Spacewalkers Switch Focus to Final Repairs on Cosmic Ray Detector

Reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir's spacesuit helmet
The reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir’s spacesuit helmet is fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch photographing her crewmate during a spacewalk

The Expedition 61 astronauts have one more spacewalk planned this weekend and they will finish the repair of a cosmic ray detector. This will be the ninth spacewalk for the crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch have turned their attention from Monday’s spacewalk to help two crewmates going on a very different spacewalk on Saturday. The pair completed a spacewalk yesterday upgrading power systems on the Port-6 truss structure.

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finalize thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on Saturday. The AMS, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure, is an astrophysics device searching for evidence of dark matter and antimatter.

The duo will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST signifying the official start of their spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of the planned six-hour AMS repair excursion at 5:30 a.m.

Meir and Koch will be getting up to speed this week with the Canadarm2 robotics procedures necessary to assist Morgan and Parmitano during Saturday’s spacewalk. The quartet gathered together Tuesday afternoon and began reviewing the spacewalk plan with specialists in Mission Control.

Nutrition Studies, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of SpaceX Crew Escape Test

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their U.S. spacesuits

The Expedition 61 crew split its time today between upcoming spacewalk preparations and continuous microgravity research. SpaceX is also preparing for a final test of its commercial crew ship before it launches humans.

The International Space Station is bustling with activity as two astronauts keep their U.S. spacesuits ready for another spacewalk set for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will wrap up installing new lithium-ion batteries upgrading the orbiting lab’s power systems. NASA TV will start its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.

The spacewalking duo also had time for science work in their busy schedule today. Koch provided inputs on how spaceflight is impacting her cognition and documented her meals for a nutrition study. Meir also documented her nutritional intake before researching how flames spread in space.

Andrew Morgan of NASA worked on a secondary nutrition study that may produce vitamins and dietary supplements to support future long-term missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) had hearing checks today then moved on with Morgan to support Monday’s spacewalkers.

Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos spent the day researching ways to maintain sterile conditions while conducting biotechnology experiments in space. Fellow cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka serviced combustion research gear and Earth observation hardware before exploring crew behavior.

The Commercial Crew Program is set for a critical milestone as SpaceX readies its Dragon crew ship for major test. The uncrewed Crew Dragon vehicle will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 8 a.m. and demonstrate its ability to safely escape in the event of a launch failure.

Astronauts Stay Focused on Spacewalks and Keep Science Running

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is pictured working in the vacuum of space
NASA astronaut Christina Koch is pictured working in the vacuum of space 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa during a spacewalk on Jan. 15.

The Expedition 61 crew is fresh off the first spacewalk of 2020 and preparing for two more before the end of the month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station residents continue ongoing microgravity research and life support maintenance.

NASA spacewalkers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch successfully installed two new lithium-ion batteries on Wednesday that store and distribute power collected from solar arrays on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. They will finish the battery replacement work during another six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk scheduled for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 5:30 a.m.

The third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano. They will finish the complex thermal repair work they began last year on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an astrophysics device searching for evidence of antimatter and dark matter.

All four astronauts met in the afternoon and called down to Mission Control for a briefing with spacewalk specialists. The quartet had a routine discussion with the engineers about spacewalking gear and procedures.

On the Russian side of the orbiting lab, the two veteran cosmonauts worked back and forth on space science and the upkeep of the space station. Alexander Skvortsov spent a portion of his day on cell biology research before servicing an exercise cycle. Oleg Skripochka checked out a variety of hardware that detects micrometeoroid impacts on the station and observes natural catastrophes on Earth.

Crew Ready for Spacewalk While Working Earth and Fire Research

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina KochNASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing to begin the historic first-ever all-female spacewalk on Oct. 18, 2019.

