Astronauts Studying Immune System to Keep Crews Healthy

The Red Sea and the Nile River
The Red Sea and the Nile River at right were photographed from the International Space Station.

The Expedition 46 crew members participated in immunology research today helping scientists learn to keep astronauts healthy on longer and farther space missions. The crew also continued more vision checks and explored heart health.

Commander Scott Kelly, British astronaut Time Peake and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko each participated in a different experiment looking at the immune system of space residents.

Kelly collected body samples looking for microbes that could potentially cause infections or allergies and stowed them in a science freezer for analysis. Peake took a saliva sample for an experiment that is researching biomarkers for immune dysfunction in space. Kornienko explored how radiation and other unique factors of living in space could affect a crew member’s immune system.

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra also joined Kelly and Kornienko for eye exams for an experiment studying vision impairment reported by some International Space Station astronauts. Kopra and Peake also partnered up for ultrasound scans of their arteries with guidance from doctors on the ground. The ongoing Cardio Ox study looks at an astronaut’s carotid and brachial arteries before, during and after a space mission.

ISS R&D Conference 2015 – July 7

ISS R&D 2015

The 2015 International Space Station R&D Conference officially kicked off in Boston today with researchers gathering to learn about the incredible breadth of research and technology development on humankind’s most innovative learning platform.

The day began with opening remarks from Mike Suffredini, NASA’s ISS Program Manager, followed immediately by his conversation with keynote speaker, Elon Musk, the CEO and Lead Designer of commercial space company SpaceX.

Panels for the day began with a talk on the role of the ISS as a “first step” away from our home planet on the path of human exploration that featured William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Additional panels on Tuesday covered the benefits of microgravity for protein crystal growth in order to grow larger, more well-ordered crystals for pharmaceutical research, the capital investments and grants fueling the growth of “New Space” businesses and more.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced the winners of the Galactic Grant Competition, a collaboration between the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. It has been established to provide access to a unique zero-gravity environment, that’s only available on the International Space Station lab, to Massachusetts based life sciences companies.

Awards were also presented to three investigations that were recognized for significant scientific results:

  • Joel Plawsky, Sc.D., and Peter C. Wayner Jr., Ph.D., both of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in recognition of work on the physics of evaporation and condensation in microgravity.
  • Robert J. Ferl, Ph.D., and Anna-Lisa Paul, Ph.D., both of the University of Florida in Gainesville, for their work using a plant as a real-time biosensor to determine the quality of the surrounding environment.
  • Daniela Grimm of Aarhus, Denmark, in recognition of her findings while growing thyroid cancer cells in orbit to determine new courses of treatment.

The conference is bringing together leaders from industry, academia, and government for three days of detailed presentations and discussions about innovations and breakthroughs in microgravity research, life sciences, materials development technology development, human health and remote sensing.

For more information on the annual ISS R&D Conference, visit the conference website:, or watch a livestream of the conference at

Evacuation Drills, Science Work and New Crew Launch Preps

Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti
ISS042E136074 (01/15/2015) — US astronaut Terry Virts and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti are ready to select a fruit snack during a brief break from work aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 15, 2015. The apples, suspended in microgravity are easy targets. Both astronauts are flight engineers with Expedition 42.

Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov practiced emergency procedures Tuesday, preparing the three crew members for the actions they would take in the unlikely event that they must evacuate the International Space Station.

Cristoforetti went back to work on the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES). She will be setting up MARES hardware inside the European Columbus lab module over the next two days. Virts assisted her with the MARES deployment just before lunchtime.

› Read more about the MARES

Virts later moved to the U.S. Destiny lab module to pack up a physics experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The commander stowed the Coarsening in Solid Mixtures-4 (CSLM-4) experiment, an investigation studying solid-liquid mixtures, which will be returned on a future SpaceX Dragon mission.

› Read more about Coarsening in Solid Mixtures-4

Meanwhile, Soyuz TMA-16M Commander Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are preparing for launch on March 27, when they will join Expedition 43 at the orbital laboratory. Kelly and Kornienko will stay in space until March 2016. Padalka will return to Earth Sept. 11.

First of Three Spacewalks Now Set for Saturday

Expedition 42 Cosmonauts
(From left) Expedition 42 cosmonauts Elena Serova, Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Samokutyaev work inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts are preparing to ready the International Space Station for a pair of international docking adapters (IDAs) that will allow future commercial crew vehicles to dock. The duo is almost set to start a series of three spacewalks routing cables and preparing the Canadarm2 for the installation of the IDAs to be delivered later this year.

The first spacewalk is now set to begin Saturday at 7:10 a.m. EST with NASA TV live coverage starting at 6 a.m. The second and third spacewalks are planned for Feb. 25 and March 1, both beginning at 7:10 a.m.

Amidst the spacewalk preparations, the Expedition 42 crew members continued ongoing advanced microgravity science benefiting life on Earth and current and future crew members. The crew looked at stem growth for the Aniso Tubule botany experiment, cell cultures grown on orbit and a crew member’s cardiac activity during long-duration missions.

› Read more about Aniso Tubule
› Read more about the Kaskad cell culture study

Crew Studying Tiny Organisms to Understand Larger Organisms

Terry Virts and Alexander Samokutyaev
Astronaut Terry Virts (foreground) works inside the Destiny lab module as cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev floats past him. Credit: NASA TV

After a week of medical science activities, the space station residents began the new week focusing on worms, fruit flies and plants. The tiny organisms provide scientists a model for larger organisms and how microgravity affects such things as immunity, muscles and bones.

