Crew Back to Work on Science; Europe Preps Cargo Craft for Departure

SpaceX Dragon Recovered
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted this image of the Dragon space freighter being recovered Tuesday about 259 miles southwest of Long Beach, California. Credit: Elon Musk
› View tweet

The Expedition 42 crew worked on numerous science investigations Wednesday after releasing the SpaceX Dragon for its splashdown Tuesday. The six orbital lab assistants studied such things as exercise loads in space, plant growth and changes to vision during long duration space missions.

The Force Shoes study will help researchers design better training programs and exercise devices for astronauts to improve their musculoskeletal health. The Plant Rotation experiment observes the direction of plant growth in microgravity in anticipation of future crews growing their own food. The Ocular Health experiment is looking at the changes to crew member’s visual, vascular and central nervous system and how long before they return to normal after returning to Earth

› Read more about the Force Shoes study
› Read more about the Plant Rotation experiment
› Read more about the Ocular Health experiment

Meanwhile, another spacecraft is preparing to end its stay at the International Space Station. Europe’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 is being prepared for its undocking from the Zvezda service module Saturday morning. It will reenter Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday afternoon and burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

CATS Installed, Eye Checks and Science Maintenance for Crew

Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore
Astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore check science hardware inside the Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA TV

With CATS successfully installed to an external platform on Japan’s Kibo laboratory, the Expedition 42 crew spent Friday working life science, combustion and a variety of other experiments.

› Read more about CATS

The Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), located inside the Destiny lab module, needs fuel so scientists can ignite materials to study the behavior of flames and smoke in space. Pieces of hardware that store and deliver fuel, including igniter tips, were replaced on the CIR Friday by Commander Barry Wilmore to keep the rack in operating condition.

Astronauts Terry Virts – with the help of Samantha Cristoforetti and doctors on the ground – participated in more eye checks, undergoing ultrasound scans and an echocardiogram to gather more information. The Ocular Health study seeks to understand how microgravity affects a crew member’s eyes and explain why some astronauts report impaired vision during their missions in space.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study

Virts also checked samples and transferred data collected for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. Cristoforetti checked on the station’s fruit flies, and later worked maintenance on the Magvector study that observes how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Happy New Year 16 Times on Space Station

Virts-Robonaut-'Action-Figure'
Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) tweets: Unwrapping an early Christmas gift last week. @AstroRobonaut is my favorite action figure. #SpaceVine

The Expedition 42 crew orbiting Earth on the International Space Station gets the opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve a whopping 16 times as it circles the globe at 17,500 miles an hour.

Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and his crew, which includes NASA’s Terry Virts, Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, say they plan to celebrate with fruit juice toasts. The year 2015 starts officially for the station crew at 7 p.m. EST Jan. 31, which is midnight by the Universal Time Clock (UTC), also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), in London. The crew is scheduled to be in its sleep shift, but may elect to stay up late since it has a day off planned for New Year’s Day.

Watch the Happy New Year message

The crew spent New Year’s Eve day working on a variety of experiments, ranging from those directed at better understanding changes that occur in the human eye during long-duration spaceflights, and with Earth observations aimed at helping with disaster aid on the Earth’s surface.

Read more about the Ocular Health experiment

Read more about the ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV)

The crew also continued preparations for the arrival of the next cargo supply ship, the commercial resupply mission of SpaceX-5 and the Dragon spacecraft. Launch of Dragon on a Space-X Falcon 9 booster is planned for 6:20 a.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. NASA Television launch coverage begins at 5 a.m.

Dragon will rendezvous with the space station Thursday, Jan. 8, and Wilmore will use the 58-foot robotic arm to grab the Dragon by its tail and berth if to the station. Grapple is expected about 6 a.m. NASA Television coverage of the grapple starts at 4:30 a.m. Thursday, and installation coverage will begin at 8:15 a.m. Dragon is loaded with more than 3,700 pounds of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations and supplies, including critical materials to support 256 science and research investigations that will take place on the space station during ISS Expeditions 42 and 43.

A series of briefings outlining Dragon’s mission and the scientific research it will be carrying is planned Monday, Jan. 5.

Read full schedule of SpaceX-5 and ISS Research briefings

Watch Terry Virts’ #SpaceVine of Robonaut:

Station Commander Celebrates Birthday in Orbit

 

Happy Birthday Barry Wilmore
Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore celebrates his birthday on the International Space Station.

Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore celebrated his 52nd birthday aboard the International Space Station today, and Mission Control gathered around a microphone to sing “Happy Birthday” to him.

Wilmore, who has been on the station since Sept. 25, was born Dec. 29, 1962, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

> Listen to Mission Control singing “Happy Birthday”

Wilmore and his crew, which includes NASA’s Terry Virts, Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, are resuming work on microgravity experiments and operational maintenance aboard the station after enjoying some time off for the holidays.

Wilmore donned a body-mounted high-tech force feedback computer joystick as part of the Haptics-1 experiment he’s scheduled to perform Tuesday. The test will look at how people in weightlessness experience touch-based feedback. Someday, astronauts may use such interfaces to guide planet or asteroid-exploring robots from orbiting human spacecraft.

> Read more about the Haptics-1 experiment

His crew mates took readings on each other for eye health research, looking into why some astronauts are coming home from long-duration missions with diminished vision.

On Tuesday, Wilmore and Cristoforetti will be interviewed by the CBS Radio Network and BBC Radio at 9:55 a.m. EST on NASA Television.