Crew Departure Preps, Biochemistry Research Start Workweek

Four Expedition 60 crewmembers and a spaceflight participant
Four Expedition 60 crewmembers and a spaceflight participant gather inside the Unity module for a meal. Pictured from left are, astronauts Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and Christina Koch of NASA, spaceflight participant and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague.

The nine-member crew aboard the International Space Station will split up Thursday and see three humans return to Earth. Meanwhile, there is still a multitude of space research to conduct as well as a new Japanese space freighter to unload.

Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague are in their final week aboard the orbiting lab. The homebound residents are packing up their Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and handing over their duties to the crewmates staying in space.

They will undock Thursday from the Rassvet module at 3:36 a.m. EDT along with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 7 a.m. (5 p.m. Kazakhstan time). All three returning crewmates reviewed their undocking and landing procedures today.

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan took turns today exploring how astronauts grip and manipulate objects in microgravity. Observations may inform the design of intelligent, haptic interfaces for future crews on deep space missions.

Morgan then explored increasing the purity of protein crystals in space to improve pharmaceutical and biochemistry research. Veteran cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov conducted his own biochemistry research in the Russian segment of the space lab studying how the microgravity environment impacts enzymes in the human body.

New Expedition 61 crewmates Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos continue settling in for their 189-day mission inside the orbiting lab. Meir reviewed Canadarm2 robotics procedures today to support upcoming spacewalks. She wrapped up the day observing protein crystals to support cancer research. Skripochka tested a specialized suit that counteracts the headward flow of fluids in astronauts due to microgravity. He finally checked out the Magnetic 3D Printer that explores the benefits of printing organic tissue in space.

Japan’s eighth station resupply ship, also known as the Kounotori, is open for business and Parmitano and NASA astronaut Christina Koch are unloading its cargo and new science hardware today. Kounotori is due for a month-long stay attached to the Harmony module for internal and external cargo operations. Ground controllers will be commanding the Canadarm2 to remove new lithium-ion batteries delivered on Kounotori’s external pallets. The robotics work will be setting up a series of power upgrade spacewalks planned for October.

Slime and Cancer Research Before Japan Cargo Ship Arrives Saturday

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Credit: NASA

A Japanese space freighter is on track to deliver more than four tons of cargo to the International Space Station on Saturday morning. The Expedition 60 crew is preparing for its arrival while also researching a variety of microgravity phenomena.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are practicing on a computer the techniques they will use to maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm and capture the HTV-8 resupply ship on Saturday. The duo will be in the cupola monitoring the cargo craft’s approach when Koch will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-8 at 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) started his morning playing with slime for the Non-Newtonian Fluids in Microgravity experiment. Koch and Morgan joined him for the fun research being filmed for students on Earth to excite them about space research.

New station resident Jessica Meir of NASA began her day observing and photographing protein crystal samples in a microscope. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Meir and the station’s other new crewmates, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates, joined the rest of the station crew to review their roles in the event of an emergency. All nine crewmembers practiced evacuating the station, communications and using safety hardware during the afternoon.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague are less than a week away from returning to Earth after 203 days in space. They are finalizing packing and readying their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for the undocking on Oct. 3. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

New Crew Prepares for Launch as Japanese Cargo Heads to Station

Station crewmates pose for a portrait
(From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Jessica Meir of NASA pose for a photograph at the conclusion of a press conference.

Japan’s cargo craft is on its way to resupply the International Space Station as a Russian crew ship counts down to launch Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the six Expedition 60 crewmembers orbiting Earth today continued their lab maintenance and space research to benefit humanity.

The HTV-8 space freighter lifted off Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan packed with over four tons of station hardware, science experiments and crew supplies. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will welcome the HTV-8 when they capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Saturday at about 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, three new station crewmates are in final preparations ahead of their liftoff Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates will ride to space with Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka. Less than six hours after launch they will dock to the rear port of the Zvezda service module.

