New Crew Launching Early Friday as Science Continues on Station

(From left) A Russian crew ship and a Russian cargo craft are pictured docked to the station as it orbited into a sunrise above the South Pacific.
(From left) A Russian crew ship and a Russian cargo craft are pictured docked to the station as it orbited into a sunrise above the South Pacific.

It is the day before three new Expedition 65 crew members launch and dock to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, three orbital lab residents are preparing to return to Earth while the rest of the crew studies space science and keeps the station in tip-top shape.

The Soyuz MS-18 rocket that will liftoff Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT with one NASA astronaut and two Roscosmos cosmonauts was blessed on Thursday by a Russian Orthodox priest. The traditional ceremony takes place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad before each Soyuz crew mission.

Two veteran station residents, Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, will take a ride to the station with first time space-flyer Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. Novitskiy will lead the short space flight to the station’s Rassvet module where the Soyuz crew ship will dock at 7:07 a.m. The hatches will open about two hours later and the trio will join seven new crewmates for a welcoming ceremony with officials on the ground. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities beginning at 2:45 a.m.

Little more than a week after the new crew’s arrival, three Expedition 64 residents will end their stay in space and land on Earth inside the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, alongside Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, will undock from the Poisk module officially ending their mission on April 16 at 9:33 p.m. They will parachute to a landing inside their Soyuz crew ship less than three-and-a-half hours later in Kazakhstan.

Science is keeping pace aboard the space station as the crew explored biotechnology and fluid physics today. The astronauts also worked on life support systems and U.S. spacesuit components.

NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins observed protein crystal samples in a microscope for a study exploring the production of advanced medicines in space. Flight Engineer Victor Glover of NASA observed how fluids behave in microgravity to help engineers design optimal fuel tanks for satellites and spaceships.

Hopkins also serviced nitrogen and oxygen transfer gear inside the station’s Atmospheric Control System. Glover assisted NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker as she swapped parts on U.S. spacesuits. Finally, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi installed a materials exposure study in the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock where it will soon be placed into the harsh space environment for observation.

Station Readies for Expanded Crew as Science Stays in Focus

A waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth's horizon as the space station orbited 269 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.
A waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth’s horizon as the space station orbited 269 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.

The Expedition 64 crew is getting ready to welcome three new crew members who are due to launch on Friday to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, a variety of space research activities are underway aboard the orbiting lab today.

One NASA astronaut and two Roscosmos cosmonauts are in final preparations for their liftoff on a Soyuz rocket set for Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT. Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Pyotr Dubrov will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy for the short trip to the station inside the new Soyuz MS-18 crew ship.

Docking of the new Expedition 65 trio to the Rassvet module is planned for 7:07 a.m. The crew will open the hatch after leak and pressure checks and enter the station about 9 a.m. A welcoming ceremony with the expanded 10-person crew along with participants on the ground will occur shortly afterward. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities beginning at 2:45 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker are busy readying the station to temporarily accommodate the new crew members. The trio is setting up extra sleep stations for this month’s crew swaps when there will be as many as 11 people occupying the space station.

Biomedical studies, or human research, is always ongoing aboard the station. Saliva and blood sample collections were the first tasks of the day for Hopkins, Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov. Glover scanned his own neck, leg and cardiac veins with an ultrasound device then checked his blood pressure for the Vascular Aging study.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins installed the new TangoLab-2 biology research hardware, delivered in February aboard the Cygnus space freighter, inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi readied a materials space exposure study for placement outside the Kibo laboratory module.

Soyuz Crew Ship Ready for Launch; Space Science in Full Swing

The Soyuz MS-18 rocket, that will launch the Expedition 65 crew to the space station on April 9, is rolled out to the launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The Soyuz MS-18 rocket, that will launch the Expedition 65 crew to the space station on April 9, is rolled out to the launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The first of two crews launching to the International Space Station in April will blast off from Kazakhstan on Friday. The Soyuz MS-18 rocket rolled out to its launch pad this morning as three new Expedition 65 crew members get ready for their long-term space research mission.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy inside the new Soyuz crew ship. They will lift off Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and take a near three-and-a-half hour ride to the station, orbiting Earth twice.

