On top of the world

Mark Vande Hei exercises
View of Mark Vande Hei, Expedition 53 flight engineer, exercising on the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT) T2 aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA

When you’re on top of the world—or orbiting it—there’s no better place to be. NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had a late night yesterday, staying up to watch a special uplink from Mission Control: Game 7 of the World Series. The winning outcome was cause for celebration, as the Astros have many fans at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is home base for the astronauts.

Today, the crew worked to size up the exercise equipment they rely on to sustain muscle mass and prevent bone loss while living and working in space. They set up cameras in Node 3 to capture video from multiple angles of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and Miniature Exercise Device (MED-2) hardware, applied body markers, performed exercises and transferred the video for delivery to Mission Control. Aboard ISS, the exercise equipment is large and bulky, which is OK because the orbiting laboratory is about the size of a three-bedroom house. But, for Mars or other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, available space will be difficult to come by. MED-2 aims to demonstrate that small robotic actuators can provide the same quality motion and resistance for crew workout sessions, thus reducing the size and weight of exercise devices for space missions farther out and lengthier in duration. Evaluating MED-2’s game-changing technology is crucial to the design and development of second- and third-generation hardware that is much lighter, smaller and more reliable than what is used now.

An Expedition 53 crew member read “Notable Notebooks Scientists and Their Writings Read” on camera for Story Time from Space. These recordings are downlinked and then used in schools, combining science literacy with simple concept experiments that children can follow along with on the ground. The videos are posted in a library with accompanying educational materials, further promoting science, technology, engineering and math to budding scientists, engineers and explorers.

The station’s altitude was raised last night during a three minute, 26-second firing of the ISS Progress 67 thrusters. The reboost of the complex was the first of two such maneuvers this month to set up the correct trajectory for the landing of the Expedition 53 crew on Dec. 14 in south central Kazakhstan and the launch, three days later, of the Expedition 54-55 crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Station Crew Continues Prep for Eighth Orbital ATK Launch

Cygnus
Cygnus is an autonomous cargo vehicle that provides commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station. Its next launch is targeted for Nov. 11. Image Credit: NASA

Routine—and not-so-routine—housekeeping duties continue for Expedition 53 aboard the International Space Station in preparation for an upcoming Orbital ATK 8 (OA-8) commercial launch targeted for Nov. 11.

The crewmates prepared the Permanent Multipurpose Module rack fronts to accept cargo by moving smaller items off and staging them for disposal. During OA-8 cargo operations, the items marked for disposal will be swapped with new cargo arriving aboard OA-8.

During Orbital ATK’s eighth Cygnus resupply mission, the cargo craft will make a nine-minute ascent to space and then begin a two-day trek to the space station. Upon arrival, it will captured by Canadarm2 and installed for a month-long stay. Tonight, ground teams will reboost the station using the thrusters on Progress 67, which will put it at the proper altitude to meet up with Cygnus.

The crew also spent part of the workday photo documenting their uncommon “home life” aboard the orbiting laboratory for the Canadian Space Agency study called At Home in Space. This investigation assesses the culture, values and psychosocial adaptation of astronauts to a space environment shared by multinational crews during long mission timeframes. Questionnaires answered by the crew will help answer if astronauts develop a unique, shared space culture as an adaptive strategy for handling the cultural differences they encounter in their isolated and confined environment by creating a home in space.

For Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, their day was punctuated by an educational downlink with students from Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The students were immersed in the science and technology studies being executed daily approximately 240 miles above Earth.

Station Crew Remains Rooted in Science as the Week Kicks Off

Veggie Harvest
Charles Spern, project manager on the Engineering Services Contract, communicates instructions for the Veggie system to astronaut Joe Acaba aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA/Amanda Griffin

The Expedition 53 crew capped off last week’s investigations with fresh pickings of lettuce, cabbage and mizuna harvested from the Veg-03 investigation. There’s still some left, though, for the remainder of the vegetation will be allowed to grow and sprout new leaves. Since future long-duration explorers will expected to grow their own food to survive the harsh environment of space and Mars, understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important component to a robust astronaut food system.