Microgravity science kept the station inhabitants busy today as they wait for their new crewmates and cargo delivery. Flight Engineer Nick Hague strapped himself into an exercise bike and measured his aerobic capacity while attached to a variety of sensors. Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how living in space affects time perception before processing microbe samples for analysis.

While Koch and Morgan get ready for Saturday’s cargo delivery, the astronauts are also maintaining spacesuits and science hardware. Koch was cleaning cooling loops in U.S. spacesuits ahead of upcoming spacewalks planned in October. Morgan was servicing an advanced research furnace before wrapping up rodent research operations in the Life Sciences Glovebox.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Hague are still getting ready for their return to Earth next week. The duo reviewed descent maneuvers they will use when they undock from the Rassvet module on Oct. 3 inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

Japanese, Russian Rockets Prepare to Launch Cargo and Crew This Week

The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket
The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket after it was raised into vertical position on the launch pad on Monday. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Japan is getting ready to launch its H-II Transport Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. EDT to replenish the International Space Station crew. Russia has already rolled out its Soyuz MS-15 crew ship to its launch pad for a liftoff on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. with three new crewmates. NASA TV will broadcast all mission activities live.

The HTV-8 space freighter from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is packed with over four tons of crew supplies, station hardware and new science experiments. The spacecraft, named Kounotori, will blast off on Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan and arrive at the station Saturday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will capture Kounotori with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 7:15 a.m. Ground controllers will then take over and remotely install the Japanese resupply ship to the Harmony module about three hours later.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft rolled out early Monday from its processing facility in Kazakhstan and is now standing vertical at the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Two Expedition 61 crewmates, Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, will lift off aboard the Soyuz with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. The trio will reach the orbiting lab less than six hours later and dock to the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m.

Meanwhile back in space, the six station residents started the workweek with ongoing microgravity research benefitting both Earth and space inhabitants. Two Expedition 60 crewmates are also preparing to depart the station next week after 203 days in space.

Koch was observing tiny free-flying satellites programmed with algorithms to maneuver in formation inside the Kibo laboratory module. Morgan was cleaning up after last week’s rodent research then joined NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague for eye exams to understand the effects of eye pressure caused by headward fluid shifts in microgravity. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) replaced fuel bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack before processing samples for a study seeking insights into Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, Hague and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin are preparing to wrap up their mission that began in March. The two crewmates are packing crew provisions and checking their Sokol launch and entry suits ahead of their Oct. 3 return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. The duo will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Almansoori aboard, who will be completing his eight-day mission aboard the station.

Cancer Therapy, Gravity Suit Research Before Crew and Cargo Launches

The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy
The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy gathers for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module. At the top from left, are NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague.

The Expedition 60 crew is getting ready to welcome a Japanese cargo craft and new space residents next week before splitting up the following week. Meanwhile, the orbiting lab residents are starting the weekend exploring potential cancer therapies and testing a suit that counteracts the effects of microgravity.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has set Monday, Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m. EDT for the launch of its H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft to resupply the space station. The HTV-8 will take a five-day trip before its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installation to the station’s Harmony module.

A pair of Expedition 61 crewmembers will blast off to the International Space Station on Wednesday with the tenth spaceflight participant to visit the orbiting lab. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates will take a near six-hour ride aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and dock to the station’s Zvezda service module.

Almansoori will stay in space for eight days and return to Earth with station Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module in the Soyuz MS-12 spaceship on Oct. 3 and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan about three and a half hours later. Their departure signifies the official start of the Expedition 61 mission.

Science to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts in space is always ongoing and today was no exception. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan were processing protein crystal samples and loading them into an incubator for the Microgravity Crystals study. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov checked out a specialized suit today that pulls body fluids, such as water and blood, towards the feet of a space resident. He monitored Ovchinin who wore the Lower Negative Body Pressure suit while testing its ability to counteract the headward fluid shifts caused by microgravity. Astronauts have reported increased head and eye pressure due to the upward flow after living for months at a time in weightlessness.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) recorded himself on a 360-degree video camera as he demonstrated rotational dynamics with a soccer ball. The experiment is investigating the general behavior of free-flying objects in microgravity. Results could inform the design of small robots in space and even improve sports equipment on Earth.

