Astronauts Gear Up for Spacewalk and Get Up to Date on Station Safety

NASA astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch
NASA astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch familiarizes herself with International Space Station hardware inside the Unity module.

The Expedition 59 crew is busy preparing for the first spacewalk of 2019 set to begin in just two days. Meanwhile, the orbital residents are still exploring the effects of space on their bodies while familiarizing themselves with emergency hardware.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain continued organizing their tools this morning ahead of Friday morning’s spacewalk. The duo will enter the Quest module’s crew airlock and their spacesuits will go on battery power Friday around 8:05 a.m. EDT signaling the beginning of the spacewalk.

VIDEO: NASA experts discuss the upcoming power upgrade spacewalks

Hague and McClain will spend about six-and-a-half hours upgrading the International Space Station’s storage capacity. They will swap out old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries and install battery adapter plates on the Port-4 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live space coverage Friday at 6:30 a.m.

Hague started Wednesday, however, in the Columbus lab module helping scientists understand how microgravity impacts the perception of time. McClain collected light measurements in the afternoon from two laboratory modules and the Quest airlock to document how new station LED lights affect crew wellness.

The station’s latest crew arrivals spent a couple of hours Wednesday morning checking out safety and communications gear. Hague along with Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin split their time between the station’s U.S. and Russian segments looking at emergency hardware and procedures.

Housekeeping and Maintenance Punctuate Last Full Day of Expedition 58

From left, Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague show solidarity before their upcoming launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
From left, Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague show solidarity before their upcoming launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA

The last full day of Expedition 58—before the launch, docking and consolidation of crews to become Expedition 59—was mostly spent on housekeeping items for the continued, successful operation of the International Space Station. 

NASA astronaut Anne McClain floated through the Tranquility and Zvezda service modules, deploying acoustic monitors. She paused in the U.S. lab at an EXPRESS rack to install communications gear and perform additional maintenance. David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency also worked with EXPRESS today, moving Space Automated Bioproduct Labs from rack-1 to rack-2. This miniature laboratory within the larger orbiting laboratory supports life science research, hosting microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, algae, fungi, viruses, etc.), small organisms, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants for evaluation in space.  

Expedition Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos replaced fuel bottles on the Combustion Integrated Rack, which allows the crew members to conduct fluids and combustion studies in microgravity. 

Today in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, were certified for flight by the Russian state commission and held their final news conference.  

Tomorrow, the soon-to-be station residents will hitch a ride aboard a Soyuz MS-12 for blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT on, coincidentally, 3/14. After a relatively speedy six-hour flight, the Soyuz is expected to dock to station’s Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking. 

The events will unfold live on NASA TV, with launch coverage beginning at 2 p.m. and docking coverage at 8:15 p.m., respectively. After a brief break, tune in at 10:30 p.m. for the hatch opening and welcome, which will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six—including three NASA astronauts. And, just in time for Women’s History Month, this launch marks the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts.  

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

Before Launch and Spacewalks, Science Reigns Supreme Aboard Orbiting Lab

The Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
On March 12, 2019, the Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA

As the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the Expedition 59 crew to the International Space Station Thursday was erected on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 resumed research and routine maintenance after their off-duty day Monday. 

NASA astronaut Anne McClain conducted botany work with the VEG-03 experiment, which builds on what scientists have initially learned about harvesting vegetation in space with VEG-01. This time around, testing will demonstrate plant growth with a new batch of crops, including red romaine lettuce, extra dwarf Pak Choi, red Russian kale and wasabi mustard. McClain also spent time on life-support system upkeep in the Kibo lab module and maintenance in the U.S. lab on an EXPRESS rack—hardware integral to providing structural interfaces and support for science experiments with power, data, cooling, water and other items needed for successful operations. 

In the Quest airlock, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques completed additional prep work for upcoming spacewalks slated for March 22, 29 and April 8 by scrubbing cooling loops and performing leak checks on the spacesuits. After resupplying the Human Research Facility-2 rack, Saint Jacques added input to a questionnaire for Behavioral Core Measures, an investigation that seeks to create a standardized toolkit to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders that could occur with longer space missions. 

Meanwhile, Commander Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos ticked off additional maintenance tasks by cleaning panels in the Zvezda service module and performing fluid transfers to the Progress 71 resupply ship. 

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

Station Crews Take a Breather in Anticipation of Launch on March 14

A view from the International Space Station taken Feb. 21, 2019.
A view from the International Space Station taken Feb. 21, 2019. Image Credit: NASA

This Monday, the Expedition 58 crew is taking a well-deserved break after a busy week prior wrapping up SpaceX’s inaugural flight of Crew Dragon to the International Space Station during Demonstration Mission-1, an uncrewed flight test. The vehicle departed station for a splashdown off the Florida Space Coast at 8:45 a.m. EST Friday, bringing NASA even closer to sending astronauts into space from American soil. 

