Crew Gets Ready for Russian, U.S. Spaceship Activities This Week

The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured above Hurricane Henri in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 21, 2021.
The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured above Hurricane Henri in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 21, 2021.

A Soyuz crew ship with three Expedition 65 crew members aboard will move to a new docking port on Tuesday. Two days after that a U.S. cargo craft will depart the International Space Station and return to Earth packed with science experiments and station hardware for retrieval.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship when it switches ports on Tuesday. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. EDT. Then they will maneuver temporarily toward the U.S. segment for a quick photo session of the orbiting lab’s configuration. Shortly afterward, Novitskiy will manually guide the Soyuz spaceship back toward the Russian segment and dock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at 9 a.m.

This opens up Rassvet’s port for next month’s arrival of the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship carrying veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and two Russian spaceflight participants to the station. NASA TV will begin its live Tuesday coverage of the relocation at 8 a.m. on the NASA app and the agency’s website.

While the station trio ramps up for the docking port change, two NASA astronauts are loading the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship today with science gear and other cargo. Flight Engineer Megan McArthur started her day transferring cargo inside the Dragon vehicle. NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough configured science freezers inside Dragon that will contain research samples for analysis back on Earth.

Cargo Dragon leaves the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter on Thursday at 9:05 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast Dragon’s undocking and departure starting at 8:45 a.m. but will not be on air when the returning spacecraft splashes down off the coast of Florida about 14 hours later.

Science rolled on today, as Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and  ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet partnered up during the afternoon for space biology work in the Kibo laboratory module. The duo later prepared research samples for return to Earth inside Dragon’s science freezers.

Space Biology, Dragon Packing and Station Traffic Fill Crew Schedule

A portion of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured at lower left as the space station orbited above northern France.
A portion of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured at lower left as the space station orbited above northern France.

Rodent research, microbe sampling and Dragon packing filled the Expedition 65 crew’s day at the end of the week aboard the International Space Station. Three orbital residents are also preparing their Soyuz crew ship to switch docking ports next week.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough started their day observing mice once again inside the Life Science Glovebox (LSG) located in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The space biology study is helping scientists identify genes and observe cell functions that are impacted by weightlessness and affect skin processes.

Assisting the duo, ESA (European Space Agency) Thomas Pesquet continued the mice observations during the afternoon. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei handled the LSG set up and closeout operations during Friday’s experiment work.

During the afternoon, McArthur swabbed and collected microbe samples from surfaces in the station’s U.S. segment. She photographed the surface areas and stowed the samples for later analysis to document the types of microbes living on the orbiting lab.

Vande Hei and Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration (JAXA) spent a couple of hours on Friday loading the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship for return to Earth. The Cargo Dragon will undock from the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter on Thursday at 9:05 a.m. EDT. It will parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida several hours later for retrieval by SpaceX and NASA personnel.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov reviewed the procedures today and the path they will take when their Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft moves to a new port. Vande Hei will join his Russian crewmates when they undock from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. on Tuesday. They will temporarily maneuver toward the station’s U.S. segment where they will photograph the orbiting lab’s configuration. Shortly after that, they will move back toward the Russian segment and redock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at around 9 a.m.

The Russian segment’s Zvezda service module fired its engines for less than a minute today slightly lowering the space station’s orbit. The deorbit boost, as it is called, places the station at the correct phase ahead of the arrival of the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and the departure of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship in October.

Space Biology and Upcoming Spaceship Relocation Keep Crew Busy

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei work inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.
NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei work inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 65 astronauts are moving full speed ahead today studying how living in space affects skin processes. The International Space Station is also gearing up for a busy period of spaceship activities.