Today’s Space Science Seeks Therapies for Aging, Muscle Conditions

The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy
The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy gathers for a portrait. In the front row from left are, NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. In the back are, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, Roscosmos cosmonaut and station commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Christina Koch.

Three Expedition 60 crewmembers finalized four days in a row of rodent research aboard the International Space Station this week. Meanwhile, more space science is underway as the orbiting lab residents prepare to swap crews.

Astronauts living in space have shown signs of accelerated aging and scientists are looking to understand why. The crew has spent all week observing mice aboard the station since they show similar physiological changes in microgravity. Scientists are hoping results from the rodent study may provide insights and therapies for aging conditions and muscle diseases to promote healthier humans on Earth and in space.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan conducted the rodent research this week with assistance from ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. The trio performed the biological research using the Life Sciences Glovebox installed inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA set up fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module throughout Thursday. The new science gear will support the Ring Sheared Drop experiment to understand how fluids flow in the human body and other materials. Observations may lead to a deeper understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and improved production of advanced materials.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin is still gathering items he will pack inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for his return home in a couple of weeks. He and Hague will soar back to Earth inside the Soyuz crew ship and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on Oct. 3.

Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori will hitch a ride back to Earth with Hague and Ovchinin after he launches to the station next week. He will join Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft when it launches on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. EDT. The trio will dock to the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m. the same day.

Crews Preparing to Trade Places During Biomedical Science on Station

(From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka and Jessica Meir review their flight plan with training instructors. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

Two Expedition 60 crewmembers are moving ahead with departure preparations as the rest of their crewmates focused diligently on space biology research today. Back on Earth, three upcoming International Space Station residents are making final preparations before their launch next week.

Station Commander Alexey Ovchinin is collecting personal items and station cargo that he and Flight Engineer Nick Hague will take home inside their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo have been in space since March and are counting down to an Oct. 3 landing in Kazakhstan after 203 days in space. They will parachute to Earth with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori who will arrive at the orbiting lab next week for an eight-day stay.

New Expedition 61 crewmates Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will liftoff Sept. 25 with Almansoori aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. They will dock their Soyuz crew ship to the Zvezda service module’s rear port after a near six-hour, four-orbit ride in space.

The trio stepped outside the Cosmonaut Hotel today at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome for traditional tree-planting ceremonies and media activities. Meir and Skripochka will stay in space until April of 2020 and return to Earth with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan.

Vital biomedical research to support astronauts in space and improve health on Earth is keeping the crew busy all week aboard the orbiting lab. Once again, Morgan and fellow astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano are exploring how microgravity causes cellular and molecular changes in mice. Experimental results may provide doctors with therapeutic insights into aging and muscle ailments in humans.

Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos inspected the Zarya module for microbes today. The veteran cosmonaut photographed and swabbed several spots in the Russian segment today and stowed the samples for analysis.

Crews Prepare for Swap as Space Research Benefits Humans

The six-member Expedition 60 crew is gathered together for dinner
The six-member Expedition 60 crew is gathered together for dinner inside the galley of the Zvezda service module.

The six residents aboard the International Space Station continued more biomedical science and rodent research to improve human health on Earth and in space. The Expedition 60 crew is also gearing up for a crew swap beginning next week.

NASA Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Nick Hague started Tuesday drawing their blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge. The samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis to help scientists understand how astronauts adapt to microgravity.

Koch then spent the rest of the day with crewmates Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) observing space-caused cellular and molecular changes in mice. The rodents’ genetic similarity to humans may provide therapeutic insights into aging and muscle ailments.

Hague is getting ready to return to Earth on Oct. 3 after 203 days in space. He and Commander Alexey Ovchinin are packing gear and familiarizing themselves with the landing procedures they will use inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will return to Earth with a new crewmember, Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, who will arrive at the orbiting lab next week for an eight-day stay.

