The New Year Brings Dragon and Spacewalk Preparations

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti peers out one of the windows of the Cupola onto the Earth below.

The first full work week of 2015 for Expedition 42 includes advanced science, high-flying plumbing and preparations for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon. The Dragon commercial craft is due to launch Tuesday at 6:20 a.m. and be captured at the International Space Station about 48 hours later.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Commander Barry Wilmore worked on the European Space Agency experiment Haptics-1 testing the remote control of robots on the ground from orbit using a joystick. He later joined Flight Engineer Terry Virts gathering tools for a trio of spacewalks tentatively planned for February that will ready the station for future commercial crew and cargo vehicles.

› Read more about the Haptics-1 experiment

Virts started Monday with a periodic fitness evaluation as he and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took turns on an exercise cycle. Virts then moved on to plumbing work replacing a dose pump in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Cristoforetti then participated in an educational experiment that explores the possibility of using plants to produce food and oxygen on the station.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova studied ways to detect micrometeoroid impacts at the station, worked on maintenance and photographed windows for a contamination inspection.

Station Decorated for Holidays as Crew Studies Life in Space

Italian Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is in the holiday spirit as the station is decorated with stockings for each crew member and a tree.

It’s beginning to look like Christmas on the International Space Station. The stockings are out, the tree is up and the station residents continue advanced space research to benefit life on Earth and in space.

A wide array of research work took place Tuesday with scientists on the ground, working in conjunction with the astronaut lab assistants, exploring different fields.

Behavioral testing was scheduled Tuesday for the Neuromapping study to assess changes in a crew member’s perception, motor control, memory and attention during a six-month space mission. Results will help physicians understand brain structure and function changes in space, how a crew member adapts to returning to Earth and develop effective countermeasures.

› Read more about NeuroMapping

Another study is observing why human skin ages at a quicker rate in space than on Earth. The Skin B experiment will provide scientists a model to study the aging of other human organs and help future crew members prepare for long-term missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

› Read more about Skin-B

Crew Focuses on Science and Waits for Dragon’s January Launch

Samantha Cristoforetti
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti works in the Materials Science Laboratory. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 42 crew members started Christmas week with a replanned schedule after SpaceX postponed its Dragon launch until Jan. 6. The crew would have been unloading new science and cargo from Dragon had it arrived Sunday but instead turned its attention to ongoing science and maintenance.

Commander Barry Wilmore worked on the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test experiment that will help scientists design higher quality consumer products that will last longer. Wilmore also joined NASA astronaut Terry Virts for an interview with CBS Morning News and WBAL Radio in Baltimore, Md.

Virts meanwhile continued preparing for the arrival of Dragon as he collected gear to be stowed on the commercial cargo craft for return to Earth. He also packed trash in Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, which will undock in February for a fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean.

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti spent a few minutes Monday talking to Giorgio Napolitano, the president of Italy, who was addressing the nation’s military forces. Later, Samantha collected biological samples for stowage in a science freezer and worked inside the Materials Science Laboratory.

Wilmore and Virts
Commander Barry Wilmore gives Flight Engineer Terry Virts a haircut using a razor that also vacuums the hair that is cut. Credit: NASA TV

Dragon Launch Slips, Crew Adjusts Schedule

Astronaut Terry Virts
Astronaut Terry Virts works on the Sabatier system. Credit: NASA TV

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NASA and SpaceX announced Thursday the launch of the Dragon commercial cargo craft is now scheduled for no earlier than Jan. 6. The six-member Expedition 42 crew postponed its Dragon mission preparations and focused on eye exams and station maintenance.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Veteran astronaut Terry Virts, who previously piloted space shuttle Endeavour in 2010, worked on the Sabatier system which produces water on the International Space Station. He also joined Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti for a series of eye exams during the morning and afternoon.

› Read more about the Sabatier system
› Read more about the Ocular Health study

Wilmore and Cristoforetti also partnered up for work on the Columbus lab module’s BioLab facility, which allows experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants, and small invertebrates.

› Read more about the BioLab

The three cosmonauts – Alexander Samokutyaev, Anton Shkaplerov and Elena Serova – were back at work on more maintenance inside the Zarya cargo module and ongoing Russian science in their segment of the orbital laboratory.

Crew Works Multitude of Advanced Robotics

Robonaut 2, with its new legs attached, rests in the Destiny laboratory. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station crew has been working on a variety of robotics activities this week. On Wednesday, they tested a humanoid robot and explored how bowling ball-sized satellites, known as SPHERES, can navigate around objects. Crew members trained earlier in the week for the planned Sunday capture of the Dragon spacecraft using the 57.7 foot Canadarm2.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

NASA astronaut Terry Virts unpacked Robonaut 2 so that payload controllers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama could power up its new legs for the first time. Robonaut’s legs, which arrived on a previous SpaceX mission, were installed in August. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti downloaded SPHERES data demonstrating how the small free-floating satellites build 3D maps of objects and interact and navigate using those 3D models.

› Read more about the SPHERES-VERTIGO study

Cristoforetti also joined Commander Barry Wilmore removing a small satellite deployer, nicknamed CYCLOPS, from Japan’s Kibo lab module for troubleshooting. Afterward, Wilmore conducted a vision test and set up a multipurpose experiment platform in Kibo.

› Read more about the CYCLOPS

Veteran cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov installed more overlay sheets inside the Zarya cargo module. New cosmonaut Elena Serova conducted a photographic inspection of the interior panels of the Zvezda service module. The trio also worked a wide variety of science including studies of bioelectric cardiac activity and the effects that earthquakes and human activities have on Earth’s ionosphere.