The first of three spacewalks planned for January begins Wednesday to continue upgrading International Space Station power systems and a cosmic ray detector. While the spacewalkers ready their suits and tools, the rest of the Expedition 61 crew is on science and maintenance duty today.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir is partnering for a second time with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for a pair of spacewalks set for tomorrow and Jan. 20. The duo is finalizing preparations for the two six-and-a-half hour spacewalks to replace batteries that store and distribute solar power. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power at 6:50 a.m. and translate out to the Port-6 truss structure. Once there they swap out old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST.

A third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). They will finish the thermal repair work on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer they began last year.

Meanwhile, Morgan and Parmitano were on science duty today. The astronauts took turns safely burning fabric and acrylic samples to help scientists understand how flames spread in space. Results may inform the design of fire safety products and procedures on Earth and in space. The two crewmates also drew their blood samples, spinning them in a centrifuge for later analysis.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov spent the day servicing Russian life support equipment. On the science schedule, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continued setting up and testing hardware that will observe the Earth’s mesosphere at different wavelengths.

Astronauts Eye Wednesday Spacewalk as Space Science Continues

NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir collect biological samples for stowage inside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

The first spacewalk of 2020 is set for Wednesday and the Expedition 61 crew is finalizing spacesuit checks and procedure reviews. The residents aboard the International Space Station also had time set aside for more microgravity research today.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are preparing to step outside into the vacuum of space together in their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries upgrading station power systems on the Port-6 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST with the six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin at 6:50 a.m.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan joined the spacewalkers today to review spacewalk procedures. The two astronauts will stay inside the station on Wednesday to provide Canadarm2 robotics support for Meir and Koch.

Parmitano and Morgan also juggled a variety of science and life support duties today. Morgan worked on orbital plumbing tasks before studying how flames spread in weightlessness. Parmitano cleaned cell science hardware and updated supplies in the Human Research Facility-1.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov investigated how microgravity affects blood circulation in order to maintain crew health during long-term space missions. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka set up hardware to observe a layer of the Earth’s upper atmosphere called the mesosphere at different wavelengths.

Eye Checks, Pain Studies and Spacesuit Checks Wrap up Workweek

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on a U.S. spacesuit, with a patch of the Italian flag on the left shoulder, that Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) wore during a spacewalk on Dec. 2, 2019.

The Expedition 61 crew is continuing more research today into how the human body adapts to living in microgravity. U.S. spacesuits aboard the International Space Station are also being readied for the first of three spacewalks planned to start Jan. 15.

Eye checks were on the schedule Friday afternoon as astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch took turns as Crew Medical Officer. The duo scanned the eyes of NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) using an ultrasound device and optical coherence tomography gear.

Morgan started the morning setting up a specialized mouse habitat that can create artificial gravity conditions aboard the orbiting lab. Mice physiology resembles that of humans, providing scientists fundamental insights into cellular and genetic alterations that occur in weightlessness.

Meir is getting the spacesuits ready she and Koch will wear on Jan. 15 and 20 for a pair of power maintenance spacewalks. She scrubbed cooling loops and filled water tanks before checking out suit hardware and checking for leaks. The spacewalking duo will replace older batteries with newer, more powerful batteries on the orbiting lab’s Port-6 truss structure.

In the Russian segment of the space station, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks. Skvortsov also researched how microgravity affects pain sensation while Skripochka photographed the condition of space-exposed hardware.

Crew Working Life Science, Looks Ahead to Upcoming Spacewalks

Astronaut Jessica Meir waves during a spacewalk
Astronaut Jessica Meir waves during a spacewalk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch (out of frame) on Oct. 18, 2019.

Human research and space biology filled the lab schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 61 crewmembers are also ramping up for a trio of spacewalks set to begin next week.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) started Thursday collecting their blood samples. The duo spun the samples in a centrifuge and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. The astronauts also joined cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for a series of eye checks throughout the day.

Skvortsov also partnered up with cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka for cardiac research. After some Russian lab maintenance work, the pair also filmed educational activities to promote spaceflight for audiences on Earth.

