Space Biology, Brad Pitt Interview as New Crew Preps for Launch

Astronaut Nick Hague and actor Brad Pitt
Actor Brad Pitt called up to to the International Space Station today and had a conversation with NASA astronaut Nick Hague. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 60 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station began the workweek exploring how microgravity affects a variety of biological systems. Back on Earth, three new crewmates are in final preparations for next week’s launch to the orbiting lab from Kazakhstan.

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan started Monday morning collecting and stowing their blood and urine samples for later analysis. Afterward, the pair joined fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for body mass measurements using a device that applies a known force on a crewmember. The resulting acceleration is used to accurately calculate an astronaut’s mass.

Hague spoke to actor Brad Pitt today who called up to the station from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. They talked about Pitt’s upcoming movie and discussed what it is like to live in space.

Koch also assisted ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano with a bioelectrical sensor that measures changes in body composition to determine the effectiveness of space nutrition. The duo, along with Morgan, then turned to rodent research the rest of the day for insights into aging and disease therapies.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin collaborated with fellow cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for cardiology research during an exercise session Monday morning. The commander then inspected hardware inside the Electromagnetic Levitator that enables the safe research of materials exposed to high temperatures. Skvortsov moved onto ventilation maintenance in the Zvezda service module. The duo wrapped up the day with an Earth photography session.

The next crew to launch to the station is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final mission training. Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will blast off on Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio from the U.S., Russia and the U.A.E. will take a four-orbit, near six-hour ride in space before docking to the aft port of Zvezda.

Almansoori will return to Earth on Oct. 3 aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft with Hague and Ovchinin. Meir and Skripochka will orbit Earth until the spring of 2020.

Ground personnel are fueling the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and integrating the spacecraft to its launch vehicle this week. The rocket with the Soyuz on top will roll out to its launch pad early in the morning on Sept. 23.

Biological, Materials Sciences and Inspiration Reign Supreme at End of Workweek

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 60 devoted their Friday to working on groundbreaking scientific research aboard the International Space Station, as well as inspiring the Artemis generation during a downlink hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation. 

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan of NASA took the mantle of fielding selected questions from 39 middle school classrooms nationwide during the space-to-Earth call at 10:55 a.m. EDT. The downlink, hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation at the Kentucky Science Center, allowed classes that are part of the National STEM Scholar Program to get a firsthand look at what it’s like to live and work in microgravity, with the crewmates providing anecdotes from their time in space. 

Hague and Morgan, along with NASA astronaut Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano of (European Space Agency), further investigated the effects of spaceflight on rodent residents with Rodent Research-17, evaluating the changes caused by microgravity to their immunity, cells, bones and musculature. These findings will bolster discoveries for new therapies — both in space and back on Earth. 

Koch also performed experiment maintenance, installing a sample cartridge into the Cryo Chiller within an Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) locker. This unique chiller provides rapid freezing capability in support of biological sciences, as well as temperature-controlled transfer to and from the space station on visiting vehicles. 

Hague and Koch captured cinematic recordings of Morgan working on the Microgravity Crystals experiment for ISS Experience, a virtual reality series will educate to Earth audiences on what Expedition crew members do each day in support of operations and research. The experiment will illustrate how microgravity can be helpful in learning about diseases on Earth through the crystallization of a membrane protein integral to tumor growth and cancer survival. While the crystallization of this protein has yielded unsatisfactory results in gravity, Microgravity Crystals leverages the absence of gravity for extensive protein crystallization work onboard, significantly increasing the likelihood of successful crystal growth. Forthcoming results may support the development of cancer treatments that target the protein more effectively, and with fewer side effects. 

Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos joined his American teammates in conducting routine eye ultrasounds. Since long-duration space missions have been shown to cause severe and lasting physical damage to some astronauts’ eyes, continued monitoring of eye health is necessary to mitigate any noticeable effects for the crew. 

Decoding Human Biology at Top of Task List for Station Residents

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA playfully demonstrates how fluids behave in the weightless environment of microgravity aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA playfully demonstrates how fluids behave in the weightless environment of microgravity aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Expedition 60 is in the midst of a busy week aboard the International Space Station, even with yesterday’s launch scrub of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo vehicle. While JAXA teams are meeting to discuss a forward plan and assess launch opportunities, mission operations and scientific investigations are moving forward in orbit.   

Half the crew —NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan ESA (European Space Agency) crewmate Luca Parmitano— spent part of their day reviewing spacewalk procedures and training for an upcoming series of spacewalks to upgrade batteries during a maintenance activity for the outpost. 

