Dragon Training and Brain Imaging for Astronauts

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, from the European Space Agency, works to load gear inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock.

The Expedition 50 crew trained today for the robotic capture of the SpaceX Dragon and studied how the brain adapts to living in space. Three crew members also conducted an emergency drill aboard the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet joined Commander Shane Kimbrough to study the robotics maneuvers they will use when the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship arrives later this month. Dragon is targeted to liftoff mid-February atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The tenth commercial resupply mission from SpaceX will deliver advanced space research to improve disease-fighting drugs, observe Earth’s climate and automate spacecraft navigation.

Whitson also set up magnetic resonance brain imaging hardware for the NeuroMapping experiment. The study, which has been ongoing since 2014, is exploring changes in the brain and how an astronaut’s cognition, perception and motion are affected by long-term space missions.

Veteran station residents Oleg Novitskiy and Whitson along with first-time space flyer Pesquet practiced an emergency Soyuz descent today. The trio entered their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft and simulated a scenario in the unlikely event the crew would have to evacuate the station quickly and return to Earth.


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Station Prepped for Science Gear from Japan and SpaceX

Solar Array's and Earth's Limb
The space station’s solar arrays and the Earth’s limb were pictured Feb. 2, 2017,as the Expedition 50 crew orbited over the southern Pacific Ocean. Credit: Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

A new high-definition Earth observation video camera will be installed on the outside of Japan’s Kibo lab module later this week. The Expedition 50 crew is also getting the International Space Station ready for the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

An HDTV camera delivered aboard Japan’s HTV-6 cargo craft in December is being readied for its deployment outside Kibo. The video camera will be staged inside the Kibo airlock today before depressurization and leak checks begin. The HDTV camera will then be robotically installed on a platform outside Kibo called the Exposed Facility where it will be used for Earth observations.

The astronauts are also getting communications gear ready to assist with the rendezvous and approach of the tenth SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission. Dragon is planned to launch later this month from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA is hosting a media teleconference Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST highlighting new experiments being delivered aboard Dragon. The advanced space research will include studies to fight a wide range of diseases, observe Earth’s climate and test autonomous rendezvous capabilities.


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White Stork Burns over Pacific and Crew Preps for Dragon

Japan's HTV-6 Resupply Ship
Japan’s HTV-6 resupply ship begins its separation after it’s release from the International Space Station.

Japan’s Kounotori, or “White Stork,” HTV-6 resupply ship completed its mission Sunday morning just over a week after its release from the International Space Station. The HTV-6 fired its engines for the last time sending it into Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise over the southern Pacific Ocean.

The Expedition 50 crew is now planning for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft later in February. The astronauts, including Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet, talked to ground specialists Monday. The trio then began reviewing the mission profile, training materials and rendezvous procedures.

Kimbrough started his day working on life support systems maintenance before activating a combustion experiment laptop computer at the end of his shift. Pesquet wrapped up his day in the Japanese Kibo lab module preparing the airlock for the external installation of a high-definition video camera for Earth observations. Whitson began preparing communications and science gear ahead of the SpaceX CRS-10 resupply mission.


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Astronauts Study New SkinSuit and New Lights

Aurora
The aurora is pictured as the International Space Station orbits Earth during a nighttime pass.

NASA is planning human spaceflight missions further out into space and is learning how astronauts adapt to life off Earth for months and years at a time. The International Space Station provides the laboratory environment for numerous studies into how the human body reacts when exposed to microgravity.

Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet, from the European Space Agency, is wearing the new SkinSuit to study its ability to offset the effects of living in space including back pain and spine-stretching. The unique, tailor-made suit squeezes the body from the shoulder to the feet mimicking the force felt on Earth. Pesquet is evaluating the SkinSuit’s comfort, range of motion and its functionality while exercising.

Lighting is also very important when living in space since the daily sunrise and sunset cycle that guides life on Earth no longer applies. The crew is participating in tests helping researchers understand how new station lights that can be adjusted for intensity and wavelength are affecting crew sleep patterns and cognitive performance.

The cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskiy, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov, were conducting their own set of human research experiments today. The trio collected blood and saliva samples to explore how the immune system and bone mass is affected in outer space. The samples were stowed in a U.S. science freezer for later analysis on Earth.


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BEAM Opens for Tests, Crew Checks Body Shape

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet
Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are pictured inside BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Pesquet is also wearing the experimental SkinSuit.

BEAM was opened for a short time Thursday so the crew could install sensors inside the expandable module. The Expedition 50 space residents also explored how the body changes shape and how to prevent back pain during long-term missions.

BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, had its hatches opened temporarily so astronaut Peggy Whitson could install temporary sensors and perform a modal test, which has the astronaut use their fist to impart loads on the module. The sensors are measuring the resulting vibrations and how the module holds up to impacts. BEAM is an expandable habitat technology demonstration, which is a lower-mass and lower-volume system than metal habitats and can increase the efficiency of cargo shipments, possibly reducing the number of launches needed and overall mission costs.

Whitson also joined Commander Shane Kimbrough for body measurements to help NASA understand how living in space changes an astronaut’s physical characteristics. The duo collected video and imagery and measured chest, waist, hip arms and legs to help researchers learn how physical changes impact suit sizing.

