Crew Looks at Plants and Mice for Health Insights

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake from the European Space Agency talks to science and space journalists gathered at The Royal Institution in London, England. Credit: NASA TV

Today, the crew is observing how the lack of gravity affects plants and rodents. NASA is using the observations to improve the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

The crew is stowing plant samples harvested for the Plant Gravity Sensing botany study to understand how roots sense gravity. The samples are being inserted into a science freezer for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon next week. Results may help astronauts grow their own food while living in space.

Rodents are also being observed in a habitat designed to house them in space. The Rodent Research-3 experiment is studying how space changes the musculoskeletal system and if an antibody that prevents muscle weakening on Earth works in space.

Dragon is still being loaded with gear and science for analysis on the ground. The private space freighter will be removed from the Harmony module and released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean May 11.

This Week’s Research Improving Health as Dragon Preps for Departure

SpaceX Dragon
Morning breaks for astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft sits on the left side of the frame, attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

The International Space Station crew is wrapping up the week after working on a series of ongoing life science and robotics studies. The SpaceX Dragon is also nearing the end of its stay and preparing for a return to Earth.

The astronauts have been helping scientists gather data on what happens to the human body when exposed to microgravity to help NASA plan longer missions farther out into space. Observations from the human research studies help doctors design exercise techniques, diets and other countermeasures to keep astronauts healthy.

British astronaut Tim Peake collected tap water and body samples for the Energy experiment today. That study is aiding doctors’ efforts to determine an astronaut’s energy requirements to improve crew health and performance. He also tested the ability of controlling a rover on Earth, or any planetary surface, from a computer on a spacecraft. The METERON experiment may benefit future missions to Mars or hazardous tasks on Earth.

Experiment samples, gear and other hardware is being packed inside the Dragon space freighter attached to the Harmony module. Dragon will be released from Harmony May 11 ending a month-long stay. After its departure it will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later where the spacecraft and its cargo will be retrieved by SpaceX engineers.

Filipino Satellite Deployed from Japanese Lab

Filipino Satellite and Japanese Lab
The Filipino DIWATA-1 satellite is deployed (left) from the Japanese Kibo lab module (right). Credit: NASA TV

A microsatellite designed in the Philippines was deployed outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module this morning for climate research. Inside the International Space Station, the crew continued more human research to improve the health of astronauts in space and citizens on Earth.

DIWATA-1, Filipino for “fairy”, is orbiting Earth after being released today from a satellite deployer mechanism outside the Kibo module’s airlock. The 50-kilogram-class microsatellite will observe the Earth’s climate to improve weather forecasting and natural disaster response.

The Expedition 47 crew is continuing its research today into how the lack of gravity affects the fluid shifts and pressure inside a crew member’s head. Scientists are also looking at how astronauts work with detailed, interactive tasks for the Fine Motor Skills study using a touchscreen tablet.

The space station regularly experiences stresses on its structure when spaceships dock, during spacewalks and crew exercise sessions. Researchers will look at some of the vibration data sent down by the crew today for the long-running Identification study.

Bone and Muscle Research, Future Spacecraft Preps Today

Astronauts Jeff Williams and Tim Peake
Astronauts Jeff Williams and Tim Peake talk to students in Dallas, Texas for an educational event. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 47 crew members were back at work Tuesday exploring life science and other fields to advance humanity on and off Earth. The International Space Station residents also checked out new spacecraft communications gear.

Scientists are researching how the lack of gravity weakens bones and muscles. They are testing an antibody used on Earth that prevents this weakening in mice. The facility that houses the mice on the station for this study was inspected today then restocked with food.

Hardware was set up today that will measure fluid pressure in an astronaut’s head for the Fluid Shifts experiment. That study observes how living in space impacts cells and blood vessels and researches the possibility that it may affect vision.

The crew continues to document its living conditions on the space station to help engineers design future spacecraft with habitable accommodations. New radios that were installed in March are also being tested that will communicate with future spacecraft to visit the station.

Astronaut Completes London Marathon, Station Trio Relaxes

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake, from the European Space Agency, checks science hardware inside the Columbus lab module.

Three Expedition 47 crew members are relaxing today after several weeks of supporting the arrival and departure of numerous cargo vehicles. The other three Russian crew members continued their science and maintenance duties.

British astronaut Tim Peake strapped himself into the Tranquility module’s treadmill Sunday and ran the 26.2 mile London Marathon. The last time an astronaut ran a marathon in space was April 16, 2007, when Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Suni Williams completed the Boston Marathon on a treadmill in the Zvezda service module.

Some of the science taking place onboard the orbital laboratory looked at an astronaut’s energy requirements necessary to sustain a long-term mission beyond low-Earth orbit. The crew also looked at cardiovascular performance, the forces the space station experiences during dynamic mission events and observed the health of forests on Earth.

Crew Tests How Cells, Bones and Muscles Respond to Lack of Gravity

Crew Members Tim Kopra and Alexey Ovchinin
Expedition 47 crew members Tim Peake and Alexey Ovchinin are the 221st and 222nd individuals to visit the International Space Station.

The Expedition 47 crew is researching how plants sense gravity today and exploring how fluids shift in an astronaut’s body. The orbital residents are also learning how living in space affects the structure of bones and muscles.

