Astronauts Focus on Next Cargo Mission and Harvest Crops

Astronaut Ricky Arnold
NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold takes an out of this world “space-selfie” during a brief opportunity while conducting a spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Drew Feustel (out of frame) on March 29, 2018.

The Expedition 55 crew is cleaning up today after a spacewalk and getting ready for next week’s cargo delivery aboard the SpaceX Dragon space freighter. The four astronauts and two cosmonauts are also researching life science and reviewing emergency hardware today.

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold are checking their spacesuits and cleaning up the Quest airlock today after completing a six-hour, 10-minute spacewalk on Thursday. The duo also participated in a routine post-spacewalk health evaluation which consists of checking temperature, blood pressure and respiratory rate.

The next big event at the International Space Station is Wednesday’s planned rendezvous with Dragon carrying over 5,800 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and other station hardware. The commercial cargo craft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Monday at 4:30 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai will be inside the cupola operating the Canadarm2 robotic arm when he grapples Dragon around 7 a.m. Wednesday. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will assist Kanai and monitor the cargo ship’s arrival until it reaches its capture point about 10 meters away from the station. Both astronauts were on a computer today practicing the procedures they will use in the moments before they capture Dragon next week.

The orbital lab residents watered and harvested small crops of leafy vegetables for consumption today. A pair of crew members also documented what a headache in space feels like and how it affects their performance. The entire crew also spent almost two hours today familiarizing themselves with the locations of safety gear and practiced emergency communication with Russian mission controllers.

Expedition 55 Focuses on Spacewalk and Dragon Delivery

Spacewalker Drew Feustel
NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel is pictured during a spacewalk in May of 2011 at the International Space Station. Feustel was a mission specialist for STS-134 who last visited the station aboard space shuttle Endeavour.

The Expedition 55 crew is ramping up for Thursday’s spacewalk and training for next week’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Just four days after moving into their new home NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are getting their suits and gear ready for a spacewalk on Thursday. The duo filled spacesuit tanks and cooling garments with water and reviewed checklists and warning systems today.

They will work outside for about 6.5 hours to install communications antennas on the Tranquility module. The pair will also replace a camera assembly on the Port 1 truss structure. Arnold and Feustel are expected to set their spacesuits to battery power at 8:10 a.m. signifying the official start of Thursday’s spacewalk. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk at 6:30 a.m. ET.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle continue training for next week’s capture of the Dragon cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Kanai will be at the robotics controls inside the cupola as Tingle monitors Dragon’s approach and rendezvous.

Dragon is set to launch Monday at 4:30 p.m. and arrive Wednesday just ten meters away from the station where Kanai will robotically capture it at 7 a.m. The commercial cargo craft will deliver over 5,800 pounds of crew supplies, science gear, spacewalking equipment and other station hardware. NASA TV will broadcast both events live.

The Progress 68 (68P) cargo craft will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Wednesday at 9:50 a.m. loaded with trash and old gear. It will reenter Earth’s atmosphere April 25 for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean. The 68P has been attached to the station since Oct. 16.

Station Orbiting Higher Ahead of New Crew and Cargo Missions

The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is rotated to a horizontal position
In the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is rotated to a horizontal position March 14 to be encapsulated in the upper stage of a Soyuz booster rocket.

One week from today three individuals will blast off on a two-day trip to the International Space Station. They will join the three Expedition 55 crew members already in space who continue to research the effects of living in space while maintaining the orbital laboratory.

The Soyuz spacecraft that will carry one cosmonaut and two astronauts to their new home in space was encapsulated into its rocket today ahead of its March 21 launch. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will fly the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft ferrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the station’s Poisk module on March 23.

Waiting for the trio are Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. Today, the orbiting crewmates watered plants for a space crop study and scanned their eyes with an ultrasound device for ongoing health checks. They are also getting gear ready for the next spacewalk to conduct maintenance on the orbital lab.

The space station is orbiting a little higher today after a docked Russian cargo craft fired its engines for 1 minute and 48 seconds. The burn increased the lab’s altitude enabling future spacecraft operations including the undocking of the Expedition 54-55 trio in June and the docking of a new Russian space freighter in July.

Plant and Flame Studies Alongside Plumbing, Life Support Work

Baja California and the northwestern coast of Mexico
Baja California and the northwestern coast of Mexico are pictured with Russian spacecraft solar arrays in the foreground. The International Space Station was orbiting above the Mexican state of Sinaloa at the time this photograph was taken.

Aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 55 crew continued exploring how plants adapt to gravity and began preparing for a suite of combustion experiments. The trio is also continuing the maintenance of the station’s life support systems and its microgravity science operations.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle put his green thumb to work today supporting a pair of botany experiments. He set up gear for an upcoming run of the Plant Gravity Perception experiment that will monitor how plants perceive light and gravity. Tingle also watered and harvested red lettuce for consumption today for the ongoing Veggie-03 study.

After lunch, Tingle opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and installed new gear to get ready for the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME). ACME is a set of five independent studies researching gaseous flames in space that may enable more fuel efficient and less polluting technologies.

Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency worked on networking gear in the Kibo lab module before inspecting smoke detectors in the Columbus lab module. Kanai then collected data on new adjustable lights installed inside Kibo before conducting plumbing work in the station’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Finally, he and Tingle wrapped up the work day with an Earth photography session of Baja California and China.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov continued his work on Russian life support systems through the day. He ended his work day with a photographic inspection of a pair Russian docking modules.