After the new crew docks to the Rassvet module and opens the hatches, there will be 10 people occupying the orbiting lab until the crew they are replacing, the Expedition 64 trio, returns to Earth a week later. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will complete her mission on April 16 with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov. They will undock from the station’s Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship completing a 185-day mission and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan.

Onboard the station, the current seven-member crew is busy conducting advanced space science benefitting humans on and off the Earth. The orbital septet is also gearing up to accommodate the two April crew swaps when there will be as many as eleven people occupying the space station.

NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover were back inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module exploring how microgravity affects the human nervous system. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on biology hardware servicing components inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and the Confocal Space Microscope.

Noguchi also joined Rubins during the afternoon and set up extra sleep accommodations inside the Columbus lab. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker routed cables that charge U.S. spacesuit batteries inside the Quest airlock.

Nervous System, Robotics Research as Station Preps for Crew Ship Move

Resilience, the commercial crew ship from SpaceX, is pictured approaching the space station for a docking on Nov. 17, 2020.
Resilience, the commercial crew ship from SpaceX, is pictured approaching the space station for a docking on Nov. 17, 2020.

Nervous system and robotics research were the dominant research theme aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. The seven Expedition 64 crew members also focused on next week’s crew ship move and a variety of orbital maintenance tasks.

This week, an ESA (European Space Agency) investigation has been under way exploring how the human nervous system adapts to different gravity environments. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover have been strapping themselves into a specialized seat in the Columbus laboratory module and performing a series of dexterous manipulation tasks. Results from ESA’s Grip study may lead to improved spacecraft interfaces and deeper insights into human cognition in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins powered up the Astrobee robotic assistant Thursday afternoon inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. She guided the small, cube-shaped device in various orientations as it photographed and mapped the inside of Kibo while calibrating itself. Astrobee could soon perform routine station tasks freeing up time for astronauts to conduct more space science.

Rubins later scanned the eyes of Glover in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module using non-invasive imaging technology. The eye checks are part of ongoing studies to understand how weightlessness impacts an astronaut’s retina.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker started her day servicing U.S. spacesuit battery components alongside Glover. Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency worked on Kibo’s KOBAIRO rack, installing a water refill device in the facility that explores crystal growth in semiconductors.

All five astronauts gathered together for a short afternoon session and reviewed Monday’s upcoming relocation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience. Rubins will stay in the station as Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi take a short ride inside Resilience from the Harmony module’s forward-facing port to its zenith, or space-facing port, on Monday at 6:30 a.m. EDT. The autonomous relocation maneuver will take about 45 minutes with NASA TV beginning its live coverage at 6 a.m.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos collected air and water samples in the station’s Russian segment today for later analysis. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov began gathering items for stowage aboard the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that will take him, Rubins and Ryzhikov home on April 17.

Crew Dragon Relocation Preps during Botany, Nervous System Research

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew gathers together for a New Year's Day portrait inside the International Space Station's "window to the world," the cupola.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew is pictured inside the space station’s “window to the world,” the cupola.

Four Expedition 64 astronauts are getting ready to move their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle to another docking port on the International Space Station next week. The orbital residents also continued advanced research into space agriculture and the human nervous system.

Resilience, the docked commercial crew craft from SpaceX, will taxi four astronauts from the Harmony module’s forward-facing port to its zenith, or space-facing port, on Monday at 6:30 a.m. EDT. The autonomous relocation maneuver will take about 45 minutes with NASA TV beginning its live coverage at 6 a.m.

Crew-1 Commander Michael Hopkins is riding along with Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. The astronauts checked their Crew Dragon flight suits and communications gear during the afternoon. The quartet needs to be on the vehicle in the unlikely event Resilience is unable to redock. This assures there aren’t more crewmembers on the station than seats available on docked crew ships.

Meanwhile, the station crew kept up its space botany work today testing hydroponics as a way to maintain and grow crops in microgravity. NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins kicked off her day with the Plant Water Management study as Hopkins took over the activities after lunch time.

Hopkins and Glover were also back in the Columbus laboratory module exploring how weightlessness affects their grip force and up/down movements. The experiment requires the astronauts to strap themselves in a specialized seat and perform a series of dexterous manipulation exercises. Observations could improve the design of spacecraft interfaces and offer deeper insights into the human nervous system in different gravity environments.