The crew set up botany gear and collected samples for the Plant Gravity Sensing-3 experiment. The study seeks to determine if plants sense gravity and if the concentration of calcium in their cells change.

Fluids in an astronaut’s cells and blood vessels respond to the lack of gravity and can impact brain pressure and potentially affect vision. Scientists on the ground are researching this phenomenon by analyzing blood, saliva and urine samples collected from astronauts while on orbit.

Lack of gravity also weakens bones and muscles, and scientists are testing an antibody that has been effective on Earth to prevent that weakening. Doctors are observing those muscular and skeletal changes in mice to learn how to prevent muscle and bone atrophy in astronauts.

BEAM Successfully Installed to the International Space Station

Following extraction from Dragon, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was installed to the International Space Station at 5:36 a.m. EDT. At the time of installation, the space station was flying over the Southern Pacific Ocean. It will remain attached to station for two-year test period.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016.

NASA is investigating concepts for habitats that can keep astronauts healthy during space exploration. Expandable habitats are one such concept under consideration – they require less payload volume on the rocket than traditional rigid structures, and expand after being deployed in space to provide additional room for astronauts to live and work inside. BEAM will be the first test of such a module attached to the space station. It will allow investigators to gauge how well it performs overall, and how it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.

In late May, BEAM will be filled with air and expanded to its full size. Astronauts will enter BEAM on an occasional basis to conduct tests to validate the module’s overall performance and the capability of expandable habitats. After the testing period is completed, BEAM will be released from the space station to eventually burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere.

 

Dragon Will Deliver Rodents for Muscle Study

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon, on its CRS-5 mission, was captured January 12, 2015, during Expedition 42.

The SpaceX Dragon CRS-8 mission will deliver 6,900 pounds/3,130 kilograms of science, crew supplies and hardware to the International Space Station. Payloads aboard Dragon will include rodents for a medical study and an expandable module that will be installed after Dragon completes its two-day trip to the station.

Dragon is scheduled for launch Friday at 4:43 p.m. EDT/8:43 p.m. UTC. It is scheduled to be captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm Sunday at 7 a.m. and will be installed to the Harmony module about two-and-a-half hours later.

The Expedition 47 crew is getting the Rodent Research hardware ready in the orbital lab so scientists can learn how to offset bone and muscle diseases on Earth. Researchers will be exploring how living in space affects bones and muscles by observing mice soon after Dragon arrives.

The largest payload in Dragon is the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). The BEAM will be attached to the Tranquility module a week after its arrival for a series of habitability tests over two years.

Astronaut Tim Peake continued more muscle research today using specialized exercise gear and attached electrodes to his right leg and ankle. Commander Tim Kopra is collected hardware for a combustion experiment that is studying more efficient ways to burn fuel on Earth and in space. Flight Engineer Jeff Williams is training for the new Meteor imaging experiment delivered aboard the Orbital ATK resupply ship.

Soyuz Stands Ready at Launch Pad as Cargo Missions Line Up

Soyuz TMA-20M Rocket at the Launch Pad
The Soyuz TMA-20M rocket stands ready for lifoff at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz rocket that will carry three new crew members to the International Space Station Friday evening stands ready for launch in Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, the orbiting trio awaiting reinforcements is busy with medical science and preparations for upcoming cargo missions.

High winds at the Baikonur Cosmodrome delayed the raising of the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft into vertical position a few hours after its roll out Wednesday. Launch is scheduled for 5:26 p.m. EDT/9:26 p.m. UTC Friday. Expedition 47-48 crew members Jeff Williams, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka will arrive at their new home in space less than six hours later.

The three current residents onboard the orbital laboratory, Commander Tim Kopra and Flight Engineers Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko, continued their medical research to help scientists understand how living off the Earth affects the human body. The crew is also getting ready for a pair of cargo deliveries due soon from Orbital ATK and SpaceX.

Kopra and Peake were back at work today on the Ocular Health study scanning their eyes with an ultrasound and checking their blood pressure. Kopra also explored how microbes affect the human immune system in space and practiced the robotic capture of the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. Peake is helping engineers validate the technology that will control rovers on another planet from a spacecraft. Malenchenko researched how the digestive system adapts to microgravity and packed trash into the 61P resupply ship due to undock at the end of the month.

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus space freighter Tuesday at 11 p.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center on a four-day trip to the space station. Cygnus will deliver almost 7,500 pounds of research gear, spacewalk hardware and crew supplies to the Expedition 47 crew.

Space Research on Station Advancing Society

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was photographed by an Expedition 47 crew member.

Much of the research taking place onboard the International Space Station helps doctors improve health for citizens on Earth and astronauts living in space. Other station experiments help engineers design smarter materials and better technologies to advance business and space industries.

At the beginning of the day, British astronaut Tim Peake joined Commander Tim Kopra for blood pressure checks. The duo also checked the fluid pressure in each other’s eyes using a tonometer with support from doctor’s on the ground. The medical checks are part of the ongoing Ocular Health study that seeks to understand vision problems some astronauts have reported after their long-term missions.

Kopra then started researching liquid crystals and their potential for better display screens on spacecraft systems. Afterward, he collected and stored samples for a study that explores how microbes influence the human immune system in space.

Peake spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the COLBERT treadmill located in the Tranquility module. Veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko studied radiation exposure before cleaning fans and air ducts inside a pair of Russian modules.