More Science and 3D Printing Work amid Dragon Training

Commander Barry Wilmore
Commander Barry Wilmore shows off a 3D printed ratchet.

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and cosmonaut Elena Serova started Wednesday conducting a test run of basketball-sized satellites, known as SPHERES, which float inside the International Space Station. After checking the nitrogen pressure of science freezers in the afternoon, Cristoforetti joined Commander Barry Wilmore for a robotics training session ahead of the fifth SpaceX Dragon mission scheduled for launch Friday at 1:22 p.m. EST.

Read more about SPHERES
Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Wilmore began his morning with some 3D printing work before moving on to the Advanced Colloids Experiment Microscopy-3 fluids study. NASA astronaut Terry Virts set up the Destiny lab’s Microgravity Science Glovebox installing hardware for an experiment that will study the risk of infectious disease on long-term space missions.

Read more about the ACE-M-3 study
Read more about the Micro-5 infectious disease study

Cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov were back at work inside the Zarya cargo module installing overlay sheets on interior panels. The duo split up in the afternoon for a variety of science and routine maintenance tasks in the station’s Russian segment.

Crew Preps For Dragon Capture and Next Year’s U.S. Spacewalks

Three U.S. spacewalks are planned for early next year and station crew members Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts are preparing spacesuits and spacewalk tools. Wilmore swapped secondary oxygen packs on a pair of spacesuits, while Virts checked the torque on a pistol grip tool.

After the spacesuit work, Wilmore joined Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti inside the cupola for robotics training. Wilmore will operate the Canadarm2 to capture the SpaceX Dragon when it arrives Sunday morning. Samantha will assist the commander during the commercial craft’s approach and rendezvous.

Virts also installed a centerline berthing camera to support the mating of Dragon to the Harmony node. Dragon is due for launch on its fifth Commercial Resupply Services mission Friday at 1:20 p.m. EST and with its capture scheduled at 6 a.m. Sunday.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

The three astronauts also worked on a variety of science studying combustion and botany and even learning how to operate basketball-sized satellites that float inside the International Space Station. The three cosmonauts in the station’s Russian segment also worked on their task list of science and maintenance.

› Read more about the Seedling Growth-2 experiment
› Read more about SPHERES

Crew Trains for Dragon Capture after Medical Checks

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is seen inside the Unity node of the International Space Station.

Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti brushed up Friday afternoon on robotics skills necessary to capture an approaching spacecraft with the Canadarm2. The duo will be inside the Cupola carefully monitoring the SpaceX Dragon as it approaches the International Space Station next week. Wilmore will be at the Canadarm2 controls to capture Dragon. Cristoforetti will be his backup.

› Read more about the upcoming SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Earlier, Wilmore scrubbed the cooling loops on a U.S. spacesuit after replacing its fan pump separator the day before. NASA astronaut Terry Virts sampled and tested the water conductivity inside the spacesuit. Virts, Cristoforetti and Wilmore also started their day with medical science including a periodic fitness test and Ultrasound scans of the arteries.

› Read more about the Cardio Ox experiment

On the Russian side of the space station, cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova worked on an experiment that studies micrometeoroid detection techniques. Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov had an Earth photography session observing the effects of natural and man-made disasters. The trio also spent the day on routine maintenance throughout the Russian segment.

› Read more about the Uragan Earth observation study

Spacesuit Work Complete, Crew Moves on to Dragon Preps and Science

Astronaut Terry Virts
Astronaut Terry Virts works inside the Combustion Integrated Rack in this photograph taken Nov. 28.

Commander Barry Wilmore completed spacesuit maintenance work Thursday and began testing the spacesuit to return it to service. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti cleaned up and stowed the spacesuit hardware and tools. The next U.S. spacewalk is targeted for early 2015.

After the spacesuit work Wilmore joined Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts to review activities planned for next week’s SpaceX Dragon launch scheduled for Dec. 16. Virts and Cristoforetti earlier started their day on medical science and a periodical fitness check. Virts went on to open the Combustion Integrated Rack for fuel gear replacement work.

› Read more about the Combustion Integrated Rack

Veteran station residents and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Samokutyaev were back at work inside the Zarya cargo module installing overlay sheets on interior panels and disinfecting them. Russia’s first female cosmonaut Elena Serova worked science studying radiation in the station and the Sun’s influence on Earth’s magnetic field.

Samokutyaev also joined Serova for observation of the cardiovascular system while working out on an exercise bike. Shkaplerov worked throughout the day studying chemical reactions in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

› Read more about the Relaxation-Thunderstorm study

Crew Conducting Science to Improve Life on Earth and Space

Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts
NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts discussed their mission today with CNN International and The Navy Times. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronaut and Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts worked on medical science Wednesday morning and later set up commercial research gear for an experiment to be delivered on the next SpaceX mission. Meanwhile, station Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti continued this week’s maintenance work on a U.S. spacesuit.

During the morning Wilmore and Cristoforetti joined Virts for eye scans using the station’s Ultrasound equipment. At the end of the day, Samantha put on an armband sensor that monitors a body’s core temperature for a study that observes how a crew member adapts to a 24 hour cycle in space.

Read more about the Ocular Health study
Read more about the Circadian Rhythms study

Cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova were back at work installing gear and connecting cables for a micrometeoroid detection experiment. Veteran station resident Anton Shkaplerov started his day installing software updates on Russian laptop computers then spent the afternoon auditing the laptops.

Meantime, SpaceX is counting down to the launch of its Dragon commercial cargo craft Dec. 16 at 1:31 p.m. EST. NASA TV will provide live coverage of science, technology and pre-launch briefings including the launch itself.

Read more about SpaceX CRS-5 briefings and launch coverage