Researchers are testing therapies that may prevent the physiological signals and stresses in space that lead to a weakened musculoskeletal system.

Other important space research taking place throughout the week will look at how plants grow off Earth possibly sustaining future crews and improving Earth agriculture. The crew will also test the new Miniature Exercise Device-2 for providing a range of motion and resistance exercise while taking up less space aboard the station.

More external cargo operations took place outside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship over the weekend. Robotics controllers remotely operating the Canadarm2 stowed a failed pump flow control sub-assembly (PFCS) in Dragon’s trunk ahead of a May spacewalk. That spacewalk will see two astronauts work outside the station to relocate a series of spare sub-assemblies for functional testing.


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