The Expedition 59 crew, which will soon get their turn in orbit, is taking time to relax and review their launch day flight plan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On March 14, Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are set to blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT and dock less than six hours later to the Rassvet module at the orbiting laboratory. Research investigations will get a boost in productivity with their arrival, which will bring the full crew complement to six. All launch and docking events will be carried live on NASA TV. 

Tomorrow, the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the new crew crawls to the launch pad at Baikonur as Expedition 58 resumes science studies. 

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

Crew Resumes Normal Ops Before Crew Dragon Leaves Friday

Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint Jacques
Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint Jacques are pictured in between a pair of spacesuits that are stowed and serviced inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

The three Expedition 58 crew members are back to normal operations today with the newest SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship integrated to the International Space Station. Dragon will leave the station Friday as the next crew prepares to launch on March 14.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques called down to mission controllers today to discuss Crew Dragon operations. The duo also linked up with SpaceX personnel throughout the United States describing life on orbit and their impressions of the new crew vehicle.

McClain started today resizing U.S. spacesuits ahead of a set of spacewalks planned for March and April. She later worked on life support systems and plumbing maintenance in the Unity and Tranquility modules.

Saint-Jacques collected station water samples for microbial analysis. He then inspected tethers the astronauts will use to stay attached to the station during the upcoming spacewalks.

Commander Oleg Kononenko replaced fuel bottles used during experiment operations inside the Combustion Integrated Rack. The veteran cosmonaut also explored low temperature gas mixtures for the Plasma Krysyall-4 experiment collaboration between Europe and Russia.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon undocks Friday at 2:31 a.m. EST. Splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean is scheduled around 8:45 a.m. EST. NASA TV will cover all the activities live after closing the hatch Thursday.

On the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 59 crew members are in final training awaiting their launch to the station. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are set to blastoff March 14 at 3:14 p.m. and dock less than six hours later to their new home in space.

Making Space for SpaceX Crew Dragon, Spacewalk Prep and Science

Expedition 58 welcomes Crew Dragon
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Konenenko welcome the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station after a successful docking on March 3, 2019, ushering in the era of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Image Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 58 capped off its busy weekend with additional outfitting for the SpaceX Crew Dragon, which had only completed its hard dock to the International Space Station yesterday morning as part of the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test.

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay at the orbiting laboratory. This work included installation of the intramodule ventilation system, which helps cycle air from Crew Dragon to station. The crew members ticked off additional items from their checklist, also installing window covers and checking valves before taking part in a welcoming ceremony for the visiting vehicle at 10:45 a.m. EST Sunday, which aired on NASA Television.

Today, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko went over emergency procedures specific to Crew Dragon’s stay in orbit. While Crew Dragon is designed to remain docked to the space station for up to 210 days, this test of the spacecraft will be much shorter, ending early Friday morning. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m. on Friday, March 8—a little more than six hours after its separation from station.

While Kononenko was focused on the Plasma Kristall-4 experiment, which investigates the liquid phase and flow phenomena of complex plasmas, for this week’s runs, McClain and Saint-Jacques spent most of the day in the Quest airlock. The pair worked on their EMU [Extravehicular Mobility Unit] spacesuits, making sure their suits fit in advance of a series of spacewalks currently slated for late March and early April.

Saint-Jacques also made time in the day to connect with junior high school and college students in Hallifax, Nova Scotia, through a space-to-ground downlink where he shared his perspective of living and working aboard the world’s only microgravity laboratory.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

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

Vision, Psychology Tests Ahead of First U.S. Commercial Crew Mission

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned at the company’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ahead of the Demo-1 flight test. Credit: SpaceX

The Expedition 58 crew continued filming in virtual reality onboard the International Space Station today. The orbital residents also conducted behavior tests and eye checks throughout Thursday while preparing for the first U.S. commercial crew vehicle mission.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain logged into specialized software for a test session with the Behavioral Core Measures study. The neuropsychological test measures cognition as an astronaut conducts simulated robotic activities on a laptop computer.

Afterward, she joined Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques for eye checks in the Harmony module at the end of the day. The two swapped Crew Medical Officer roles and scanned each other’s eyes using optical tomography coherence gear. Both astronauts started the day with a standard vision test in the Destiny lab module reading characters from an eye chart.

Saint-Jacques then set up a virtual reality camera in the cupola, the station’s “window to the world.” The high-tech space footage will be used to create a short cinematic, immersive film for audiences on Earth. The CSA astronaut also activated a camera to capture imagery for the Meteor space-based observation study.