Morgan also assisted NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos with additional work in support of Fluid Shifts, again evaluating a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit as a potential countermeasure for explorers having trouble maintaining adequate blood pressure during phases of egress and landing. 

Koch, meanwhile, performed necessary maintenance for the Rodent Research-17 experiment, temporarily relocating the rodent occupants to clean out the habitats and restock them with new food bars. This investigation evaluates the physiological, cellular and molecular effects of microgravity, testing the theory that the cosmic environment can accelerate aging. As researchers gain a better understanding of immune, bone and muscle disease processes, new therapies in space and on Earth can beneficially result. 

Parmitano rounded out the busy day by performing a self-guided ultrasound for the ground team in support of the Vascular Echo study, which examines changes in blood vessels and the heart in astronauts. It’s been observed that Expedition crew members return to Earth with stiffer arteries than they had before going into space. This experiment will provide insight into potential countermeasures to maintain crew health and improve quality of life for everyone … including those of us on Earth.

Spacewalk Prep and Science Punctuate Launch Day for HTV-8

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s uncrewed cargo transfer craft, called HTV, will deliver supplies and new investigations to the International Space Station.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s uncrewed cargo transfer craft, called HTV, will deliver supplies and new investigations to the International Space Station. Here, the HTV-7 resupply ship is pictured after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the space station orbited above the Pacific Ocean some 311 miles west of Baja California. Credit: NASA

Ten years after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) mission, today the HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft will launch from the Tanegashima Space Center to the International Space Station. While launch is scheduled for 5:33 p.m. EDT, NASA Television will start its coverage at 5 p.m.  

Days after, on Saturday, Sept. 14, Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approaches from below. Robotics flight controllers will then take over the operation of the arm to install HTV-8 to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, where it will spend a month attached. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station. 

Aboard the orbiting laboratory, preparations to receive the craft continue, with Koch and Morgan completing training to grapple the vehicle. They also performed several approaches with the Canadarm2 to simulate HTV capture. 

Expedition 60 crew members worked on experiments that will give researchers on the ground insight into plant germination in a microgravity environment, supporting the possibility of plant growth on the Moon or Mars for human consumption or other purposes. NASA astronaut Nick Hague took additional photo documentation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Palm Tree Growth Experiment, which observes and documents the root development of the Date Palm in space — and plant vital to the UAE ecosystem. 

Hague also assisted Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos with the Fluid Shifts investigation, using a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit to evaluate its feasibility as a countermeasure for postflight orthostatic intolerance, or the inability to maintain blood pressure while in an upright position. Though fluid loading and compression garments show promise in preventing this phenomenon, neither has proven completely effective for all phases of landing and egress; thus, research continues. 

Parmitano spent time recording an introduction for ISS Experience, previewing upcoming activities for the station crew. Filmed over many months, this cinematic virtual reality series will showcase living and working aboard the space station for viewers on the ground. He also worked with Rodent Research, powering down and stowing the habitat in a storage locker for later use. 

The crew also ramped up extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, preparations, gathering and configuring tools for an upcoming spacewalk that will upgrade batteries on the outside of the orbiting laboratory. 

Meanwhile, approximately 250 miles below, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori flew from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to finalize pre-launch training for a Sept. 25 launch on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft to the space station. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Day Before HTV-8 Launch, Crew Studies Effects of Microgravity on Space-faring Humans

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

The International Space Station is abuzz as preparations heat up for the launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft from the Tanegashima Space Center tomorrow, Sept. 10. Launch is slated for 5:33 p.m. EDT, and can be seen live on NASA Television.  

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan spent more time practicing 30-meter approach and capture runs, followed by their own evaluations, in preparation for HTV-8’s arrival days later on Saturday, Sept. 14. The vehicle will be loaded with more than four tons of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware for the space station residents.  

In the Kibo module, Morgan spoke to media out of Morgantown, West Virginia, referencing not only of NASA’s future with the Artemis program, but also the work currently underway that will benefit life on Earth and expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. Morgan referenced his early morning tasks with Fluid Shifts and his first spacewalk just weeks before, when he and NASA astronaut Nick Hague installed International Docking Adapter to usher in a new era of commercial visiting vehicles that will launch from American soil.  

Science investigations that will help develop countermeasures for humans exploring deep space, and for longer durations, rounded out the busy Monday. Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and crewmates Koch and Hague conducted eye exams aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since it is known that living and working in microgravity can induce vascular changes, as well as head and eye pressure, these measurements will help medical experts and scientists on the ground track crew health as Expedition 60 continues. Furthering research for Fluid Shifts, all other crewmates, with the exception of Koch and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, conducted venous ultrasounds in support of ongoing studies into vascular and fluid movement within space-faring human bodies. 