An experimental suit called the SkinSuit is being studied for its ability to offset the effects of microgravity and prevent lower back pain and the stretching of the spine. Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet wore the SkinSuit today and documented his comfort, range of motion and other aspects of the suit.


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Astronauts Welcome Super Bowl Fans and Explore Gut Microbes

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough
Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough called down to Houston and welcomed football fans to Super Bowl LI festivities. Credit: NASA/James Blair

A pair of NASA astronauts on the International Space Station called down to Houston today as the city gets ready to host Super Bowl LI on Sunday. Johnson Space Center officials, media and visitors gathered at Space Center Houston to hear Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson and Commander Shane Kimbrough welcome everyone as NASA participates in Super Bowl festivities this week.

As NASA and the city of Houston welcome football fans, the Expedition 50 crew aboard the International Space Station continued advanced space research to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

The astronauts explored how the immune system adapts in outer space by collecting their biological samples for the Multi-Omics study. The experiment, which began in March 2015 when the One-Year mission began, is researching gut microbes and metabolism to determine how living in space affects the human immune function.

Scientists and engineers are using the station as a platform to explore technologies for removing space debris from Earth orbit and returning samples from planetary surfaces. The crew members set up tiny internal multi-use satellites known as SPHERES to demonstrate capturing a space object and tugging it. Researchers are testing software to improve computer models to make space safer from space junk and improve planetary science.


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Russian Space Freighter Leaves Station

Jan. 31, 2017 Space Station Configuration
The departure of the Russian Progress 64 cargo craft leaves two Soyuz spaceships docked at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The Russian 64 Progress cargo vehicle undocked from the Pirs docking compartment at 9:25 a.m. EST. The Russian Progress 64 arrived at the space station July 18, after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan July 17. After more than six months at the station, the spacecraft is scheduled to deorbit at 12:34 p.m. where it will burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

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


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Scientists Study Crew Adapting to New Tech

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough is seen inside his spacesuit during a spacewalk on Jan. 13, 2017.

Scientists are researching how International Space Station astronauts adapt to new technology as NASA prepares to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit. Crew members will have to learn how to operate new types of spacecraft and adjust to planetary surfaces with different microgravity environments.

As part of this research, Expedition 50 Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson from NASA and Thomas Pesquet from ESA started Monday morning with an interactive test on an iPad. The test is part of the Fine Motor Skills experiment that observes how astronauts interact with new technologies potentially influencing the design of future spaceships, spacesuits and habitats.

Commander Shane Kimbrough worked throughout the day on science hardware. He rebooted a computer on the MERLIN science freezer before swapping hard drives on a device that observes meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere. In the afternoon, Kimbrough videotaped himself reading a children’s book and performing a simple light experiment for school kids on Earth.

The three cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskiy, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov, worked in the station’s Russian segment on a variety of science and maintenance tasks. The trio explored the human digestion system and collected blood samples for a bone loss study.


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Sixth Japanese HTV Cargo Ship Leaves Station

The Japanese HTV-6 Resupply Ship
The Japanese HTV-6 resupply ship is pictured just before its release on astronaut Shane Kimbrough’s 100th day in space. Credit: @Astro_Kimbrough

Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA commanded the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release a Japanese cargo vehicle at 10:46 a.m. EST. At the time of release, the station was flying 261 statute miles above the south Atlantic Ocean. Earlier, ground controllers used the robotic arm to unberth the cargo craft.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) H-II Transport Vehicle-6 (HTV-6) arrived to the space station Dec. 13, after launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan Dec. 9.

The cargo ship will now move to a safe distance below and in front of the station for about a week’s worth of data gathering with a JAXA experiment designed to measure electromagnetic forces using a tether in low-Earth orbit. JAXA is scheduled to deorbit the craft on Feb. 5. Loaded with trash, the vehicle will burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

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


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Spaceship Ready for Release as Crew Studies Vision

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet (left) and Shane Kimbrough pose for a portrait with Japan’s HTV-6 resupply ship orbiting a short distance away from the space station’s cupola on Dec. 13, 2016.

The Expedition 50 crew is getting ready for Friday morning’s release of Japan’s sixth cargo craft to visit the International Space Station. The station residents are also continuing to explore how their eyes adapt to living in space for months at a time.

The Kounotori HTV-6 resupply ship, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is being disconnected from station systems today as it prepares for its departure Friday at 10:30 a.m. EST. Overnight, ground controllers will operate the Canadarm2 and maneuver the HTV-6 away from the Harmony module where it is attached.

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA will then command the 57.7-foot-long robotic arm to release Kounotori back into orbit. After the HTV supports science experiments for a week, Japanese flight controllers will command the craft to deorbit on Feb. 5 for a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

More Fluid Shifts research took place today as astronauts study the possibility of using a special suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure (LBNP) suit, to prevent the upward flow of fluids towards the head caused by microgravity. This headward flow may be causing pressure on the back of crew members’ eyes potentially causing damage and affecting vision.

During the afternoon, the crew also participated in ultrasound eye scans. Doctors on the ground assisted the crew to ensure good views of the optic nerve, cornea and back of the eye.


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