The astronauts are also counting down to Sunday’s arrival of the first U.S. commercial crew vehicle on the SpaceX DM-1 mission. The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon will launch from Kennedy Space Center at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday. McClain and Saint-Jacques will greet the Crew Dragon after it docks to the Harmony module’s International Docking Adapter Sunday around 6 a.m.

Crew Studies How Space Affects the Mind and Heart

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain
Astronauts (from left) David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain wear a head-mounted display for the Time Perception study which hypothesizes that crews underestimate the duration of time in space.

The Expedition 58 crew explored how living in space impacts perception and psychology today. The trio also studied satellite navigation and continued reviewing this weekend’s arrival of the first SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques partnered up this morning inside Europe’s Columbus lab module for the Vection space perception experiment. The duo wore virtual reality goggles, earplugs and a neck brace to study microgravity’s effect on the vestibular system. They took turns performing a series of tasks documenting perception of motion, orientation, height and depth. Results may improve astronaut training and the design of future space habitats.

McClain then spent the rest of the day in the Japanese Kibo lab module operating a pair of tiny internal satellites for the SmoothNav study. The experiment is researching how autonomous satellites may benefit future public and private space exploration.

Saint-Jacques went in to the afternoon reviewing rendezvous and docking operations when the uncrewed SpaceX DM-1 spacecraft arrives Sunday at 6 a.m. EST. He wrapped up his workday helping psychologists understand the adverse effects of living in space on an astronaut’s cognition and behavior.

Commander Oleg Kononenko participated in a Russian cardiopulmonary study before installing communications gear in the Zvezda service module. In the afternoon, two-time station commander collected radiation readings and ensured the upkeep of Russian life support systems.

Virtual Reality Filming, Spacesuit Work Highlight Day on Station

A pair of U.S. spacesuits
A pair of U.S. spacesuits are pictured during servicing work inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

Virtual Reality Film, Spacesuit Work Highlight Day on Station

Virtual reality filming and spacesuit cleaning highlighted the day aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 crew also configured a diverse array of life science and physics hardware.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain set up a virtual reality camera inside the Tranquility module after lunch today. She has been filming hours of footage this month depicting a first-person’s view of life throughout the station. The final film will be an immersive, cinematic experience to educate audiences on Earth about life in space.

McClain started the day installing mouse habitat gear inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility. The research device, located in Japan’s Kibo lab module, will house mice for an upcoming accelerated aging and disease study.

Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques was back on spacesuit duty today scrubbing cooling loops and checking the conductivity of water samples. The astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency also tested cables inside the Materials Science Research Rack. The refrigerator-sized rack explores chemical and thermal properties of materials such as metals, alloys and polymers to create new and improved elements and applications.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, Commander Oleg Kononenko worked on ventilation systems and collected air samples from the Zarya and Zvezda service modules. The veteran cosmonaut also photographed hardware for a blood pressure study and tested Earth observation techniques using a camera equipped with small ultrasound emitters.

Back on Earth in Star City, Russia, three Expedition 59 crew members have wrapped up two days of classes and tests qualifying for their March 14 launch to the orbital lab. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch will end their stay at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on Feb. 26 and fly to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan. The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and take a six-hour ride to their new home in space.

Astronauts Focus on Spacesuits, High-Temp Physics and Storm Photography

Lake Superior and Lake Michigan surrounded by the cloudy and frozen terrain
Lake Superior and Lake Michigan is surrounded by the cloudy and frozen terrain of the North American continent.

Spacesuit servicing and high-temperature physics kept the crew busy today aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 astronauts also researched meteorology from the station and explored more Earth phenomena from space.

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques is returning a U.S. spacesuit to service today inside the U.S. Quest airlock. He verified successful installation of suit components and checked for water leaks in the suit at full operational pressure. NASA is planning a set of maintenance spacewalks at the station planned for March 22, 29, and April 8.

In the Kibo lab module from Japan, astronaut Anne McClain cleaned sample cartridges in a specialized thermo-physical research device called the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace. The high-temperature facility levitates, solidifies and melts samples that may contribute to the synthesis of new materials difficult to achieve on Earth.

She later set up camera hardware for the Tropical Cyclone experiment to demonstrate storm predictions from the station. McClain targeted a moonlit Typhoon Oma today off the coast of Queensland, Australia from inside the cupola.

Commander Oleg Kononenko worked on a suite of science experiments Wednesday in the Russian segment of the station. The veteran cosmonaut photographed terrestrial landmarks to document forest conditions and the effects of natural and man-made disasters. He also studied how space impacts the cardiovascular system and the piloting skills of a cosmonaut.

Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are preparing for their March 14 launch to the orbital lab aboard the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia for final training before heading to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26.