Expedition 56 crew members are transferring cargo in and out of U.S. and Russian cargo ships today. Two astronauts are also planning to release a U.S. resupply ship on Sunday ending its mission at the International Space Station.
The Cygnus resupply ship will complete its stay at the orbital Sunday at 8:35 a.m. EDT after 52 days attached to the Unity module. Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit backed up by Auñón-Chancellor of NASA. Cygnus will remain in orbit until July 30 supporting engineering activities before it is deorbited to burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.
Space research aboard the orbital lab is always ongoing as the crew explored a variety of life science today. The space residents explored how microgravity impacts fertility, algae production and the gastrointestinal system. The crew also completed routine eye checks with an ultrasound device Wednesday morning to maintain good vision during spaceflight.
Russia’s Progress 70 (70P) cargo craft delivered nearly 5,700 pounds of crew supplies and station cargo to the International Space Station on Monday less than four hours after launch. Meanwhile, the U.S. Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman tested its ability to boost the orbital laboratory’s altitude today.
Monday’s arrival of the Russian resupply craft set a milestone for station operations by arriving with its cargo in just 3 hours and 40 minutes, or only two Earth orbits. The new Progress makes six spacecraft parked at the orbital complex including the Progress 69 resupply ship, the Soyuz MS-08 and MS-09 crew ships and the SpaceX Dragon and Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighters.
The engine on Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship fired for 50 seconds Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. EDT to reboost the station in a test designed to verify an additional capability to adjust the station’s altitude, if required. The brief engine firing raised the station’s altitude by about 295 feet. Cygnus will depart the station on Sunday after delivering several tons of supplies and science experiments back in May for the six crewmembers on board.
The Expedition 56 crew members researched microbes and plants today and conducted more eye exams to benefit future space residents as well as people on Earth. The Cygnus space freighter continues to be packed for its release in July as robotics controllers get ready to inspect the vehicle.
NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor stowed genetically modified microbes in a science freezer that will be analyzed for their ability to compete with petrochemical production processes on Earth. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold, also from NASA, thinned plants for the Plant Habitat-1 experiment that is comparing plants grown in microgravity to those grown on Earth.
Arnold and Auñón-Chancellor later joined Commander Drew Feustel for more eye checks. The trio used optical coherence tomography to capture 2D and 3D imagery of the eye to help doctors understand how living in space affects eyesight.
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst was packing Cygnus with trash and old gear today ahead of its July 15 release.