NASA Astronauts Wrap Up First Spacewalk of 2018

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba (left) assists astronaut Scott Tingle during a fit check in his U.S. spacesuit.

Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle of NASA completed the first spacewalk this year at 2:13 p.m. EST, lasting 7 hours, 24 minutes. The two astronauts replaced a Latching End Effector (LEE) on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2.

There are two redundant end effectors on each end of the arm used to grapple visiting vehicles and components during a variety of operational activities. The spacewalk was the 206th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the third in Vande Hei’s career and the first for Tingle. Vande Hei will venture outside the station again Jan. 29 with Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to stow a spare latching end effector removed from the robotic arm last October on to the station’s mobile base system rail car for future use.

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 53 days, 13 hours, and 49 minutes working outside the station in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit


Space Station Orbits Earth for 7000th Day

The Station Has Been On Orbit for 7000 Days
Clockwise from top left: The first station module, Zarya from Russia, is pictured December 1998 from Space Shuttle Endeavour; the first station crew, Expedition 1, was onboard the station in February of 2001; a growing station was pictured in June of 2007; the station in its near final configuration in February 2010.

The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth for 7,000 days as of today Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. The first module, the Russian Zarya cargo module, launched to space in November of 1998. The first crew arrived at the young three-module orbital laboratory in November of 2000.

54 crews and 205 spacewalks later, the current six-member Expedition 54 crew is gearing up for a pair of spacewalks on Jan. 23 and 29. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will lead both spacewalks with Flight Engineer Scott Tingle joining him on the first spacewalk. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai will join Vande Hei for the second spacewalk.

All three astronauts were joined today by Flight Engineer Acaba for a spacewalk procedures review with specialists on the ground. The spacewalking trio will be swapping and stowing robotics parts to maintain the upkeep of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Both spacewalks will start each day at 7:10 a.m. EST with live NASA Television coverage beginning at 5:30 a.m.

The two cosmonauts aboard the space station, Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov, conducted regularly scheduled eye checks today. The veteran orbital residents worked with doctors on the ground using a fundoscope to view the interior of the eye. Crew members aboard the station participate in regular eye exams to understand how living in space affects vision.

Expedition 54 Getting Ready for Pair of January Spacewalks

NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Mark Vande Hei
NASA astronauts Scott Tingle (left) and Mark Vande Hei, seen here in the Destiny laboratory module, will participate in the Jan. 23 spacewalk.

A pair of spacewalks are planned for Jan. 23 and 29 to swap and stow external robotics gear. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will lead both spacewalks. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will join him on the first spacewalk with Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai joining Vande Hei on the second.

Vande Hei, Tingle and Kanai checked the spacesuits today they will wear outside the International Space Station for the two robotics maintenance spacewalks. Flight Engineer Joe Acaba assisted the spacewalkers with their spacesuit fit checks and helped collect spacewalk tools.

Vande Hei and Tingle will exit the U.S. Quest airlock Tuesday at 7:10 a.m. EST for six-and-a-half hours of work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. NASA TV will cover the spacewalk live beginning at 5:30 a.m. The duo will swap a Latching End Effector (LEE) with a spare one. The LEE is the part of the Canadarm2 that grapples and releases spaceships and station hardware.

Dragon Departs Station and Heads Back to Earth for Splashdown

SpaceX Dragon Departure
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Jan. 13, 2018. Credit: NASA TV

Ground controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 4:58 a.m. EST. The capsule will begin a series of departure burns and maneuvers to move beyond the “keep out sphere” around the station for its return trip to Earth.

Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 9:43 a.m. The capsule will splashdown about 10:36 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve the capsule and its nearly 4,100 pounds of cargo. This cargo will include science samples from human and animal research, external payloads, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities.

The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

Dragon, the only space station resupply spacecraft currently able to return to Earth intact, launched Dec. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and arrived at the station Dec. 17 for the company’s 13th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

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Dragon Cargo Craft Prepped for Saturday Morning Release

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is seen through the cupola as it arrived Dec. 17, 2017, for its robotic capture and installation at the International Space Station.

NASA Television coverage of the departure of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station will begin on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 a.m. EST. The spacecraft is targeted for release at 5 a.m. Watch live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.

Dragon was robotically detached from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony module today at 5:47 p.m. The resupply ship launched to the space station Dec. 15 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying more than 4,800 pounds of supplies and cargo on SpaceX’s 13th commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.

The capsule is currently scheduled to splash down in the Pacific Ocean at about 10:36 a.m., just to the west of Baja California. It will return about 4,100 pounds of cargo, including research samples.

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crew members, at

Dragon Ready for Return, Crew Explores Space Effects on Heart

Dragon and Canadarm2
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is grappled by the Canadarm2 on Jan. 12, 2017, as the International Space Station orbited above the South Pacific Ocean.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Scott Tingle and Mark Vande Hei have wrapped up cargo operations inside the SpaceX Dragon disconnecting power cables and depressurizing the vehicle. Robotics controllers will detach Dragon resupply ship from the International Space Station’s Harmony module tonight. Dragon will then be remotely released from the grip of the Canadarm2 into Earth orbit at 5 a.m. EST Saturday for a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 10:36 a.m.

