Station Ramps Up for Cardiac Research Loaded on Dragon

Liftoff of the SpaceX Dragon
The liftoff of the SpaceX Dragon atop its Falcon 9 rocket is pictured Feb. 19, 2017, from the Kennedy Space Center. More info… https://www.nasa.gov/feature/spacex-dragon-launches-arrivals-and-departures

The Expedition 51 crew members are awaiting a new space shipment and getting ready for new science experiments. The crew is also preparing for the departure of a pair of International Space Station flight engineers.

The Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to space is resting at its launch pad today at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon will lift off Thursday at 5:55 p.m. EDT on a three-day trip to the station’s Harmony module.

Inside the commercial space freighter is nearly 6,000 pounds of crew supplies, station hardware and science experiments. One of those experiments, Cardiac Stem Cells, will research how stem cells affect cardiac biology and tissue regeneration in space. The station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox is being readied for the study which may provide insight into accelerated aging due to living in microgravity.

On Friday, cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy will command the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft to return him and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet back to Earth after 196 days in space. The two crew members are packing their spacecraft with research samples, hardware and personal items for the near 3.5 hour ride home. The duo will undock from the Rassvet module at 6:47 a.m. EDT. They will then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 10:10 a.m. (8:10 p.m. Kazakh time).


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Brain, Vision Research Ahead of June Crew and Cargo Missions

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer
This week, Commander Peggy Whitson evaluated Flight Engineer Jack Fischer’s calf and thigh for the Sprint study to assess spaceflight-induced changes in muscle volume. Doctors are evaluating the effectiveness of high intensity, low volume exercise to keep astronauts healthy in space.

Expedition 51 is wrapping up a week of ongoing research into how living in space affects an astronaut’s brain and vision. The International Space Station also boosted its orbit ahead of crew and cargo missions coming and going in June.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer strapped himself in a device for the NeuroMapping experiment today that tests how the human brain structure and function changes in space. The study also compares brain changes, motor control and multi-tasking when an astronaut is in a free-floating state.

Doctors have noted how microgravity causes a headward fluid shift of blood and other body fluids. As a result, astronaut’s experience face-swelling and elevated head pressure.

The Fluid Shifts study is exploring a way to offset the upward flow using unique suit known as the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. Commander Peggy Whitson wore the suit today and underwent ultrasound scans and eye checks to help scientists determine its effectiveness against lasting changes in vision and eye damage.

The space station is orbiting a little higher above Earth this week to prepare for the departure of two crew members on June 2. The SpaceX Dragon is due to launch June 1 and arrive at the station three days later. Mission managers are working a plan dependent on an on-time Dragon launch that could see the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft depart in early June or mid-July.


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Week’s Last CubeSats Deployed as Crew Studies Space Health

CubeSat Deployment
A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth’s limb in the background, is seen moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the space station’s Kibo lab module.

The week’s final set of CubeSats were deployed today from outside the Japanese Kibo lab module’s airlock. Inside the International Space Station, the Expedition 51 crew continued exploring microgravity’s effects on muscles, bone cells and vision.

Over a dozen CubeSats were ejected into Earth orbit this week outside the Kibo module to study Earth and space phenomena for the next one to two years. Today’s constellation of tiny satellites will explore a variety of subjects including hybrid, low temperature energy stowage systems and the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere known as the thermosphere.

Commander Peggy Whitson started her morning with eye checks for the Fluids Shifts study to determine how weightlessness affects eyes. That same study is also analyzing the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit for its ability to offset the upward flow of blood and other body fluids possibly affecting crew vision. Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin assisted European astronaut Thomas Pesquet into the unique suit today that draws fluids into the lower body preventing face-swelling and elevated head pressure.

More bone cell samples were inserted into a science freezer during the crew’s afternoon. The samples are part of the OsteoOmics experiment researching the mechanisms that drive bone loss in space. Results may impact therapies benefitting astronaut health and those suffering bone diseases on Earth.

New station crew member Jack Fischer is studying how high intensity, low volume exercise may improve muscle, bone and cardiovascular health in space. He scanned his thigh and calf muscles with an ultrasound device to help doctors understand the impacts of the new exercise techniques.


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Station Hosts CubeSat Launch and Human Research

Cygnus with Florida and Cuba Below
The Cygnus cargo craft is pictured as the station orbits above the state of Florida and the country of Cuba.