Walker was on Crew Medical Officer duties during the morning scanning Glover’s neck, shoulder and leg veins with the Ultrasound-2 device. She then spent the afternoon setting up alternate sleep accommodations ahead of the Expedition 65 crew arrival on April 9 when 10 people will be on the station for just over a week.

Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov spent the day collecting water samples from Russian life support systems and checking smoke detectors. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov cleaned ventilation systems and transferred water from the docked Progress 77 resupply ship.

Human Research, Botany, Tech Demo on Station Science Schedule

Russia's ISS Progress 77 cargo craft is pictured attached to the space station while orbiting 260 miles above the Gulf of Mexico.
Russia’s ISS Progress 77 cargo craft is pictured attached to the space station while orbiting 260 miles above the Gulf of Mexico.

Human research, botany and a technology demonstration were on the science schedule aboard the International Space Station today.

NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker was the Crew Medical Officer on Tuesday imaging the eyes of astronauts Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. Walker operated non-invasive imaging technology hardware to detect how microgravity impacts a crew member’s eyes and especially the retina.

Hopkins also joined Flight Engineer Victor Glover for an experiment investigating how astronauts manipulate objects and move around in weightlessness. The duo strapped themselves in a specialized seat inside the Columbus laboratory module for a series of tests exploring their grip force and up/down movements. Results could inform future spacecraft interfaces and provide new insights into the human nervous system.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins explored hydroponics today as way to support space agriculture for the Plant Water Management botany study. Noguchi tested a new optical device that beams down large amounts of data to Earth from outside the space station.

Expedition 64 Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos worked on computer and life support maintenance throughout the day. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov serviced video gear then photographed hardware on the outside of the Poisk mini-research module.

Station Gears Up for April Crew Swaps, Keeps Up Space Research

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship, with its two lit crew windows, is pictured docked to the Harmony module's international docking adapter.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship, with its two lit crew windows, is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s international docking adapter.

Four Expedition 64 astronauts will take a quick ride inside their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle to a new docking port next week as the International Space Station ramps up for a series of crew swaps.

Resilience, the first operational crew ship from SpaceX, will back out from its forward-facing port on the Harmony module on April 5 at 6:30 a.m. EDT. Dragon Commander Michael Hopkins, Pilot Victor Glover and Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi will be inside the Crew Dragon as it autonomously maneuvers to a docking on Harmony’s space-facing port about 45 minutes later.

April will be a busy month on the orbital lab as three new Expedition 65 crew members, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, get ready for their April 9 launch to the station aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft. Expedition 64 will end on April 17 when NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov undock from the Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship and return to Earth.

The four Crew-1 astronauts are also due to return to Earth at the end of April. They will be replaced about a week before by four SpaceX Crew-2 crewmembers including Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from NASA, Thomas Pesquet from ESA (European Space Agency), and Akihiko Hoshide from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Meanwhile, the station’s seven orbital residents are still keeping up an array of research into microgravity’s impact on biology and physics.

Rubins was the Crew Medical Officer on Monday scanning neck, shoulder and leg veins in Hopkins and Noguchi using the Ultrasound-2 device. Hopkins then joined Glover and Walker for cognition tests for the Standard Measures investigation observing how astronauts adapt to weightlessness.

On the Russian side of the station, station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov packed hard drives containing plasma physics research data for return to Earth with the Expedition 64 trio. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov swabbed surfaces inside the Zvezda service module to collect microbe samples for later analysis.

Station Ends Week with Biology; New Crew Arrives at Launch Site

(From left) Expedition 65 crew members Mark Vande Hei, Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, arrive for final launch preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
(From left) Expedition 65 crew members Mark Vande Hei, Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, arrive for final launch preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The seven residents aboard the International Space Station are wrapping up an intense week of biology investigations in low-Earth orbit. Three new crew members are also two weeks away from launching to the orbiting lab and joining the Expedition 64 crew.

The station astronauts have been focusing their research efforts this week on microgravity’s long-term impacts on the human body and other biological processes. NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins examined space-grown protein crystals in a microscope on Friday morning for insights into pharmaceutical production beyond Earth’s gravity. She later peered at microscopic worms wriggling in unique sample slides, set up by NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker, to understand how weightlessness affects genetic expression in muscles.

