Crew Researches Biology and Physics, Practices for Emergency

Italy and the Mediterranean Sea
This oblique view taken above southeastern Europe looks west over Italy and into the Mediterranean Sea toward France and Spain.

The fully-staffed Expedition 55 crew worked throughout the International Space Station today exploring how microgravity affects a variety of phenomena including biology and physics. The six long-term space residents also practiced a simulated emergency today to maintain their safety skills and awareness.

Flight Engineer Drew Feustel started Tuesday collecting a urine sample and stowing it inside the Human Research Facility’s (HRF) science freezer for later analysis. Shortly afterward, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai inserted a dosimeter and biological samples in the HRF’s freezer to research the effects of cosmic radiation on mammalian reproduction.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov swapped manifold bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack, a device that enables the safe observation of flames and soot on the orbital laboratory. Shkaplerov’s work today is in support of 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 on Earth.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle unpacked new medicine for the crew from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. He also packed up and stowed expired or unused medicine back inside Dragon for return and disposal back on Earth.

The entire crew got together in the middle of the day and trained for the unlikely event of an emergency aboard the orbital lab today. The four astronauts and two cosmonauts practiced communication coordination and familiarized themselves with the location of response areas and safety gear.

Meanwhile, robotics flight controllers are remotely swapping Pump Flow Subassemblies on the outside of the station. They are removing a spare launched on Dragon and replacing it with a failed unit on the Port 6 truss. This is the first of a series of maneuvers that will culminate with another swap of components during the next spacewalk in mid-May.

Dragon Opens Up Offering New Space Research

Astronauts Watch Dragon Arrive
Astronauts Scott Tingle (left) and Norishige Kanai watch the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft arrive moments before capturing it with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The SpaceX Dragon space freighter is open for business today as the Expedition 55 crew begins unloading and activating new time-sensitive space experiments aboard the International Space Station.

Astronaut Scott Tingle opened Dragon’s hatch this morning and was the first to enter the spaceship. He and fellow NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold began offloading new science gear immediately afterward. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai tended to new mice shipped aboard Dragon and transferred them to habitats located inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Some of the new space studies will enable research into a variety of biological organisms to understand microgravity’s long term effects on life systems. Scientists hypothesize their observations will benefit both crews in space and people on Earth. Other experiments will study physics phenomena both inside and outside the orbital lab with potential impacts on future space systems and industrial and manufacturing processes on the ground.

Robotics operators on the ground will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to ungrip the newly-installed Dragon today. They will remotely maneuver the Canadarm2 on Friday to extract unpressurized cargo, including life support gear and external research, from Dragon’s exposed aft-end, also called its trunk. Dragon will remain attached to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port until early May.

Resupply Ship Midway to Station Amid Maintenance and Science Work

The "Horn of Africa"
The “Horn of Africa” is seen through one of the seven windows that make up the Cupola, a dome-shaped module on the International Space Station. The space station crew will be inside the Cupola Wednesday morning operating a robotics workstation to capture the upcoming SpaceX Dragon.

The SpaceX Dragon space freighter is midway on its trip to the resupply the International Space Station’s Expedition 55 crew. Waiting to capture Dragon Wednesday morning are Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle.

The two astronauts have been reviewing procedures and training on a computer for Dragon’s capture for a few weeks now. Kanai will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Dragon about 7 a.m. EDT Wednesday when it reaches a point about 10 meters away from the station. Tingle is backing up Kanai and will monitor Dragon’s approach and rendezvous from inside the Cupola. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold will be assisting the duo by overseeing approach telemetry from a communications unit on the space station. NASA TV will begin its live mission coverage starting at 5:30 a.m.

Dragon is carrying a variety of cargo including new science experiments researching the human body, plants and how materials react when exposed to space. The Marrow study will explore bone marrow and the blood cells it produces. PONDS will explore ways to achieve uniform plant growth as astronauts supplement their diets with fresh space-grown greens. The Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility, or MISSE-FF, will observe what happens to materials exposed to outer space phenomena such as ultraviolet radiation, charged particles and micro-meteoroids.

Meanwhile, the six space station residents are keeping the orbital lab in tip-top shape today while continuing ongoing scientific studies. Commander Anton Shkaplerov stayed focused on maintenance duties in the station’s Russian segment. New Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and Oleg Artemyev had time set aside to get used to their new home in space.

Tingle swapped out Combustion Integrated Rack hardware in the Destiny lab module. Kanai readied mouse habitat gear for a rodent study being delivered on Dragon. Kanai and Tingle later ended the day with more Dragon robotics practice.

Expedition Crew Waits for Dragon and Studies Life Science

NASA astronaut and Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold
NASA astronaut and Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold rests inside the seven-windowed cupola as the International Space Station orbits above the south Atlantic Ocean.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft stands atop its launch pad counting down to a 4:30 p.m. EDT liftoff today to the International Space Station. The Expedition 55 crew is preparing for its arrival on Wednesday while continuing a variety of advanced space research aboard the orbital lab today.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is hosting the 14th launch of a SpaceX commercial cargo mission to the space station. Astronauts Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle are practicing the maneuvers and procedures necessary to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 when it arrives at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. Their fellow flight engineers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold joined them later in the afternoon to review the cargo they’ll transfer back and forth after they open the hatches to Dragon.

Feustel spent the better part of his day testing algorithms on a pair of tiny internal satellites that could be used to detect spacecraft positions and velocities. Arnold strapped himself into an exercise cycle for an exertion in space study then collected his blood samples for stowage and later analysis.

Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov worked on a multitude of Russian maintenance tasks checking communications and life support gear. Shkaplerov also joined cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev for another exercise study, this time on the Russian side of the lab, exploring its effectiveness during long term space missions.

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.