Almansoori, from the United Arab Emirates, is joining NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka for a launch to the station on Sept. 25. The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft from Kazakhstan for a five-hour and 48-minute ride to the aft-end of the Zvezda service module where they will dock. Meir and Skripochka will stay in space until April of 2020 and return to Earth with Morgan.

Space Biology, Brad Pitt Interview as New Crew Preps for Launch

Astronaut Nick Hague and actor Brad Pitt
Actor Brad Pitt called up to to the International Space Station today and had a conversation with NASA astronaut Nick Hague. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 60 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station began the workweek exploring how microgravity affects a variety of biological systems. Back on Earth, three new crewmates are in final preparations for next week’s launch to the orbiting lab from Kazakhstan.

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan started Monday morning collecting and stowing their blood and urine samples for later analysis. Afterward, the pair joined fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for body mass measurements using a device that applies a known force on a crewmember. The resulting acceleration is used to accurately calculate an astronaut’s mass.

Hague spoke to actor Brad Pitt today who called up to the station from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. They talked about Pitt’s upcoming movie and discussed what it is like to live in space.

Koch also assisted ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano with a bioelectrical sensor that measures changes in body composition to determine the effectiveness of space nutrition. The duo, along with Morgan, then turned to rodent research the rest of the day for insights into aging and disease therapies.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin collaborated with fellow cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for cardiology research during an exercise session Monday morning. The commander then inspected hardware inside the Electromagnetic Levitator that enables the safe research of materials exposed to high temperatures. Skvortsov moved onto ventilation maintenance in the Zvezda service module. The duo wrapped up the day with an Earth photography session.

The next crew to launch to the station is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final mission training. Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will blast off on Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio from the U.S., Russia and the U.A.E. will take a four-orbit, near six-hour ride in space before docking to the aft port of Zvezda.

Almansoori will return to Earth on Oct. 3 aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft with Hague and Ovchinin. Meir and Skripochka will orbit Earth until the spring of 2020.

Ground personnel are fueling the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and integrating the spacecraft to its launch vehicle this week. The rocket with the Soyuz on top will roll out to its launch pad early in the morning on Sept. 23.

Biological, Materials Sciences and Inspiration Reign Supreme at End of Workweek

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 60 devoted their Friday to working on groundbreaking scientific research aboard the International Space Station, as well as inspiring the Artemis generation during a downlink hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation. 

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan of NASA took the mantle of fielding selected questions from 39 middle school classrooms nationwide during the space-to-Earth call at 10:55 a.m. EDT. The downlink, hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation at the Kentucky Science Center, allowed classes that are part of the National STEM Scholar Program to get a firsthand look at what it’s like to live and work in microgravity, with the crewmates providing anecdotes from their time in space. 

Hague and Morgan, along with NASA astronaut Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano of (European Space Agency), further investigated the effects of spaceflight on rodent residents with Rodent Research-17, evaluating the changes caused by microgravity to their immunity, cells, bones and musculature. These findings will bolster discoveries for new therapies — both in space and back on Earth. 

Koch also performed experiment maintenance, installing a sample cartridge into the Cryo Chiller within an Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) locker. This unique chiller provides rapid freezing capability in support of biological sciences, as well as temperature-controlled transfer to and from the space station on visiting vehicles. 

Hague and Koch captured cinematic recordings of Morgan working on the Microgravity Crystals experiment for ISS Experience, a virtual reality series will educate to Earth audiences on what Expedition crew members do each day in support of operations and research. The experiment will illustrate how microgravity can be helpful in learning about diseases on Earth through the crystallization of a membrane protein integral to tumor growth and cancer survival. While the crystallization of this protein has yielded unsatisfactory results in gravity, Microgravity Crystals leverages the absence of gravity for extensive protein crystallization work onboard, significantly increasing the likelihood of successful crystal growth. Forthcoming results may support the development of cancer treatments that target the protein more effectively, and with fewer side effects. 

Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos joined his American teammates in conducting routine eye ultrasounds. Since long-duration space missions have been shown to cause severe and lasting physical damage to some astronauts’ eyes, continued monitoring of eye health is necessary to mitigate any noticeable effects for the crew.