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.

New Station Crew Continues Preparations for Launch as Expedition 60 Enjoys Off Day

In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 61 crew member Jessica Meir of NASA runs through procedures Sept. 11 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft during an initial Soyuz vehicle fit check. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov
In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 61 crew member Jessica Meir of NASA runs through procedures Sept. 11 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft during an initial Soyuz vehicle fit check. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

The crew of Expedition 60, consisting of Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos; NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano; and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, took much-needed respite during an off-duty day aboard the International Space Station. Tomorrow, investigations furthering scientific research in support of crew health and extended travels to destinations deeper in the solar system will resume.

On Earth, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, along with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, are at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, finalizing pre-launch training and preparations for their launch on Sept. 25 aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Yesterday, they ran through procedures and completed the necessary fit check, spacesuits donned, within the Soyuz vehicle. Today, they took part in ceremonial activities, such as raising the flags of Russia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, along with backup crew members Tom Marshburn of NASA, Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos and spaceflight participant Sultan Al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates.

Day Before HTV-8 Launch, Crew Studies Effects of Microgravity on Space-faring Humans

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

The International Space Station is abuzz as preparations heat up for the launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft from the Tanegashima Space Center tomorrow, Sept. 10. Launch is slated for 5:33 p.m. EDT, and can be seen live on NASA Television.  

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan spent more time practicing 30-meter approach and capture runs, followed by their own evaluations, in preparation for HTV-8’s arrival days later on Saturday, Sept. 14. The vehicle will be loaded with more than four tons of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware for the space station residents.  

In the Kibo module, Morgan spoke to media out of Morgantown, West Virginia, referencing not only of NASA’s future with the Artemis program, but also the work currently underway that will benefit life on Earth and expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. Morgan referenced his early morning tasks with Fluid Shifts and his first spacewalk just weeks before, when he and NASA astronaut Nick Hague installed International Docking Adapter to usher in a new era of commercial visiting vehicles that will launch from American soil.  

Science investigations that will help develop countermeasures for humans exploring deep space, and for longer durations, rounded out the busy Monday. Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and crewmates Koch and Hague conducted eye exams aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since it is known that living and working in microgravity can induce vascular changes, as well as head and eye pressure, these measurements will help medical experts and scientists on the ground track crew health as Expedition 60 continues. Furthering research for Fluid Shifts, all other crewmates, with the exception of Koch and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, conducted venous ultrasounds in support of ongoing studies into vascular and fluid movement within space-faring human bodies. 

Parmitano, meanwhile, worked to close out Space Moss, an experiment that helps decode how microgravity affects the growth, development, gene expression and photosynthetic activity of tiny, rootless moss plants growing within the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator on the orbiting laboratory.  

Back on Earth, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori are set to depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tomorrow after spending the week prior taking part in ceremonial activities and mission briefings leading up to their mission start on Sept. 25, when they launch into space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Soyuz MS-14 Bearing Russian Cargo Safely Back on Earth

Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft on it’s way back to Earth after departing from the International Space Station on Friday, September 6, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft bearing Russian gear and supplies is safely back on Earth after parachuting to a landing in south-central Kazakhstan at 5:32 p.m. EDT (3:32am Kazakhstan time on Saturday, Sept. 7).  Landing occurred about 87 miles southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan. Roscosmos personnel are on-site and have recovered the vehicle for postflight analysis.

Earlier, at 2:14 p.m., while flying about 260 miles above the border between northeastern China and southeastern Russia, the unpiloted vehicle undocked and departed from the International Space Station’s aft-facing port of the Zvezda service module for the short voyage home.

The uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Aug. 21, carrying 1,450 pounds of cargo to replenish the Expedition 60 crew residing at the orbital outpost. Part of its payload included a humanoid robot that was tested aboard the space station before being loaded back for its return trip. The MS-14’s flight also helped to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility for a revamped Soyuz booster rocket, which will be used to transport crews beginning spring 2020.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Uncrewed Soyuz Undocked from Space Station

Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is pictured departing from the International Space Station on Friday, September 6, 2019.

While flying about 260 miles above the border between northeastern China and southeastern Russia, an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft undocked and departed from the International Space Station at 2:14 p.m. EDT.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft was attached to the station’s aft-facing port of the Zvezda service module for a two-week stay as part of its test flight. The Soyuz delivered 1,450 pounds of cargo to the Expedition 60 crew currently residing on the orbital outpost. Part of the cargo was a humanoid robot that was used for tests before being loaded back inside the Soyuz for its return to Earth.

The Soyuz will land back on Earth in south-central Kazakhstan at 5:34 p.m. (3:34 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Sept. 7), where Russian personnel will be standing by to recover the spacecraft for postflight analysis. NASA TV will not provide live coverage of landing. The mission’s completion will be reported on social media and the agency’s website.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV to Air Undocking of Uncrewed Soyuz

The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft
The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking.

Beginning at 1:45 p.m. EDT Friday, NASA Television and the agency’s website will air the undocking and departure from the International Space Station of an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The Soyuz MS-14  is scheduled to undock from the station’s aft-facing Zvezda module at 2:14 p.m.

The uncrewed Soyuz launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21 on a test flight to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility with a Soyuz 2.1a booster rocket. The spacecraft arrived and docked to the station on Monday Aug. 26. The upgraded Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz booster will be used to transport crews to the International Space Station beginning in spring 2020.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Expedition 60 Studies the Keys to Survive and Thrive in Space

The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft
The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking. Credit: NASA TV

As the week near its close, the crew of Expedition 60 caught up on maintenance activities while also continuing science investigations integral for the future of space exploration to destinations further into the solar system. 