Rodents continue to be observed aboard the orbiting lab today so scientists can identify genes and observe cell functions that are impacted by weightlessness and affect skin processes. The Rodent Research-1 Demonstration will take place until next week when the mice are transferred into the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle for return and examination on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough partnered with ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet for the space biology study today taking place inside the Kibo laboratory module. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is assisting the astronauts with the rodent research, helping them with operations in the Life Science Glovebox.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent Thursday morning exploring how weightlessness affects microbes living on the station. He extracted DNA earlier this week from microbe samples he swabbed from surfaces inside the station. Today, Hoshide prepared the DNA for onboard sequencing to help researchers understand the microbial environment of the station and future spacecraft.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are familiarizing themselves with the procedures for next week’s relocation of their Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. The duo, along with Vande Hei, will take a short ride in the Soyuz on Tuesday when they undock from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. EDT.

They will temporarily maneuver toward the station’s U.S. segment where they will photograph the orbiting lab’s configuration. Shortly after that, they will move back toward the Russian segment and redock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module module at around 9 a.m.

New Robotic Arm Being Set Up Before Crew Ship Switches Ports

The city lights of northwest America, highlighted by an aurora, are pictured as the space station orbited above.
The city lights of northwest America, highlighted by an aurora, are pictured as the space station orbited above.

Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module continues being outfitted today before operations begin with Europe’s new robotic arm. In the meantime, three Expedition 65 crewmates are preparing to move their Soyuz crew ship to a new port on the International Space Station next week.

Soon, there will be three robotic arms from three different countries operating on the orbiting lab. The newest arm, the European robotic arm (ERA), was delivered in July attached to Nauka. ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet joined Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov inside Nauka today and configured ERA controller hardware and software. The other two robotic manipulators are Japan’s robotic arm which services the Kibo laboratory module, and the Canadarm2 robotic arm which captures and installs spaceships, maneuvers spacewalkers, and performs other fine-controlled tasks on the station.

The three NASA Flight Engineers, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Mark Vande Hei, worked in the station’s U.S. segment on science and maintenance activities throughout Wednesday. Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked primarily in the Kibo laboratory module on space biology activities.

McArthur started her day replacing fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack before swabbing microbe samples from station surfaces for later analysis. Kimbrough disassembled an old device that measured electrical charges building up around the station’s main solar arrays. Finally, Vande Hei serviced communications hardware inside Kibo then moved on and switched samples inside the Materials Science Laboratory.

Three-time Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy checked components inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship today before it moves to a new port next week. He will be flanked by Vande Hei and Dubrov inside the Soyuz when it undocks from the Rassvet module on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 8:21 a.m. EDT. They will dock less than 45 minutes later to Nauka for the first time.

Crew Studies How Space Affects Skin Before Station Traffic Increases

Astronaut Megan McArthur takes a midday break inside the cupola, the International Space Station's "window to the world."
Astronaut Megan McArthur takes a midday break inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.”

The Expedition 65 astronauts worked on a biology study today exploring how long-term microgravity affects skin and the healing process. Three other crewmates are gearing up for next week’s relocation of their Soyuz crew ship to the International Space Station’s newest science module.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough continued the Rodent Research-1 Demonstration on Tuesday. The space biology study seeks to identify genes and observe cell functions that are impacted by weightlessness and affect skin processes. The rodents will be returned to Earth late next week on the Cargo Dragon vehicle for further examination.

The pace of traffic at the orbiting lab picks up next week as three crewmates prepare to move their Soyuz crew ship to a new port. Two days later, a U.S. resupply ship will be next when it departs the station to return to Earth loaded with cargo and science experiments.

Three station crew members will enter their Soyuz MS-18 crew ship next Tuesday and take a short ride to another port. The trio, led by cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy flanked by NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, will first back away from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. EDT. It will dock less than 45 minutes later to Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Next Thursday, the SpaceX Cargo Dragon will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter at 9:05 a.m. It will splashdown off the coast of Florida about 14 hours later where SpaceX and NASA personnel will retrieve the vehicle and begin unpacking its precious cargo.

Crew Kicks off Week With Space Biology and Robotics

The prominent city lights of Europe from Amsterdam to Paris and London across the English Channel are pictured from the space station.
The prominent city lights of Europe from Amsterdam to Paris and London across the English Channel are pictured from the space station.

Expedition 65 is kicking off the week with a host of space biology and robotics activities aboard the International Space Station today.