Parmitano later tested how living in microgravity influences an astronaut’s perception of time. At the end of the workday, the ESA commander serviced a research incubator located in the Unity module.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan is setting up a mouse habitat in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The research facility is part of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and enables the observation of rodents, which have a physiology similar to humans, in different gravity conditions.

Meir and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch are getting ready for two of three spacewalks planned for this month. The spacewalkers will work outside the station on Jan. 15 and 20 to replace older batteries with newer, more powerful batteries on the orbiting lab’s Port-6 truss structure. Morgan and Parmitano are targeting a third spacewalk on Jan. 25 to finish repairing the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Spacewalk Preps Underway Amidst Space Research

The Expedition 61 crew gathered together for a New Year's Eve meal
The Expedition 61 crew gathers together for a meal. Clockwise from top left are, Christina Koch, Oleg Skripochka, Luca Parmitano, Alexander Skvortsov, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.

The Expedition 61 crew is gearing up for the first three spacewalks of 2020 set for this month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is bustling with an array of microgravity research activities today.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will conduct the first two spacewalks scheduled for Jan. 15 and Jan. 20. The duo will finish replacing older nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. They spent Wednesday reviewing spacewalk procedures and inspecting spacesuit tethers.

The next spacewalk would be Jan. 25 following the successful battery replacements. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finish the repair work they started in November on the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the lab residents kept up the ongoing space science to improve life for humans on and off Earth.

Morgan began the day installing botany research gear inside Japan’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility before transferring resupply racks to the Cygnus space freighter. Parmitano conducted a vision test then cleaned up Rodent Research hardware that housed mice that were returned to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka split their time on Russian science and maintenance tasks. The duo partnered together for a study exploring piloting methods under a variety of gravity conditions. Skvortsov then measured the station’s radiation environment as Skripochka replaced fuel bottles for combustion research.

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Returning Science and Cargo

The SpaceX Dragon separates from the International Space Station
A camera on the tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm views the SpaceX Dragon as it separates from the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 10:42 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 271 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 19th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

A key component being returned aboard Dragon is a faulty battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU), which failed to activate following the Oct. 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss. The BCDU was removed and replaced during a spacewalk Oct. 18 by Expedition 61 flight engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA. The unit are being returned to teams on Earth for an evaluation and repair.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Dec. 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later with almost 3,400 pounds of science, supplies and cargo.

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.

Dragon Released from Station Carrying Science for Earth-Analysis

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after its release
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on January 7, 2020. Credit: @Space_Station

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft released from the International Space Station at 5:05 a.m. EST after flight controllers in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

Next up, Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station, then execute a deorbit burn as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown around 10:41 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Long Beach, California. The splashdown will not air on NASA TV.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

 Tiny Radiation Resistors

Rotifer-B1 examines the effects of spaceflight on tiny aquatic animals, called rotifers, which are found in freshwater ecosystems and soil and are highly resistant to radiation on Earth. The investigation specifically looks at the metabolism and genome of the rotifer Adineta vaga to determine whether they have similar adaptation mechanisms in microgravity.

 Mice in Space

Rodent Research-19 examines myostatin and activin, molecular signaling pathways that influence muscle degradation, as possible targets for preventing muscle and bone loss during spaceflight and enhancing recovery following return to Earth. This study also could support the development of therapies for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss on Earth.

 Finding the Perfect Solution

On Earth, our bodies deal with low-level radiation through a naturally occurring protein that helps our body safely process it. The Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) study, aims to help scientists find a way to deal with the problem of radiation during long-duration spaceflight missions using the same protein that is already at work in our bodies.

 Convection and Crystallization in Microgravity

The Polymer Convection study examines the effects of gravity on formation and crystallization of Broadband Angular Selective Material (BASM), an optical material with the ability to control the reflection and absorption of light. BASM has applications in polymer packaging, optical films, solar power and electronic displays.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

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.