Crew Tests How Cells, Bones and Muscles Respond to Lack of Gravity

Crew Members Tim Kopra and Alexey Ovchinin
Expedition 47 crew members Tim Peake and Alexey Ovchinin are the 221st and 222nd individuals to visit the International Space Station.

The Expedition 47 crew is researching how plants sense gravity today and exploring how fluids shift in an astronaut’s body. The orbital residents are also learning how living in space affects the structure of bones and muscles.

The crew set up botany gear and collected samples for the Plant Gravity Sensing-3 experiment. The study seeks to determine if plants sense gravity and if the concentration of calcium in their cells change.

Fluids in an astronaut’s cells and blood vessels respond to the lack of gravity and can impact brain pressure and potentially affect vision. Scientists on the ground are researching this phenomenon by analyzing blood, saliva and urine samples collected from astronauts while on orbit.

Lack of gravity also weakens bones and muscles, and scientists are testing an antibody that has been effective on Earth to prevent that weakening. Doctors are observing those muscular and skeletal changes in mice to learn how to prevent muscle and bone atrophy in astronauts.

Crew Starts Work on Student-Designed Gene Experiment

Astronaut Tim Kopra
Astronaut Tim Kopra sets up the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox for experiment work. The glovebox is one of the major dedicated science facilities inside the Destiny laboratory module.

Human research and life science studies took precedence on the orbital laboratory today. The Expedition 47 crew also checked out a spacesuit and transferred cargo from a pair of resupply ships.

The Genes in Space study, a student-designed experiment, began on the station this morning. It is studying the linkage between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems caused by the lack of gravity. NASA encourages students to become future engineers and scientists to benefit Earth and promote exploration. As a result, students periodically design and interact with advanced research on the International Space Station.

The crew is also recording its observations of their living area on the space station for the Habitability study. The crew’s inputs may help engineers design future spacecraft with better accommodations for astronauts on long-term space missions.

The station’s inventory is being updated as the crew transfers gear back and forth from the Progress 63 and the SpaceX Dragon resupply ships. A U.S. spacesuit is also being readied for return to Earth on the Dragon when it departs the station and splashes down in the Pacific Ocean May 11.

New Gear Readied for Advanced Space Science

BEAM Installation
Astronaut Tim Kopra tweeted this image of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module being transferred by the Canadarm2 robotic arm from the Space Dragon cargo craft to the Tranquility module for installation. Credit: @Astro_Tim

The International Space Station crew is getting the orbital laboratory ready this week for a wide variety of advanced space science. The station also received a new module that will be expanded in late May for two years of habitability tests.

The Expedition 47 crew members are starting the work week setting up hardware for a pair of experiments exploring space physics and human research. A specialized microscope was configured for a study researching how particles behave at nanoscales potentially improving drug delivery and filtration technologies. After hardware checkouts and tests, the crew will also study the linkage between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems caused by long-term space missions.

The Electromagnetic Levitator, a facility that studies materials processing, will have a cable replaced and have its limit parameters reprogrammed. The Japanese Kibo laboratory module is being outfitted with new gear to extend its external research capability. The robotic installation work will enable payloads exposed to the vacuum of space to be moved and accessed with greater ease.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, BEAM, was successfully installed Saturday morning. Ground controllers operated the Canadarm2 robotic arm and extracted BEAM from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and installed it to the Tranquility module.

BEAM Installation Work Begins Tonight

BEAM Installation
This computer rendering depicts the Canadarm2 robotic arm removing BEAM from the back of the Space X Dragon spacecraft.

BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, will be removed from the back of the SpaceX Dragon late tonight before installation on the Tranquility module begins early Saturday. Expansion of the new habitat module won’t occur until late May for two years of habitability tests.

Meanwhile, the six-member Expedition 47 crew kept up its very busy pace of advanced space research this week to benefit life on Earth and crews in space.

More eye checks were on the schedule today as scientists continued exploring vision changes astronauts have experienced while on orbit. The crew also observed skeletal muscle cells with a microscope to help researchers identify gravity sensors that may prevent muscle atrophy in space. Saliva samples were collected for a Japanese experiment analyzing how an astronaut’s immune system adapts to long-term space missions.

The crew set up software for an experiment recording an astronaut’s cognitive performance during stressful conditions in space. They also answered questions about their station habitat providing insights to engineers to help them design spacecraft to meet the needs of future crews.

Station Gets Ready for BEAM as Crew Researches Life Science

Dragon and Cygnus
The SpaceX Dragon approaches the International Space Station. The round solar array of the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft is in the left foreground.

The International Space Station will get a new module Saturday when the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is removed from the SpaceX Dragon and installed on the Tranquility module. BEAM will be attached to the station for two years of tests before expandable modules become a permanent feature of future spacecraft.

NASA and its international partners are using the station as an orbital laboratory to learn how the human body adapts to living and working in space. The wide variety of human research taking place on orbit today looked at work performance, vision, heart function, bones and muscles.