Five astronauts out of the seven crewmates who comprise the space station crew joined each other today for a review of upcoming research operations with rodents. The quintet reviewed roles and procedures for the study to learn how microgravity affects normal skin and healing functions. The astronauts will take turns transferring the mice to the Life Science Glovebox for observation.

Full-fledged operations for the Rodent Research-1 Demonstration will begin Tuesday and continue before the SpaceX Cargo Dragon returns to Earth with the rodents on Sept. 30. NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough will trade shifts on Tuesday with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency). NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei will also contribute to the experiment later in the week.

Kimbrough started Monday checking out and activating the toaster-sized Astrobee robotic fee-flyers in cooperation with engineers on the ground. Hoshide began his day extracting DNA from microbe samples for sequencing to understand the microbial environment of the station. McArthur replaced fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack. Pesquet set up student-controlled Earth observation hardware then cleaned up debris to support the Plant Habitat-04 space crop experiment.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are continuing to set up hardware, including cables and laptop computers, inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. The new gear will enable the crew to control the European Robotic Arm from both inside and outside the station. The duo then split up Monday afternoon for Russian communications work and life support maintenance.

BEAM Open for Cargo Transfers as Robotics, Eye Checks Continue

Portions of the space station, including BEAM seen at right attached to the Tranquility module, are seen in this picture taken in August.
Portions of the space station, including BEAM seen at right attached to the Tranquility module, are seen in this picture taken in August.

The Expedition 65 crew opened up BEAM today and transferred cargo for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship. The orbital residents also worked on robotics, continued eye checks, and configured new life support gear.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) opened up the station’s first commercial module BEAM, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, today for cargo work. He was assisted by ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet as they transferred some of the stowed hardware from BEAM into the Cargo Dragon for return to Earth at the end of the month.

Robotics has also kept the crew busy this week aboard the International Space Station. Today, NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough practiced capturing a cargo craft using a virtual Canadarm2 robotic arm on a computer. McArthur also checked audio sensors on the Astrobee robotic free-flyers that monitor the orbiting lab’s acoustic environment.

Kimbrough spent the afternoon finalizing connections of a new carbon dioxide (CO2) removal device in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Called the Four Bed CO2 Scrubber, the new life support gear seeks to demonstrate advanced technology that will support future human missions longer and farther into space.

Vision is a key factor during long term space missions and doctors on the ground continuously monitor how microgravity affects an astronaut’s eyes. Once again, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei took on the crew medical officer role and scanned Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy‘s eyes with an ultrasound device. Vande Hei, who is staying in space until March 2022, then set up optical coherence tomography gear and imaged the veteran cosmonaut’s retinas.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov continued configuring Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module today. He connected ethernet cables and installed a laptop computer inside the new science module. Pesquet also trained on a pair of unique interfaces to operate the new European Robotic Arm that is attached to Nauka.

3D VR Cam Stowed During Eye Checks on Station

Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured 264 miles above the city lights of eastern Europe.
Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured 264 miles above the city lights of eastern Europe.

A 3D virtual reality camera that filmed Sunday’s spacewalk has been returned to the inside of the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 65 continued its space biology research and lab maintenance activities on Thursday.

A specialized video camera that filmed Sunday’s spacewalk in immersive virtual reality was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and placed on a pallet outside of the Kibo laboratory module. The camera was retracted into Kibo’s airlock Thursday morning where ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet retrieved and stowed it. The cinematic videos are part of a research program called ISS (international Space Station) Experience and are downlinked to Earth to excite and bring gravity-bound audiences closer to space.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei was the crew medical officer again on Thursday, this time scanning the eyes of Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov with an ultrasound device. Afterward, Vande Hei set up optical coherence tomography gear and imaged Dubrov’s retinas. Eye health is critical during long term space missions as doctors continue exploring how microgravity affects vision.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration (JAXA) spent Thursday morning setting up computers and cables before reconfiguring the Cell Biology Experiment Facility for upcoming research. In the afternoon, Hoshide installed a light on a spacesuit helmet then worked on transfers from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship.