The International Space Station is an orbiting platform to continuously explore a wide variety of space science both inside and outside the orbital lab to benefit humans and industry.

For example, the five Expedition 51 crew members continued helping scientists understand what happens to the body when living in outer space. Also, more CubeSats were ejected into orbit today to study a wide variety of phenomena.

Wednesday marked the third day the crew has worked on the Genes in Space studies, with both the second and third iteration taking place this week. Genes in Space-2 is looking at telomere changes in space which contributes to understanding how spaceflight affects telomere length and, in turn, astronaut health on future space missions. Genes in Space-3 seeks to establish a robust, user-friendly deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sample preparation process to enable biological monitoring aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Today was Commander Peggy Whitson’s turn to try on a unique suit that reverses the upward flow of fluids in astronaut’s body. The Lower Body Negative Pressure suit is being examined for its ability to counteract the effects of weightlessness and keep astronaut’s healthy.

Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Jack Fischer, in conjunction with doctors on Earth, participated in today’s Fluid Shifts study and scanned Whitson’s arteries with an ultrasound device. Results from this experiment may help doctors develop therapies to prevent lasting changes in vision and eye damage.

Japan’s Kibo lab module contains a small satellite deployer that was extended outside its airlock this week to eject numerous types of Cubesats safely into space. Today’s collection of CubeSats now orbiting Earth will study the Earth’s thermosphere properties and test experimental radar systems for up to two years.


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CubeSats Deployed While Astronauts Study Effects of Space

Earth's Atmospheric Glow
Earth’s atmospheric glow, the stars of the Milky Way and an external pallet at the tip of Japan’s Kibo lab module are seen in this night time photograph from Oct. 10, 2016.

New CubeSats were deployed into outer space from the International Space Station today to study Earth and space phenomena. Meanwhile, back inside the station the Expedition 51 crew continued exploring how the human body adapts to living in space.

Ground controllers commanded a small satellite deployer to eject six Cubesats from outside the Japanese Kibo lab module. The tiny shoebox-sized satellites will orbit Earth observing the Earth’s upper atmosphere and interstellar radiation left over from the Big Bang.

Just after the Cubesats began their mission, three Expedition 51 crew members continued exploring how to reverse the upward flow of fluids in astronaut’s body. Flight Engineers Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy tested a special suit that may offset the effects of microgravity possibly alleviating eye and head pressure. The duo also conducted eye checks with assistance from veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and support from doctors on the ground.

Commander Peggy Whitson was back in the U.S. Destiny lab studying how bones adjust to weightlessness. She was inserting bone cell samples into a science freezer for analysis on Earth. Scientists are studying the mechanisms that drive bone loss in space with potential benefits for the treatment of bone diseases on Earth.


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Crew Observes Space Effects on Bone Cells and Fluid Shifts

Astronaut Jack Fischer
Astronaut Jack Fischer works outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module during a spacewalk on May 12, 2017.

The Expedition 51 crew members are back at work today on human research after a historic 200th spacewalk at the International Space Station on Friday. More Cubesats also are being prepared for deployment outside the Japanese Kibo lab module this week.

Commander Peggy Whitson continued studying bone cells using the Microgravity Science Glovebox research facility. She swapped out bone cell samples inside the glovebox and stowed them inside a science freezer to be analyzed later back on Earth. The experiment may help doctors treat bone diseases on Earth and keep astronauts strong and healthy in space.

Flight Engineers Jack Fischer, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Novitskiy tested a unique suit that reverses the upward flow of fluids in an astronaut’s body. Fluid Shifts is a joint NASA-Russian experiment that investigates the causes of lasting physical changes to astronauts’ eyes. Results from this study may help to develop preventative measures against lasting changes in vision and eye damage. Fischer and Novitskiy wore the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit undergoing fluid pressure checks and ultrasound scans. Yurchikhin and ground support personnel assisted the duo.

Fischer started his day loading a CubeSat deployer in the Kibo lab module’s airlock. The deployer will be extended outside the airlock into the vacuum of space and eject more CubeSats studying a variety of Earth and space phenomena.


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Brand New Dragon Experiments Activated on Station

SpaceX Dragon
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft is seen Feb. 23, 2017, during final approach to the International Space Station.

The Expedition 50 crew began activating new science experiments delivered last week aboard the SpaceX Dragon. The various life science studies will study bones and muscles, stem cells, botany and protein crystals.