Flight Engineers Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi partnered together in the ongoing Time Perception study inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. The astronauts wear virtual reality googles and click a trackball while performing a series of exercises to understand how their spatial orientation and cognitive performance changes in microgravity.

Lab maintenance is also critical to ensure station systems such as life support and computing remain in tip-top shape. Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins worked preventative maintenance in the Tranquility module’s Water Recycling System. He also replaced electrical components inside the Human Research Facility-2 rack.

The two cosmonauts, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, kept up with their contingent of space research in the station’s Russian segment. Ryzhikov finalized this week’s plasma physics study closing out the experiment and stowing the advanced science gear. Kud-Sverchkov explored how the human circulatory system adapts to long-term spaceflight.

Three new Expedition 65 crew members have arrived at their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today. Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos with Soyuz MS-18 Commander Oleg Novitskiy are in final training for their April 9 launch to the space station.

Vein, Eye Scans on Station as Next Crew Nears Launch

(From left) Expedition 65 crew members Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Novitskiy and Mark Vande Hei, pose for a photo during Soyuz qualification exams in Moscow.
(From left) Expedition 65 crew members Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Novitskiy and Mark Vande Hei, pose for a photo during Soyuz qualification exams in Moscow.

The Expedition 64 crew continued researching how microgravity affects biology aboard the International Space Station today. The orbital residents also conducted vein and eye checks and prepared for three new crew members due in early April.

NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker joined Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov for vein and eye scans on Thursday. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi led the effort scanning veins in the trio’s neck, clavicle and shoulder areas using the Ultrasound 2 device in the morning. In the afternoon, Noguchi examined Walker’s eyes using the orbiting lab’s optical coherence tomography gear.

Walker also assisted fellow Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA setting up samples of tiny worms for viewing in a microscope. Rubins captured video of the microscopic worms wriggling around to learn how microgravity affects genetic expression and muscle function. Insights from the Micro-16 study may benefit human health on and off the Earth.

Astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover focused on station maintenance throughout Thursday. Hopkins set up alternate sleep accommodations ahead of the Expedition 65 crew launch and docking set for April 9 when 10 people will be on the station until April 17. Glover serviced Water Recycling System components checking for leaks and tightening fittings on the rack located inside the Tranquility module.

Ryzhikov continued observing plasma dust crystals for the ongoing space physics study taking place in the station’s Russian segment. Kud-Sverchkov wiped down equipment inside the Zarya module then explored how pilots may operate spacecraft on future planetary missions.

Back on Earth in Moscow, three Expedition 65 crew members are getting ready to head to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where their Soyuz MS-18 rocket is being processed for its April 9 launch. Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy during their three-and-a-half-hour ride to their new home in space.

Just over a week later, Rubins will return to Earth with her Expedition 64 crewmates Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov. They will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship after 185 days aboard the station.

Human Research on Station Informing Health in Space and on Earth

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover of NASA poses for a portrait inside the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory module.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover of NASA poses for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s Kibo laboratory module.

Human research is key aboard the International Space Station as NASA and its international partners learn to keep crews healthy during long-term exploration missions. The station hosts a variety of advanced space science hardware enabling these unique experiments and more in the weightless environment of the orbiting lab.

Today aboard the orbiting lab, Expedition 64 Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover collected their blood, urine, and saliva samples, and stowed them for later analysis. Rubins also analyzed white blood cells for the HemoCue study that is demonstrating how to quickly monitor and diagnose crew health conditions, including viral infections and radiation exposure, aboard spacecraft.

NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins spent Wednesday installing and powering up the new KEyence Research Microscope Testbed (KERMIT) microscope. KERMIT will allow astronauts and scientists to view and analyze biological and physical samples both on the station and remotely from the ground. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on the Confocal Space Microscope, which provides fluorescence images of biological samples, during the morning.

The station’s computer network is in the process of being upgraded as Flight Engineer Shannon Walker of NASA spent the day routing new ethernet cables inside the Unity module. Glover assisted station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov setting up a cinematic virtual reality camera to film the cosmonauts working in the station’s Russian segment.

Ryzhikov was back on plasma physics research Wednesday, downloading data and swapping the gas supply from neon to argon for the study, observing plasma dust crystals in microgravity. Kud-Sverchkov serviced the ventilation system replacing air ducts inside the Rassvet module.