› Read more about the Epigenetics experiment
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Botany science in space helps scientists understand how plant cells and roots develop potentially supporting future crews on long-term missions and interplanetary exploration. There are numerous plant studies taking place on the station that not only may support future space missions but possibly improve crop production techniques on Earth.

› Read more about the APEX-03 botany research

The Expedition 42 crew members also worked on cargo transfers to and from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as well as the ISS Progress 57 space freighter. An array of routine maintenance tasks were on the schedule including high-flying plumbing, spacesuit battery recharges and science hardware set ups.

CATS Installed, Eye Checks and Science Maintenance for Crew

Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore
Astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore check science hardware inside the Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA TV

With CATS successfully installed to an external platform on Japan’s Kibo laboratory, the Expedition 42 crew spent Friday working life science, combustion and a variety of other experiments.

› Read more about CATS

The Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), located inside the Destiny lab module, needs fuel so scientists can ignite materials to study the behavior of flames and smoke in space. Pieces of hardware that store and deliver fuel, including igniter tips, were replaced on the CIR Friday by Commander Barry Wilmore to keep the rack in operating condition.

Astronauts Terry Virts – with the help of Samantha Cristoforetti and doctors on the ground – participated in more eye checks, undergoing ultrasound scans and an echocardiogram to gather more information. The Ocular Health study seeks to understand how microgravity affects a crew member’s eyes and explain why some astronauts report impaired vision during their missions in space.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study

Virts also checked samples and transferred data collected for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. Cristoforetti checked on the station’s fruit flies, and later worked maintenance on the Magvector study that observes how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Robotic Arms Move CATS While Crew Studies Life Science

Kibo and CATS Installation
The Japanese robotic arm installs the CATS experiment on an external platform on Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is seen at the right center of the image. Credit: NASA TV

Ground controllers overnight remotely guided the Canadarm2, with its Dextre robotic hand attached, to deftly remove the CATS experiment from the SpaceX Dragon trunk. They then handed it off to the Japanese robotic arm for installation on the Kibo laboratory’s external platform. CATS, or Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, will collect data on the pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in Earth’s atmosphere to understand their impacts on global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Back inside the International Space Station, the Expedition 42 crew worked on an array of new and ongoing science and continued unpacking Dragon. There were eye exams as well as research into the effects of long stays in space on the human T-cells, which are a critical part of our immune system.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study
› Read more about the T-Cell Activation in Aging study

The crew also looked at how certain materials behave in space for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. In addition, they checked on the station’s fruit flies, which are also monitored by scientists studying their immune system as a model for a crew member susceptibility to disease in space.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Crew Works Botany and Physics as Robotic Arm Preps New Experiment

Kibo Laboratory
The new CATS experiment delivered by the SpaceX commercial cargo craft will be installed on a platform outside Japan’s Kibo Laboratory module. Credit: NASA

The six-member Expedition 42 crew worked Dragon cargo transfers and science on the International Space Station Wednesday.

Commander Barry Wilmore conducted botany research and harvested plants grown for the Advanced Plant Experiments-03-1 (APEX-03-1). The thale cress plants are photographed and preserved in a science freezer for analysis on the ground.

› Read more about APEX-03-1

NASA astronaut Terry Virts processed samples for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which studies the processes that occur in materials for consumer and industrial products. He later unpacked more gear from inside Dragon.

› Read more about CSLM-2

Ground controllers are preparing the Canadarm2 and Dextre to remove the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) experiment from Dragon’s exposed trunk and install it on a platform on the outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory. CATS will observe aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere to understand the impacts to global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Soyuz Preps for Rollout as Station Crew Works Array of Science

Elena Serova
Cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Elena Serova works in the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

A trio of new Expedition 42 crew members is in its final preparations before Sunday’s launch and six-hour ride aboard a Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft to the International Space Station. The rocket with the Soyuz capsule attached will roll out to the launch pad Friday morning at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

› Read about live NASA TV coverage of the Expedition 42 launch

Aboard the orbital laboratory, the current crew members, Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova, are working their scheduled task list of ongoing science and maintenance.

Wilmore opened the Fluids Integrated Rack to configure a microscope for the ACE-M-3 experiment. The advanced fluids study observes small particles suspended within a liquid that build into 3D structures. During the afternoon, the commander worked on Europe’s Kubik incubator that supports life science with organisms such as seeds, cells and small animals.

› Read more about the Fluids Integrated Rack
› Read more about the ACE-M-3 study
› Read more about Kubik

The orbiting cosmonauts got back together again Thursday working on a Russian chemistry education experiment with Russian school children. The duo also worked throughout the Russian segment checking cables, inspecting panels and conducting preventative maintenance on the ventilation system and oxygen generator.

Routine Maintenance on Station While Ground Crew Relaxes

Wilmore works on CIR
Barry Wilmore opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and pulled out gear to replace hardware on the fiery experiment device. Credit: NASA TV

Commander Barry Wilmore worked throughout the day Tuesday in the Destiny laboratory’s Combustion Integrated Rack replacing hardware that fuels experiments. Afterward, he drained a waste water tank in the Tranquility node then moved on to a Health Maintenance System test.

› Read more about the Combustion Integrated Rack

Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev replaced a battery module in the Zvezda service module then repaired and photographed an air duct. His fellow cosmonaut, Elena Serova, checked Russian sensors that monitor air pressure then proceeded with disinfectant work to prevent microbial growth in the Zarya module.

A new trio of Expedition 42 crew members is relaxing at the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Kazakhstan. Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti played games, had medical checks and planted trees during a traditional ceremony Tuesday.

Their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft is being readied for its roll out to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Friday. The new crew will launch aboard the Soyuz on Sunday for a near six-hour ride to the International Space Station’s Rassvet module.

› Read about live NASA TV coverage of the Expedition 42 launch