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.

Crew Waits for New Cargo Delivery Date Amidst Spacewalk Preps

International Space Station orbits above the
The Caspian Sea is pictured below the International Space Station as it orbited 253 miles above Earth’s surface. The station’s robotic arm (left) and solar arrays (right) are seen in the foreground.

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.

Russian Cargo Ship Preps for Launch While Crew Studies Life Science

Progress 69 Rocket Processing
Russia’s Progress 69 resupply rocket is pictured in its processing facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

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.

Europe’s Station Lab in Space 10 Years; Crew Studies Eyes and Muscles

Columbus Lab Module
ESA’s Columbus lab module is pictured (clockwise from top left) in the grips of the Canadarm2 before its installation at the station; being serviced during a spacewalk by astronaut Randy Bresnik; close-up of Columbus attached to the starboard side of the Harmony module; attached to Harmony.

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.