Plants are still on the table for the crew, so to speak, as the week kicks off. Following last week’s successful assembly and installation of the Advanced Plant Plant Habitat facility into the EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack 5 (ER5), today the crew moved the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) Sensor Enclosure to ER5. The automated plant habitat facility will be used to conduct plant bioscience research aboard the International Space Station by providing a large, enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber.

The crewmates also set up the payload components for EarthKAM in Node 2 for a weeklong imaging session. Sally Ride EarthKAM allows thousands of students worldwide to photograph and examine Earth from a space crew’s perspective. Using the Internet, the students control a special digital camera mounted on the space station to photograph coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest from the incomparable viewpoint of space. Later, the varied topographies are shared online for the public and participating classrooms to observe.

Around noon EDT, Station Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA shared insights about living and working aboard the nation’s most unique U.S. National Laboratory with students from Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, California.

Pope Francis and Expedition 53 Crew Exchange Thoughts About Humanity’s Deepest and Oldest Questions

Pope Francis calls ISS
On a screen at right in NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Pope Francis speaks to the crew aboard the International Space Station on Oct. 26. Image Credit: NASA

In the middle of a workday where the Expedition 53 crew performed a routine emergency drill and additional ocular ultrasounds to map any eye changes, there was, most certainly, a higher (phone) call that actually came from more than 200 miles below the International Space Station at the Vatican: Pope Francis phoned in.

It was no ordinary ESA (European Space Agency) in-flight event. Though the Pope did ask the requisite question—what motivated them to become astronauts/cosmonauts—the conference delved quickly into deeper topics, like the crew’s thoughts of humankind’s place in the universe. Each crew member took turns speaking to Pope Francis through ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli of Italy, who translated.

Nespoli indicated that while he remains perplexed at humankind’s role, he feels their main objective is enriching the knowledge around us. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t. Part of space station’s ultimate mission is filling in those gaps and revealing the mysteries locked away in the cosmos.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky of Roscosmos told the Pope that it was an honor to continue his grandfather’s legacy aboard the orbiting laboratory. Ryazansky’s grandfather was a chief engineer of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite to launch to space. Ryazansky said he is now part of the future of humanity, helping to open frontiers of new technology.

Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA spoke candidly to Pope Francis, saying that one cannot serve aboard the space station and not be touched to their soul. From Bresnik’s unique vantage orbiting Earth, it is obvious there are no borders. Also evident: a fragile band of atmosphere protecting billions of people below.

Pope Francis said that while society is individualistic, we need collaboration—and there is no better example of international teamwork and cohesiveness than the space station. It is the ultimate human experiment, showing that people from diverse backgrounds can band together to solve some of the most daunting problems facing the world.

“The totality is greater than the sum of its parts,” Pope Francis observed.

At the end of the call, the Pope thanked his new friends, offered his blessings and asked that they, too, pray for him in return.

Expedition 53 Embarks upon Third and Final Spacewalk in October Series

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 7:47 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about 6.5 hours. Live coverage is available on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA will replace a camera light assembly on the Canadarm2 latching end effectors (LEE) that spacewalkers installed on the Canadarm2 robotic Oct. 5. They will also install an HD camera outside the station among other tasks in the 205th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in station history.

Bresnik is wearing the suit with red stripes, and helmet camera #18. Acaba is wearing the suit with no stripes, and helmet camera #17.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates on the station and crew activities. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

 

Final Spacewalk Preps Before November Cygnus Launch

Astronaut Joe Acaba and spacewalkers
Astronaut Joe Acaba (foreground) assisted crewmates Randy Bresnik (right) and Mark Vande Hei before they began a spacewalk on Oct. 10.

Four Expedition 53 crewmates huddled together and made final preparations the day before the third and final spacewalk planned for October. Meanwhile, NASA’s commercial partner Orbital ATK has announced Nov. 11 as the new launch date for its Cygnus cargo carrier to the International Space Station.

Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba are reviewing procedures and configuring tools before their spacewalk set for Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits and guide the duo as they work outside.