Parmitano, meanwhile, worked to close out Space Moss, an experiment that helps decode how microgravity affects the growth, development, gene expression and photosynthetic activity of tiny, rootless moss plants growing within the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator on the orbiting laboratory.  

Back on Earth, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori are set to depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tomorrow after spending the week prior taking part in ceremonial activities and mission briefings leading up to their mission start on Sept. 25, when they launch into space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Expedition 60 Studies the Keys to Survive and Thrive in Space

The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft
The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking. Credit: NASA TV

As the week near its close, the crew of Expedition 60 caught up on maintenance activities while also continuing science investigations integral for the future of space exploration to destinations further into the solar system. 

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano performed servicing to the EXPRESS Rack located in the Columbus lab of the International Space Station. The EXPRESS Rack is instrumental in supporting science experiments, providing structural interfaces for power, data, cooling water and more to facilitate investigations in microgravity. 

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continued examinations for Fluid Shifts, conducting remotely guided ultrasounds to track the movement of fluids within the body. Spread out over several weeks, the various measurements investigate if long-duration spaceflight can cause severe and lasting physical damage to an astronaut’s eyes. Aboard the orbiting laboratory, a Lower Body Negative Pressure device is being evaluated as a possible intervention for any harmful effects. 

Flight Engineer Christina Koch, meanwhile, spent time on Rodent Research habitat cleaning and feeding protocols. Such experiments, as a byproduct of learning how microgravity affects animals, provides relevant insight to human space exploration, basic biology and knowledge that can positively impact human health on Earth. 

Crew members performed scheduled maintenance on the Space Moss investigation — a plant-growth experiment attached to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator. Moss, tiny plants without roots, need only a small area to thrive, and thus have potential in space far beyond low-Earth orbit, like on future Moon or Martian bases. 

The countdown is on for cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin, who will wrap up packing the Soyuz MS-14 with gear before the spaceship returns to Earth Friday, Sept. 6. Viewers can watch NASA Television as it follows the undocking of the unpiloted vehicle, which begins at 1:45 p.m. EDT for a scheduled undocking at 2:14 p.m. The vehicle is anticipated to land at 5:34 p.m. in Kazakhstan, but with no NASA TV coverage. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Flurry of Science Investigations Preface Friday’s Soyuz Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station's "window to the world," the seven-windowed cupola. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola. Credit: NASA

As cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori ready for their Sept. 25 launch aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, tomorrow they will pause in their mission preparations for the ceremonial laying of the flowers at the Kremlin Wall. On Sept. 10, the same day the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to take off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for the International Space Station, the new crew will depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. 

Meanwhile, Expedition 60 crew members balanced their workload between preparing for upcoming vehicle activities from and to the space station and investigations that will give scientists deeper insight into the human body in space … and on Earth.  

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan performed eye exams in support of Fluid Shifts, which studies how fluid movement — from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels — can impact changes in vision and eye structures for astronauts, as well as uncomfortable cranial pressure during spaceflight. Morgan, along with crewmate Christina Koch of NASA, are also reviewing rendezvous and capture training for HTV-8, which will be robotically maneuvered to attach to the Harmony module in just over a week.  

Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) worked with the Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) investigation, completing cell sample transfers. BEST evaluates the feasibility of sequencing to identify unknown microbial organisms living aboard the orbiting laboratory. One added benefit, too, is the experiment furthers research in understanding how humans, plants and microbes adapt to microgravity.  

Housekeeping continued as cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin added more cargo to the Soyuz MS-14 for a return to Earth, sans crew, Friday, Sept. 6. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

As Hurricane Dorian Churns Below, Expedition 60 Continues Investigations, Training Above

Astronaut Christina Koch of the International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Dorian outside the space station’s windows the morning of Sept. 2, 2019. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Christina Koch of the International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Dorian outside the space station’s windows the morning of Sept. 2, 2019. Credit: NASA

After a quiet, off-duty day for the crew of Expedition 60 on Labor Day, operations supporting science for long-duration human space exploration and upcoming spaceship movements ramped up on the International Space Station. 

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are busy packing the Soyuz MS-14 with return gear before the vehicle parachutes back to Earth — without crew inside — this Friday, Sept. 6. Then, days later, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to launch on Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Its four-day journey to the orbiting laboratory will deliver 6.5 tons of new supplies and cargo.  

NASA crewmates Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan continued prepping for the robotic capture of HTV-8, reviewing procedures to ensure a smooth installation of the spaceship to the Harmony module for its month-long visit.  