Ensuring the station remains in tip-top shape, NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur worked on life support hardware in the U.S. segment of the orbiting lab. Kimbrough installed a new carbon dioxide remover in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. McArthur replaced components inside the Tranquility module’s oxygen generator.

Dubrov and Pesquet tested hardware installed in the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module that will soon communicate with and control the European robotic arm. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy spent the day servicing orbital plumbing gear in the station’s Russian segment.

Robotics and Biology Research Fill Station Crew Schedule

Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide checks out a pair of Astrobee robotic free-flyers inside the Kibo laboratory module.
Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide checks out a pair of Astrobee robotic free-flyers inside the Kibo laboratory module.

A variety of robotics work took place today aboard the International Space Station to teach students programming skills and ready a science module for a new robotic arm. The Expedition 65 crew also conducted vein scans and continued cleaning up after Sunday’s spacewalk.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide began Wednesday in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Kibo laboratory module supporting a robotics challenge for Japanese and American students on Earth. The three-time station resident configured the toaster-sized Astrobee robotic free-flyers to perform maneuvers using programs written by the ground-based students. The event is designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to improve space-based and Earth-bound technologies.

Hoshide also had his veins scanned during the afternoon with NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei taking charge as crew medical officer. Vande Hei used an ultrasound device with real-time assistance from flight surgeons on the ground and examined the JAXA astronaut’s neck, clavicle, shoulder, and leg veins.

Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module continues to be integrated with the orbiting lab. Two spacewalks on Sept. 3 and Sept. 9 began the cable connection work to power and communicate with the new science module. Now, cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov is configuring Nauka for operations with a new robotic arm from ESA (European Space Agency). The first-time space flyer from Roscosmos is setting up laptop computers and hardware inside Nauka that will soon control the European Robotic Arm attached to Nauka.

McArthur joined ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet earlier in the day stowing tools used during Sunday’s spacewalk to prepare the station for a new Roll-Out Solar Array. Pesquet also spent a portion of his day stowing an ESA incubator and deploying a microbiology experiment.

Two Flight Engineers’ Stay Extended; Biology, Maintenance Work Pick Up

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei conducted kidney cell research inside the Kibo laboratory module's Life Science Glovebox back in June 2021.
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei conducted kidney cell research inside the Kibo laboratory module’s Life Science Glovebox back in June 2021.

Two International Space Station crew members have had their stay onboard the orbiting lab extended to nearly a year. Meanwhile, space biology and life support maintenance kept the Expedition 65 crew busy on Tuesday.

With the plans for Russian spaceflight participants to visit the space station as part of the Soyuz MS-19 crew in October 2021, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov will remain aboard the station until March 2022. Upon return to Earth, Vande Hei will hold the record for longest single spaceflight for an American.

A potential benefit to this extension is NASA gaining deeper insight into how the human body adapts to life in microgravity for longer periods of time. This research helps prepare for Artemis missions to the Moon and eventually long-duration missions to Mars, as well as provides critical opportunities for additional research to be conducted aboard the station that can benefit life on Earth.

Rodents living on the station will soon be studied to understand how microgravity affects a variety of biological systems and processes. NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough began their day Tuesday training for the Rodent Research-1 Demonstration (RR-D1) experiment that will take place inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Afterward, the crew studied for the upcoming RR-D1 study. The experiment will be housed inside the Life Science Glovebox. The biology study specifically aims to understand how weightlessness impacts normal skin function and wound healing.

Vande Hei, with assistance from Kimbrough, removed support components today that kept a new carbon dioxide (CO2) scrubber attached to the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spaceship during its flight to the station last month. The device that cleans the station’s atmosphere of CO2 will soon be installed in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

Dubrov and fellow cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy are still reconfiguring the station’s Russian segment following their two spacewalks on Sept. 3 and Sept. 9. The duo also took turns wearing heart monitoring gear. Dubrov then began setting up a laptop computer and a European robotic arm controller inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.