The spacewalk was originally set for Wednesday before mission managers replanned a new set of tasks due to a camera light failure. Bresnik and Acaba will now replace the camera light assembly on the Canadarm2’s newly installed Latching End Effector and install an HD camera on the starboard truss. The duo will also replace a fuse on Dextre’s payload platform and remove thermal insulation on two electrical spare parts housed on stowage platforms.

Orbital ATK is targeting the launch of its eighth Cygnus resupply mission to the station for Nov. 11. Cygnus will make a nine-minute ascent to space after launch, then begin a two-day trek to the station where it will be installed for a month-long stay after its capture by the Canadarm2.

Medical Training Ahead of Third Spacewalk

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba poses in between two U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock. He will wear one of those spacesuits on a spacewalk scheduled for Oct. 20, 2017.

The Expedition 53 crew trained for a medical emergency in space today after spending the morning on weekly housecleaning tasks. Afterward, two astronauts reviewed procedures and checked their tools ahead of Friday’s spacewalk.

Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin joined NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba for a routine training session to handle a medical emergency aboard the International Space Station. The trio reviewed medical hardware, chest compression techniques and individual roles and responsibilities.

Afterward, Acaba moved on to spacewalk preparations with Commander Randy Bresnik. The spacewalkers are due to begin a 6.5 hour spacewalk Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will cover the spacewalking activities live beginning at 6:30 a.m.

This will be the third spacewalk this month and consists of repackaged tasks that include the replacement of a camera assembly on the newly installed Latching End Effector, the installation of an HD camera on the starboard truss, the replacement of a fuse on Dextre’s payload platform and the removal of thermal insulation on two electrical spare parts housed on stowage platforms.

Russian Spacecraft Delivers Station Supplies

Russian 68P Cargo Craft
The Russian 68P cargo craft is pictured just meters away from docking to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

Traveling about 252 miles over eastern China, the unpiloted Russian Progress 68 cargo ship docked at 7:04 a.m. EDT to the Pirs Docking Compartment of the International Space Station.

For more information about the current crew and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

Cargo Mission Launches Carrying Food, Fuel and Supplies to Station

The Russian Progress 68 cargo craft lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV

Carrying almost three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted Russian Progress 68 cargo spacecraft launched at 4:46 a.m. EDT (2:46 p.m. local time in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying about 250 miles over the south Atlantic Ocean north of the Falkland Islands .

Less than 10 minutes after launch, the resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. The Expedition 53 crew will monitor key events during Progress 68’s approach and docking.

Following a 34-orbit, two-day trip, Progress will arrive at the Pirs docking compartment of the International Space Station for docking on Monday, Oct. 16, at 7:09 a.m. NASA TV coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin on NASA’s website at 6:15 a.m

To join the conversation about the space station and Progress 68 online, follow @space_station on Twitter.

Station Cargo Mission and Spacewalk Rescheduled

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured attached to the outside of the space station during a spacewalk on Oct. 10, 2017.

Roscosmos has rescheduled the launch of the Russian Progress 68 cargo spacecraft for Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (2:46 p.m. local time in Baikonur). The spacecraft is carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 53 crew aboard the International Space Station.

Launch coverage on NASA TV will begin at 4:15 a.m. Following a 34-orbit, two-day trip, Progress will arrive at the Pirs docking compartment of the International Space Station for docking on Monday, Oct. 16, at 7:09 a.m., with NASA TV coverage beginning at 6:15 a.m.

In addition, NASA has rescheduled the Expedition 53 crew’s third and final spacewalk in the current series to next Friday, Oct. 20. Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba will begin the spacewalk at approximately 8:05 a.m., and NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m.

The tasks for the crew members to conduct have been adjusted. Bresnik and Acaba will replace a fuse on Dextre’s enhanced orbital replacement unit temporary platform; install an enhanced HD camera on the Starboard 1 lower outboard truss; remove thermal insulation on two spare units to prepare those components for future robotic replacement work, if required; and replace a light on the Canadarm2’s new latching end effector installed during the first spacewalk Oct. 5. The final lubrication of the new end effector and the replacement of a camera system on the Destiny Lab will be deferred for a future spacewalk.

To join the conversation about the space station activities online, follow @space_station on Twitter.