Acaba and Tingle will monitor Dragon’s departure Saturday morning from inside the cupola as controllers on Earth release a cargo craft remotely from the space station for the first time. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m. Splashdown will not be televised.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai worked a variety of life science experiments today exploring what happens to humans living in space. He started the morning drawing his blood samples and storing them in a science freezer for later analysis. He also stowed frozen science samples inside Dragon for return to Earth. At the end of the day, Kanai removed petri plates from a specialized microscope containing plant samples being observed for molecular and genetic changes caused by microgravity.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov took body mass measurements this morning on a device that applies a known force on the subject with the resulting acceleration being used to calculate mass. The duo also partnered up for a pair of biomedical experiments including the Biocard cardiovascular study and the DAN blood pressure study.

Crew Monitors Student Contest, Packs Dragon and Works Biomedical Science

SpaceX Dragon and Canadarm2
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and the Canadarm2 robotic arm with the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, Dextre, attached are pictured as the space station orbited above the Gulf of Alaska.

Students on Earth are remotely testing algorithms on a pair of internal satellites as part of a competition aboard the International Space Station today. Meanwhile, the Expedition 54 crew is packing up the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its Saturday departure and conducting biomedical operations.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba are monitoring tiny satellites known as SPHERES flying inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Students on Earth have uploaded algorithms maneuvering the SPHERES to compete for creating the best designs relevant to future space missions.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle are transferring rodents from the station’s animal habitat to a transporter aboard the Dragon resupply ship for return and analysis on Earth. The rodents were treated with a compound that fights muscle loss in microgravity and will be compared to a group of mice on Earth.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai concluded a session of the Airways Monitoring experiment stowing the research gear in the U.S. Quest airlock. The study is analyzing exhaled air to maintain astronaut health on long-term space missions. Kanai also collected his biological samples for the Probiotics study looking at the immune system and intestinal microbes living inside space station crew members.

Dragon Release Training and Astronaut Health Studies on Station Today

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba works on wire connections and other maintenance tasks inside Combustion Integrated Rack gear.

The Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station is training for this weekend’s departure of the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. The crew is also exploring regenerative life support systems and how microgravity affects breathing.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle began their day training and reviewing for Saturday’s remotely controlled release of the Dragon resupply ship at 5 a.m. The duo took onboard computer training and discussed this weekend’s activities with engineers at Mission Control.

This is the first time robotics controllers will command the release of Dragon from the ground while Acaba and Tingle monitor from the cupola as backups. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m. Splashdown off the coast of California is expected at 10:36 a.m. and will not be televised.

Experimental work also took place today on the orbital laboratory to help NASA learn how to support astronauts on longer missions farther out into space.

Acaba checked bacteria cultures that could be used for carbon dioxide removal and oxygen production supporting future regenerative life support systems. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai joined NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and measured their breathing rates today, specifically Nitric Oxide turnover in the lungs. Doctors want to minimize the risk of airway inflammation to keep astronauts healthier farther from Earth.

Crew Prepping Dragon for Departure While Studying Life Science

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship with its dual outstretched solar arrays is pictured attached to the Harmony module as the International Space Station orbited above Brazil.

Robotics controllers are getting ready to uninstall the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft from the International Space Station on Friday before releasing it for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Saturday. The Expedition 54 crew today is also continuing to study how living in space affects biology and introducing space travel concepts to students on Earth.

The crew is finishing packing up the Dragon this week and will close the spaceship’s hatch Friday and wrap up cargo operations. Houston mission controllers will remotely perform Dragon’s release operation for the first time early Saturday. Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle will be inside the cupola monitoring Dragon’s departure.

Dragon will be depart the station Saturday at 5 a.m. EST loaded with science experiments and station cargo and parachute to a splashdown off the coast of California at 10:36 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m.

Life science continues at full pace aboard the aboard orbital laboratory today. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai checked on rodents being treated with a compound that fights muscle loss in microgravity. Tingle took a look at plant samples to observe their genetic and molecular responses to growing in space.

Commander Alexander Misurkin along with Acaba set up a pair of tiny internal satellites, also known as SPHERES, for a dry run today ahead of a competition. Students on Earth are competing to design the best algorithms that will operate the SPHERES to simulate future space operations such as dockings and flying formations.

Robot Arm Finishes Swapping Experiments Outside Dragon

The SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon is pictured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm in the foreground and the Earth’s limb in the background as the International Space Station soars into an orbital sunrise during Expedition 54.

Robotics controllers have completed the science cargo transfers from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, also known as its trunk. Dragon is due to depart the International Space Station Jan. 13 and return to Earth.

Over the holidays, the ground robotics teams remotely operated the Canadarm2 to remove a pair of new external experiments from Dragon and install them on the station. The teams also finished installing an older experiment back inside the cargo craft’s trunk in time for its departure.

Dragon delivered the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) and the Space Debris Sensor (SDS) when it arrived on Dec. 17, 2017. TSIS-1 was attached to an External Logistics Carrier on the port solar alpha rotary joint. It will study the sun’s natural influence on the Earth’s ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, clouds, and ecosystems. The SDS was installed outside the Columbus lab module where it will directly measure the orbital debris environment around the space station for two to three years.

The successful RapidScat experiment was installed back in Dragon’s trunk after being delivered in September 23, 2014, on the SpaceX CRS-4 mission. RapidScat observed wind patterns on the ocean’s surface providing agencies better data for weather forecasting before ending its mission in August of 2016.

RapidScat will be destroyed inside Dragon’s trunk when it separates from the Dragon resupply ship to burn up over the Pacific Ocean. Dragon itself will safely parachute to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of California.