Three Expedition 54 crew mates are in the final week of their mission and are packing up for a return to Earth. They and the rest of the crew also researched botany and biomedical science to support future crews on longer missions further into space.
Commander Alexander Misurkin is readying the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that will return him and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba back to Earth Feb. 27 after 168 days in space. He and Vande Hei trained for next week’s descent using a station simulator and reviewed potential return hazards.
Acaba spent his morning stowing botany samples in a science freezer for the Plant Gravity Perception study. That experiment is observing how plants detect gravity and light in the early stages of growth. The home-bound astronaut then spent the afternoon packing personal gear inside the Soyuz MS-06 space ship.
Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai attached electrodes to his chest area, wore a leg cuff and performed an ultrasound scan today. He worked in conjunction with doctors on the ground for the Vascular Echo study that looks at blood vessels and the human heart and how they change in space and on Earth.
Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov continues to unload cargo today from the new Progress 69 resupply ship that arrived last week. NASA astronaut Scott Tingle stowed rodent habitats and worked on combustion science gear.
A Russian Progress resupply ship to the International Space Station aborted its express delivery mission just a few seconds before launch early Sunday. The cargo vehicle will now launch on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 3:13 a.m. EST (2:13 p.m. Baikonur time) to send three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the station.
Live coverage will be provided on NASA TV and the agency’s website beginning at 2:45 a.m. Progress 69 will dock automatically to the station two days later at 5:43 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. NASA TV and web coverage will begin at 5 a.m.
Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 54 crew continued exploring how living in space affects plants, animals and humans. A pair of astronauts are also getting ready for a spacewalk to wrap up maintenance on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai wrapped up a study that took place last week exploring how mice injected with a muscle maintenance drug may help astronauts in space and patients on Earth. Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov researched how microgravity impacts the human digestive system and how much radiation the space station is exposed to.
Kanai and astronaut Mark Vande Hei are also reviewing procedures for their upcoming robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo configured spacewalk tools and charged up spacesuit batteries and cameras. NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Joe Acaba, who will assist the spacewalkers, also trained for their role as robotics controllers.
A Russian cargo craft is getting ready to roll out to its launch pad for a Sunday morning lift-off to resupply the International Space Station and the Expedition 54 crew. The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the station are also preparing for the new space shipment and continuing a variety of life science studies.
Russia’s Progress 69 (69P) resupply ship is in its processing facility preparing to roll out to the launch pad Friday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 69P is due to lift-off Sunday at 3:58 a.m. EST (2:58 p.m. Baikonur time) reaching the International Space Station in record time just three and half hours later.
Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov trained today for Sunday’s Progress’ automated rendezvous and docking set for 7:24 a.m. The duo practiced using the station’s telerobotically operated rendezvous unit in the unlikely event the Progress would need to be manually docked to the Zvezda service module.
Mice and plant studies are still under way this week to help researchers understand how organisms respond to living in space. Data collected from the space biology and botany studies may improve health treatments, benefit a wide variety of industry sectors and help NASA plan journeys farther into space.
Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai continued partnering together researching how a muscle maintenance drug affects muscle growth in mice living on the orbital lab. Results of the drug study may help combat muscle weakening in space and on Earth. Two-time station resident Joe Acaba processed and stowed samples for the Plant Gravity Processing experiment. The botany study is exploring how plants grow and how their roots orient themselves in outer space.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is celebrating today the 10th anniversary of the launch of its Columbus lab module aboard space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. Now Columbus is one of three lab modules supporting hundreds of advanced microgravity science experiments. The other two modules are Destiny from NASA and Kibo from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
To commemorate today’s event, ESA’s former Director of Human Spaceflight Feustel Beuchl called up to astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei today and asked about the status of Columbus operations. Scientists Lars Karlsson and Alexander Stahn inquired about a pair of ESA-sponsored experiments researching airway inflammation and circadian rhythms.
Wednesday’s science onboard the station looked at how living in space affects vision and muscles. Two cosmonauts used special optical equipment to peer inside each other’s eyes this morning. The astronauts on the U.S. side of the orbital lab observed mice being treated with a drug to combat muscle weakening in space and on Earth.
Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov started their day checking the condition of their retinas using optical coherence tomography (OCT) gear. OCT uses light waves to measure and map the thickness of the retina’s layers. Results will help doctors understand how living in space long-term physically affects the eyes and vision.
Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai were back in the U.S. Destiny lab module today studying a drug that may prevent muscle atrophy in space and help patients on Earth with muscle ailments. Mice living on the station for up to two months are treated with the muscle maintenance drug. The mice are returned to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for analysis to determine the drug’s effectiveness.
The International Space Station program is getting ready to recognize the 10th year in space of its Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency (ESA). The Expedition 54 crew members, meanwhile, spent the day helping scientists on the ground understand the impacts of living in space.
ESA is getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of Columbus. The European lab module blasted off inside space shuttle Atlantis on Feb. 7, 2008, for a two-day ride to the station. Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm, removed Columbus from Atlantis’s cargo bay two days after its arrival and attached it the starboard side of the Harmony module.
A month after the installation of Columbus, ESA launched its first resupply ship to the station. The “Jules Verne” Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-1) lifted off March 9, 2008, atop an Ariane-5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. The ATV-1 then took a month-long ride for a series navigation tests before to automatically docking to the station.
Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai continued studying mice on the space station for a drug study to potentially improve muscle health in microgravity and despite a lack of exercise. The rodents are housed in a special microgravity habitat for up to two months with results of the study helping scientists design therapies for humans with muscle-related ailments.
Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei set up botany gear in the Columbus lab module for the Veggie-3 experiment. The long-running plant study is exploring the feasibility of harvesting edible plants such as cabbage, lettuce and mizuna for consumption during spaceflight. Samples are returned to Earth for analysis.
A pair of cosmonauts have wrapped up preparations for Friday morning’s spacewalk to work on the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The other four Expedition 54 crew members continued more eye exams throughout the day on Thursday.
Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov completed a spacewalk procedures review today, finished collecting tools and readied their Orlan spacesuits. The veteran cosmonauts will exit the Pirs airlock around 10:30 a.m. EST Friday for 6.5 hour spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the second spacewalk of the year at 9:45 a.m.
The duo will work outside the Zvezda service module to swap out a high gain communications antenna electronics system. If time permits the spacewalkers may also retrieve experiments, photograph the back of Zvezda, reposition a foot restraint and jettison old experiment gear.
The rest of the crew continued working with doctors in real time on the ground today to get a look at their eyes and understand how microgravity affects vision. Astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Scott Tingle and Joe Acaba participated in eye scans using an ultrasound device this morning. Tingle then partnered up with Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai.
NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Scott Tingle and Mark Vande Hei have wrapped up cargo operations inside the SpaceX Dragon disconnecting power cables and depressurizing the vehicle. Robotics controllers will detach Dragon resupply ship from the International Space Station’s Harmony module tonight. Dragon will then be remotely released from the grip of the Canadarm2 into Earth orbit at 5 a.m. EST Saturday for a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 10:36 a.m.
Acaba and Tingle will monitor Dragon’s departure Saturday morning from inside the cupola as controllers on Earth release a cargo craft remotely from the space station for the first time. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m. Splashdown will not be televised.
Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai worked a variety of life science experiments today exploring what happens to humans living in space. He started the morning drawing his blood samples and storing them in a science freezer for later analysis. He also stowed frozen science samples inside Dragon for return to Earth. At the end of the day, Kanai removed petri plates from a specialized microscope containing plant samples being observed for molecular and genetic changes caused by microgravity.
The Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station is training for this weekend’s departure of the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. The crew is also exploring regenerative life support systems and how microgravity affects breathing.
This is the first time robotics controllers will command the release of Dragon from the ground while Acaba and Tingle monitor from the cupola as backups. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m. Splashdown off the coast of California is expected at 10:36 a.m. and will not be televised.
Experimental work also took place today on the orbital laboratory to help NASA learn how to support astronauts on longer missions farther out into space.
Acaba checked bacteria cultures that could be used for carbon dioxide removal and oxygen production supporting future regenerative life support systems. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai joined NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and measured their breathing rates today, specifically Nitric Oxide turnover in the lungs. Doctors want to minimize the risk of airway inflammation to keep astronauts healthier farther from Earth.
Robotics controllers are getting ready to uninstall the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft from the International Space Station on Friday before releasing it for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Saturday. The Expedition 54 crew today is also continuing to study how living in space affects biology and introducing space travel concepts to students on Earth.
The crew is finishing packing up the Dragon this week and will close the spaceship’s hatch Friday and wrap up cargo operations. Houston mission controllers will remotely perform Dragon’s release operation for the first time early Saturday. Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle will be inside the cupola monitoring Dragon’s departure.
Dragon will be depart the station Saturday at 5 a.m. EST loaded with science experiments and station cargo and parachute to a splashdown off the coast of California at 10:36 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s departure starting Saturday at 4:30 a.m.
Life science continues at full pace aboard the aboard orbital laboratory today. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai checked on rodents being treated with a compound that fights muscle loss in microgravity. Tingle took a look at plant samples to observe their genetic and molecular responses to growing in space.
Commander Alexander Misurkin along with Acaba set up a pair of tiny internal satellites, also known as SPHERES, for a dry run today ahead of a competition. Students on Earth are competing to design the best algorithms that will operate the SPHERES to simulate future space operations such as dockings and flying formations.
The Expedition 54 crew is starting the New Year studying how humans adapt to living in space for months and years at a time. NASA and its international partners are also learning how to support crews on longer missions with less help from the ground.
The astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station orbit Earth 16 times a day affecting their circadian rhythms, or biological clocks. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai is helping doctors understand how being away from the normal 24-hour sunrise-sunset cycle impacts the human body. He strapped on sensors today that will measure his body composition and temperature for 36 hours.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is helping engineers design closed-loop systems keeping crews self-sufficient on longer missions beyond low-Earth orbit. He swapped experimental containers in the Biolab Incubator containing bacteria cultures that could be used for carbon dioxide removal and oxygen production.
Crews also need to be prepared for bone injuries or dental work that may be necessary during a space mission. The Synthetic Bone experiment, that Flight Engineer Joe Acaba worked on today with Kanai, is testing how a synthetic material integrates with bone cells to address bone fractures and bone loss in space and on Earth.