Station Upkeep and Orbital Science as Ground Crew Trains

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle checks on red lettuce growing inside the Columbus laboratory module’s Veggie facility for the Veg-03 experiment.

The three orbiting Expedition 55 crew members focused on maintenance of the International Space Station while studying Earth and biomedical sciences today. Meanwhile, a new set of station crewmates are in Kazakhstan for final training before beginning their mission in two weeks.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov once again worked throughout Wednesday on life support maintenance in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle worked in the U.S. side of the station installing new lights and performing six-month maintenance on the COLBERT treadmill.

Tingle started his day watering plants and photographing the United States during a coast-to-coast orbital pass today. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai completed setting up gear to measure nitric oxide that the crew members exhaled into the station’s environment and diffused in an astronaut’s blood system.

Back on Earth, the next three individuals to live and work on the space station are counting down to a March 21 liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The new Expedition 55-56 crewmates are at their crew quarters at the Cosmonaut Hotel today reviewing their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft systems and mission procedures. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will be flanked by NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel inside the Soyuz when they dock March 23 to the station’s Poisk module.

Busy Day Aboard Station Ahead of New Crew Launch

Waxing Gibbous Moon
A waxing gibbous moon was pictured above the Earth’s limb as the International Space Station orbited over the southern Indian Ocean just southeast of the African continent.

The orbiting Expedition 55 crew members participated in a variety of biology research and life support maintenance today. Their counterparts on the ground took part in traditional ceremonies today ahead of their liftoff to the International Space Station in two weeks.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle started his day photographing and watering plants being grown for the Veggie-3 botany study. He later charged a pair of U.S. spacesuit batteries before inspecting emergency equipment including portable fire extinguishers and breathing apparatus.

Norishige Kanai, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, set up hardware to measure the levels and analyze the exhaled air in the station’s environment. Afterward, he positioned an infrared sensor arm to measure Dwarf Wheat leaf temperatures growing inside the Kibo laboratory’s Plant Habitat.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov spent Tuesday morning working on Russian environmental and life support systems. The veteran cosmonaut also activated video gear and checked the tension of an exercise treadmill shock absorber.

In the midst of all the orbital maintenance work, Shkaplerov still had time for a pair of science experiments. The commander explored the internal and external radiation the space station encounters along its flight path. He also researched how international crews interact with each other during different phases of a long term space mission.

Back in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 55-56 crew members are counting down to their March 21 liftoff and two-day trip to the space station. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel raised the flags of their respective countries today at their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur near their launch site. The trio is in final preparations training for their launch aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

New Crew Arrives at Launch Site Before March 21 Liftoff

Expedition 55 crew members
Expedition 55 crew members (from left) Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev and Drew Feustel pose for pictures with their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits as part of the crew’s first vehicle fit check activities.

The next three International Space Station crew members arrived at their launch site Sunday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are in final launch preparations ahead of their March 21 launch to their new home in space. They suited up in their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits today and climbed into their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for their first vehicle fit check activities.

Waiting for them onboard the orbital laboratory are Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. Their new crewmates will dock on March 23 to the Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Meanwhile, the current orbital residents are ensuring the station remains in tip-top shape and conducting ongoing microgravity science.

Shkaplerov worked on Russian life support equipment throughout the day and handed over radiation detection equipment to the U.S. astronauts. Tingle inspected the Destiny laboratory module’s large window and cleaned vents in the Tranquility module.

Kanai worked on a variety of scientific gear all day Monday. He disassembled and replaced the METEOR camera before some maintenance work on a physics furnace and science freezer. The rest of the afternoon Kanai worked on the Combustion Integrated Rack connecting cables and checking for leaks.

Three Up, Three Down, Another Three Prepare for Launch

Expedition 55-56 Crew Members
The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is the Expedition 55-56 crew. (From left) Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev and Ricky Arnold. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin and Irina Spektor

Three Expedition 55 crew members are back to work today on the International Space Station, having taken a day off Wednesday following the landing of the three Expedition 54 crew members on Tuesday. The departing space residents are back on Earth, having returned to their homes less than a day after landing.

Now on board the station, Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov is leading Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The three crewmates have been onboard the orbital laboratory since Dec. 19 and are due to return to Earth June 3. They will greet a new set of Expedition 55-56 crew members on March 23.

Those new residents, Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are in Star City, Russia completing training for their mission and will soon head to Kazakhstan for final launch preparations. They will blast off March 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for a two-day ride to their new home in space.

Station Gets Ready for Crew Swap During Ongoing Human Research

Progress resupply ship and Earth's limb
A docked Russian Progress resupply ship dominates the foreground as Earth’s limb is illuminated during an orbital night pass.

As one crew is packing up for its return back to Earth another crew is training for its launch to the International Space Station. During the month long crew swap activities, human research is still ongoing aboard the orbital laboratory today.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin is getting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft ready for its undocking Feb. 27. He and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei will then take a three-and-a-half-hour ride back to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space.

They will be replaced by three new Expedition 55 station residents who are in Star City, Russia taking final crew qualification exams today. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will command the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft that will launch March 21 carrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the space station two days later.

Today’s research onboard the station is exploring the physiological changes that take place inside the human body while living and working in space. Astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai collected blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis as part of the Biochemical Profile and Repository studies. Kanai later checked and tested gear that will measure blood flow in the brain for the new Cerebral Autoregulation experiment.

Station Trio Preps for Homecoming as Life Science Continues

Expedition 54 Crew Members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba
Expedition 54 crew members Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba work with combustion science gear inside the space station’s Destiny laboratory module.

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.