The International Space Station’s mission managers are preparing for a likely unplanned spacewalk by Astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra no earlier than Monday, Dec. 21.
Late Wednesday, the Mobile Transporter rail car on the station’s truss was being moved by robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, to a different worksite near the center of the truss for payload operations when it stopped moving. The cause of the stall is being evaluated, but experts believe it may be related to a stuck brake handle, said ISS Mission Integration and Operations Manager Kenny Todd. Flight controllers had planned to move the transporter away from the center of the truss to worksite 2. The cause of the stall that halted its movement just four inches (10 centimeters) away from where it began is still being evaluated. Progress 62 is scheduled to launch at 3:44 a.m. EST Monday, and dock on Wednesday to the Pirs docking compartment at 5:31 a.m. Wednesday.
The ISS Mission Management Team met Friday morning and is targeting Monday for the spacewalk, but will meet again in a readiness review Sunday morning. Managers could elect to press ahead for Monday, or take an extra day and conduct the spacewalk Tuesday.
ISS Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA will conduct the spacewalk. It will be the 191st spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the third in Kelly’s career and the second for Kopra. Kelly will be designated Extravehicular Activity crew member 1 (EV1) wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Kopra will be Extravehicular Activity crew member 2 (EV2) wearing the suit with no stripes.
A start time for the spacewalk either Monday or Tuesday has not yet been set, but NASA TV coverage will begin 90 minutes prior to the start of the spacewalk.
NASA astronaut and One-Year crew member Scott Kelly gathered hardware today for the start of the Fluid Shifts experiment. For the experiment on Tuesday, both Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will don the Russian Lower Body Negative Pressure (Chibis) suit and undergo ultrasound measurements. Fluid Shifts is a joint NASA-Russian experiment that investigates the causes for physical changes to astronaut’s eyes. Results from this study may help to develop preventative measures against lasting changes in vision and eye damage.
Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Terry Virts worked today to prepare the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) and Thermal Container to enable the ground to perform additional data collection in advance of the Cell Mechanosensing-3 experiment, launching on SpaceX-7. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took samples for the Microbiome experiment which investigates the impact of space travel on both the human immune system and an individual’s microbiome, the collection of microbes that live in and on the human body at any given time.
Virts and Cristoforetti also gathered tools inside the station’s Quest airlock for upcoming work on one of the U.S. segment’s spacesuits.
Today, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) announced they will provide an updated vehicle launch and landing schedule by June 9.
The Expedition 43 crew continued their work on Wednesday with a variety of research and technology demonstration activities.
NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts studied the effects of microgravity on living organisms for the Rodent Research experiment. They are looking at mice and how their body systems change in space. The results may promote the development of new drugs tackling the effects of aging and disease on Earth.
The crew was also notified in the morning that the planned docking of Progress 59 has been called off. Both the Russian and USOS segments of the station continue to operate normally and are adequately supplied well beyond the next planned resupply flight.
Russian flight controllers are continuing to assess the vehicle and what the plan going forward will be. More information will be provided as available.
The Expedition 43 crew kicked off a new week by focusing on a number of biological experiments.
The crew participated in the Sprint study which evaluates the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in crew members during long-duration missions.
Crew members also took part in Ocular Health checkouts as scientists search to better understand the vision changes some astronauts experience during spaceflight. They also collected samples for the Microbiome experiment which investigates the impact of space travel on both the human immune system and an individual’s microbiome.
Station commander Terry Virts did some troubleshooting on the Japanese airlock in preparation for the upcoming Robotics Refueling Mission-2 (RRM-2) operations. RRM-2, a joint study between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, investigates satellite repair and servicing techniques in space. Operators on the ground use the station’s special purpose dexterous manipulator, better known as Dextre, on the end of the Canadarm2, for fine robotics manipulation. Engineers are looking to determine whether it’s possible to refuel satellites and test electrical connections robotically.