British astronaut Tim Peake explored how astronauts perform detailed, interactive tasks using a touchscreen tablet for the Fine Motor Skills experiment. He also joined Commander Tim Kopra for eye checks as scientists study how the lack of gravity affects vision. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams scanned his legs with an ultrasound device for the Sprint exercise study and helped search for gravity sensors in cells to prevent muscle atrophy in space.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka researched heart function so doctors can understand how the cardiovascular system adapts during different phases of a spaceflight. Veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko performed maintenance throughout the orbital lab’s Russian segment. He swapped out GoPro batteries and photographed the condition Zvezda service module panels.

New Science Begins as Station Boosts Orbit

Astronauts Tim Kopra, Jeff Williams and Tim Peake
Expedition 47 crew members (from left) Tim Kopra, Jeff Williams Tim Peake eat dinner inside the Unity module aboard the International Space Station.

The Expedition 47 crew has begun working new science delivered aboard the new Dragon and Cygnus commercial cargo ships. The crew is also getting ready for the extraction and installation of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module scheduled for Saturday.

One of the experiments delivered aboard Dragon is already being set up for operation. The Rodent Research-3 experiment is exploring an antibody used on Earth to see if it prevents muscle atrophy and bone loss in space. The crew is also working the Gecko Gripper study, launched aboard Cygnus, which is researching advanced adhesive technology.

Commander Tim Kopra and British astronaut Tim Peake conducted vision tests and blood pressure checks today for the Ocular Health study. Scientists are researching vision changes reported during long-term space missions and how long before vision returns to normal when an astronaut returns to Earth.

The International Space Station began a series of orbital boosts today to get ready for a June crew swap. Kopra and Peake along with fellow Expedition 46-47 crew member Yuri Malenchenko will return home in early June. They will be replaced about two weeks later when Expedition 48-49 crew members Anatoly Ivanishin, Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi launch.


SpaceX Dragon Mated to Harmony

SpaceX Dragon Mated to Harmony
The SpaceX Dragon is seen shortly after it was mated to the Harmony module. The Cygnus cargo craft with its circular solar arrays and the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft (bottom right) are also seen in this view. Credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was bolted into place on the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 9:57 a.m. EDT as the station flew 250 miles over southern Algeria.

The spacecraft is delivering about 7,000 pounds of science and research investigations, including the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, known as BEAM.

Keep up with the conversation about the space station at or by following social media at @space_station and @ISS_research.

Dragon Capture Makes Six Spacecraft at Station

Dragon Approaches Station
The SpaceX Dragon approaches the International Space Station moments before its robotic capture. Credit: NASA TV

While the International Space Station was traveling over the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii, astronaut Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), with the assistance of NASA’s Jeff Williams, successfully captured the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with the station’s robotic Canadarm2 at 7:23 a.m. EDT.

NASA TV coverage will resume at 9:45 a.m. for Dragon installation.

Dragon’s arrival marks the first time two commercial cargo vehicles have been docked simultaneously at the space station. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived to the station just over two weeks ago.  With the arrival of Dragon, the space station ties the record for most vehicles on station at one time – six.

Join the conversation online by following @space_station and #Dragon.

Dragon Launches and Will Reach Station Sunday

Falcon 9 Rocket Launches With Dragon Spacecraft
The Falcon 9 Rocket launches with the Dragon cargo craft on time from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 4:43 p.m. EDT, and Dragon has begun its journey to the International Space Station. Dragon separated from its second stage and achieved its preliminary orbit. Dragon’s solar arrays have deployed and will provide 5 kilowatts of power to the spacecraft as it begins a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to reach the International Space Station.

A post-launch news conference will air on NASA TV at 6 p.m. EDT.

The spacecraft will arrive at the station Sunday, April 10, at which time ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams will use the station’s robotic arm to capture the Dragon spacecraft. Ground commands will be sent from Houston to the station’s arm to install Dragon on the bottom side of the Harmony module for its stay at the space station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA TV, with installation set to begin at 9:30 a.m.

To learn more about the dozens of science experiments headed to the space station, watch the science briefing “What’s on Board”:

For more information on the SpaceX CRS-8 mission, visit: For more information about the International Space Station, visit: To join the conversation online, use #Dragon.

Weather Favors Dragon Launch as Crew Preps New Science

The SpaceX Dragon and Falcon 9 Rocket
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Credit: SpaceX

Weather forecasters have predicted a 90% percent chance of favorable conditions for the Friday launch of the SpaceX CRS-8 mission to the International Space Station. Launch of the Dragon resupply ship atop the Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 4:43 p.m. EDT/8:43 p.m. UTC from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA Television will cover the launch and rendezvous activities live.

British astronaut Tim Peake is training for the robotic capture of Dragon when it arrives Sunday morning carrying 6,900 pounds/3,130 kilograms of science, crew supplies and hardware. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams will back up Peake during the rendezvous and capture activities. After Dragon is captured, ground controllers will take over the Canadarm2 robotic activities and remotely install the commercial space freighter to the Harmony module.

The Expedition 47 crew is still working advanced space science setting up new experiments delivered March 26 on the Orbital ATK private cargo craft. The crew is also preparing for even more science being delivered aboard Dragon. The new experiments will explore muscles and bones, fluids at nano-scales and protein crystals. The research has the potential to help scientists design newer, more advanced drugs to improve health.