Koch also performed Main Bus Switching Unit (MSBU) maintenance with fellow astronaut Nick Hague, afterward using a laptop connected to the MSBU with special test cables for a functional checkout of the repaired unit.  

Science investigations continue in earnest, with Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) conducting VEG-04 operations and additional Veggie training, also capturing light measurements for the novel experiment that seeks to learn about the impact of light quality and fertilizer on leafy crops grown in microgravity. 

Morgan and Parmitano spent time setting up and recording for ISS Experience, which documents life and research operations aboard the space station in cinematic virtual reality. Meanwhile, Koch worked with Microgravity Crystals, removing crystal plates from the Space Automated Byproduct Laboratory (SABL) to observe and photograph the sample wells under microscope before returning them to the SABL. 

Extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian continues to churn in the Atlantic Ocean 250 miles below, with crew members getting an unparalleled view of the storm as it begins to move from an almost stationary position over the northwestern Bahamas. Now a high category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph with occasional higher gusts, it will continue to crawl northwestward at about 2 mph, with a slightly faster motion toward the northwest, or north-northwest, expected later today and tonight. The storm is expected to come perilously close to Florida’s east coast late today through Wednesday evening and skirt by Georgia and South Carolina’s coastlines Wednesday night and Thursday.

Space Science Ahead of Russian and Japanese Station Missions

NASA astronaut Christina Koch conducts science operations
NASA astronaut Christina Koch conducts science operations inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module with a science freezer that preserves biological research samples for later analysis.

Human research kept the Expedition 60 crew busy today helping NASA and its partners understand how to keep astronauts healthy on long-term space missions. More spaceship activity is also coming up in September to ensure a well-stocked and fully staffed International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continued researching how fluid shifts caused by microgravity induce vascular changes as well as head and eye pressure. The duo processed more blood and urine samples today for the ongoing study observing the potentially risky condition.

Doctors on the ground are exploring telemedicine as a way to examine astronauts orbiting Earth and farther in space. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) set up and held a remotely controlled ultrasound scanner to his femoral artery for the Vascular Echo study today. A doctor on Earth then guided the device’s motorized probes during the cardiovascular exam.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch set up protein crystal samples for stowage inside an automated incubator. The research takes advantage of microgravity’s weightlessness to support the development of advanced pharmaceutical therapies.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft continues to be unpacked by cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov. They will soon load the crew ship back up with more cargo for return to Earth next week.

Another crew ship, the Soyuz MS-15, is being processed for its launch to the station on Sept. 25. Commander Oleg Skripochka will lead Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori on a six-hour ride to their new home in space. The new trio along with their backups began two days of qualification exams today

In between the Soyuz missions, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is due to blast off Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. It will take a four-day trip to the orbiting lab and deliver new batteries for the Port-6 truss power channels. It will be robotically captured and installed to the Harmony module for a month-long stay.

Space Biology Research as Preps Begin for Japan Cargo Mission

Hurricane Dorian
An camera on the International Space Station captured views of Hurricane Dorian as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico. Watch the video

The Expedition 60 crew focused on a variety of biomedical research and life science activities aboard the International Space Station today. The astronauts are still cleaning up after last week’s spacewalk while preparing for an upcoming Japanese cargo mission.

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan spent Thursday morning collecting their blood, urine and saliva samples. The samples are being processed and analyzed for the Fluid Shifts study. The long-running research explores vascular changes including head and eye pressure caused by living in microgravity.

Morgan moved on and continued organizing a multitude of tools used during a spacewalk last week to install a new commercial crew docking port. During the afternoon, he joined astronaut Luca Parmitano for eye pressure measurements using a tonometer.

Hague set up a 3D camera in the Harmony module and videotaped a cinematic virtual reality experience of himself at work for Earth audiences. He finally tested a communications panel that will send commands to Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft planned to arrive at the station in mid-September. The HTV-8 will deliver new batteries for the station’s Port-6 truss power channels.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch checked on mice studied in space for their genetic similarity to humans and potential therapeutic insights. She also discussed with a nutritionist on the ground how the food aboard the orbiting lab affects her appetite.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov explored microbes in the Russian side of the station to learn how to fight space viruses and spacecraft contamination. The duo then continued unpacking cargo from the Soyuz MS-14 spaceship that arrived Monday night.

Another crew ship, the Soyuz MS-15, is being processed for its launch to the station on Sept. 25. Commander Oleg Skripochka will lead Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori on a six-hour ride to their new home in space. The new trio along with their backups began two days of qualification exams today .