Rodents delivered aboard Dragon were placed in their habitats over the weekend for the Rodent Research-4 study. That experiment is observing how bone and tissue regenerate in microgravity.

Stem cells were also unloaded from Dragon and stowed in a science freezer. The crew will research the replication of stem cells which may benefit clinical trials on Earth for new disease treatments. Astronaut Peggy Whitson used a specialized microscope to view the stem cells as the experiment got under way over the weekend.

The crew is also exploring how plants grow in space in order to provide food and oxygen for future long-duration missions. Plant samples were removed from a science freezer and placed in the Veggie facility for growth and observation. The spaceflight environment can change a plant’s genetic expression and growth pattern.

High-quality crystals are being grown on the International Space Station that otherwise couldn’t be grown on Earth due to gravity. The crystal samples are being studied for the Light Microscopy Module Biophysics-1 experiment to help researchers design new disease-fighting drugs.


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BEAM Opens for Tests, Crew Checks Body Shape

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet
Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are pictured inside BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Pesquet is also wearing the experimental SkinSuit.

BEAM was opened for a short time Thursday so the crew could install sensors inside the expandable module. The Expedition 50 space residents also explored how the body changes shape and how to prevent back pain during long-term missions.

BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, had its hatches opened temporarily so astronaut Peggy Whitson could install temporary sensors and perform a modal test, which has the astronaut use their fist to impart loads on the module. The sensors are measuring the resulting vibrations and how the module holds up to impacts. BEAM is an expandable habitat technology demonstration, which is a lower-mass and lower-volume system than metal habitats and can increase the efficiency of cargo shipments, possibly reducing the number of launches needed and overall mission costs.

Whitson also joined Commander Shane Kimbrough for body measurements to help NASA understand how living in space changes an astronaut’s physical characteristics. The duo collected video and imagery and measured chest, waist, hip arms and legs to help researchers learn how physical changes impact suit sizing.

An experimental suit called the SkinSuit is being studied for its ability to offset the effects of microgravity and prevent lower back pain and the stretching of the spine. Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet wore the SkinSuit today and documented his comfort, range of motion and other aspects of the suit.


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Astronauts Welcome Super Bowl Fans and Explore Gut Microbes

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough
Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough called down to Houston and welcomed football fans to Super Bowl LI festivities. Credit: NASA/James Blair

A pair of NASA astronauts on the International Space Station called down to Houston today as the city gets ready to host Super Bowl LI on Sunday. Johnson Space Center officials, media and visitors gathered at Space Center Houston to hear Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson and Commander Shane Kimbrough welcome everyone as NASA participates in Super Bowl festivities this week.

As NASA and the city of Houston welcome football fans, the Expedition 50 crew aboard the International Space Station continued advanced space research to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

The astronauts explored how the immune system adapts in outer space by collecting their biological samples for the Multi-Omics study. The experiment, which began in March 2015 when the One-Year mission began, is researching gut microbes and metabolism to determine how living in space affects the human immune function.

Scientists and engineers are using the station as a platform to explore technologies for removing space debris from Earth orbit and returning samples from planetary surfaces. The crew members set up tiny internal multi-use satellites known as SPHERES to demonstrate capturing a space object and tugging it. Researchers are testing software to improve computer models to make space safer from space junk and improve planetary science.


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Scientists Study Crew Adapting to New Tech

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough is seen inside his spacesuit during a spacewalk on Jan. 13, 2017.

Scientists are researching how International Space Station astronauts adapt to new technology as NASA prepares to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit. Crew members will have to learn how to operate new types of spacecraft and adjust to planetary surfaces with different microgravity environments.

As part of this research, Expedition 50 Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson from NASA and Thomas Pesquet from ESA started Monday morning with an interactive test on an iPad. The test is part of the Fine Motor Skills experiment that observes how astronauts interact with new technologies potentially influencing the design of future spaceships, spacesuits and habitats.

Commander Shane Kimbrough worked throughout the day on science hardware. He rebooted a computer on the MERLIN science freezer before swapping hard drives on a device that observes meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere. In the afternoon, Kimbrough videotaped himself reading a children’s book and performing a simple light experiment for school kids on Earth.

The three cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskiy, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov, worked in the station’s Russian segment on a variety of science and maintenance tasks. The trio explored the human digestion system and collected blood samples for a bone loss study.


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