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano performed servicing to the EXPRESS Rack located in the Columbus lab of the International Space Station. The EXPRESS Rack is instrumental in supporting science experiments, providing structural interfaces for power, data, cooling water and more to facilitate investigations in microgravity. 

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continued examinations for Fluid Shifts, conducting remotely guided ultrasounds to track the movement of fluids within the body. Spread out over several weeks, the various measurements investigate if long-duration spaceflight can cause severe and lasting physical damage to an astronaut’s eyes. Aboard the orbiting laboratory, a Lower Body Negative Pressure device is being evaluated as a possible intervention for any harmful effects. 

Flight Engineer Christina Koch, meanwhile, spent time on Rodent Research habitat cleaning and feeding protocols. Such experiments, as a byproduct of learning how microgravity affects animals, provides relevant insight to human space exploration, basic biology and knowledge that can positively impact human health on Earth. 

Crew members performed scheduled maintenance on the Space Moss investigation — a plant-growth experiment attached to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator. Moss, tiny plants without roots, need only a small area to thrive, and thus have potential in space far beyond low-Earth orbit, like on future Moon or Martian bases. 

The countdown is on for cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin, who will wrap up packing the Soyuz MS-14 with gear before the spaceship returns to Earth Friday, Sept. 6. Viewers can watch NASA Television as it follows the undocking of the unpiloted vehicle, which begins at 1:45 p.m. EDT for a scheduled undocking at 2:14 p.m. The vehicle is anticipated to land at 5:34 p.m. in Kazakhstan, but with no NASA TV coverage. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Flurry of Science Investigations Preface Friday’s Soyuz Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station's "window to the world," the seven-windowed cupola. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola. Credit: NASA

As cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori ready for their Sept. 25 launch aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, tomorrow they will pause in their mission preparations for the ceremonial laying of the flowers at the Kremlin Wall. On Sept. 10, the same day the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to take off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for the International Space Station, the new crew will depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. 

Meanwhile, Expedition 60 crew members balanced their workload between preparing for upcoming vehicle activities from and to the space station and investigations that will give scientists deeper insight into the human body in space … and on Earth.  

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan performed eye exams in support of Fluid Shifts, which studies how fluid movement — from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels — can impact changes in vision and eye structures for astronauts, as well as uncomfortable cranial pressure during spaceflight. Morgan, along with crewmate Christina Koch of NASA, are also reviewing rendezvous and capture training for HTV-8, which will be robotically maneuvered to attach to the Harmony module in just over a week.  

Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) worked with the Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) investigation, completing cell sample transfers. BEST evaluates the feasibility of sequencing to identify unknown microbial organisms living aboard the orbiting laboratory. One added benefit, too, is the experiment furthers research in understanding how humans, plants and microbes adapt to microgravity.  

Housekeeping continued as cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin added more cargo to the Soyuz MS-14 for a return to Earth, sans crew, Friday, Sept. 6. 

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

As Hurricane Dorian Churns Below, Expedition 60 Continues Investigations, Training Above

Astronaut Christina Koch of the International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Dorian outside the space station’s windows the morning of Sept. 2, 2019. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Christina Koch of the International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Dorian outside the space station’s windows the morning of Sept. 2, 2019. Credit: NASA

After a quiet, off-duty day for the crew of Expedition 60 on Labor Day, operations supporting science for long-duration human space exploration and upcoming spaceship movements ramped up on the International Space Station. 

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are busy packing the Soyuz MS-14 with return gear before the vehicle parachutes back to Earth — without crew inside — this Friday, Sept. 6. Then, days later, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to launch on Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Its four-day journey to the orbiting laboratory will deliver 6.5 tons of new supplies and cargo.  

NASA crewmates Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan continued prepping for the robotic capture of HTV-8, reviewing procedures to ensure a smooth installation of the spaceship to the Harmony module for its month-long visit.  

Koch also performed Main Bus Switching Unit (MSBU) maintenance with fellow astronaut Nick Hague, afterward using a laptop connected to the MSBU with special test cables for a functional checkout of the repaired unit.  

Science investigations continue in earnest, with Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) conducting VEG-04 operations and additional Veggie training, also capturing light measurements for the novel experiment that seeks to learn about the impact of light quality and fertilizer on leafy crops grown in microgravity. 

Morgan and Parmitano spent time setting up and recording for ISS Experience, which documents life and research operations aboard the space station in cinematic virtual reality. Meanwhile, Koch worked with Microgravity Crystals, removing crystal plates from the Space Automated Byproduct Laboratory (SABL) to observe and photograph the sample wells under microscope before returning them to the SABL. 

Extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian continues to churn in the Atlantic Ocean 250 miles below, with crew members getting an unparalleled view of the storm as it begins to move from an almost stationary position over the northwestern Bahamas. Now a high category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph with occasional higher gusts, it will continue to crawl northwestward at about 2 mph, with a slightly faster motion toward the northwest, or north-northwest, expected later today and tonight. The storm is expected to come perilously close to Florida’s east coast late today through Wednesday evening and skirt by Georgia and South Carolina’s coastlines Wednesday night and Thursday.

Space Science Ahead of Russian and Japanese Station Missions

NASA astronaut Christina Koch conducts science operations
NASA astronaut Christina Koch conducts science operations inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module with a science freezer that preserves biological research samples for later analysis.

Human research kept the Expedition 60 crew busy today helping NASA and its partners understand how to keep astronauts healthy on long-term space missions. More spaceship activity is also coming up in September to ensure a well-stocked and fully staffed International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continued researching how fluid shifts caused by microgravity induce vascular changes as well as head and eye pressure. The duo processed more blood and urine samples today for the ongoing study observing the potentially risky condition.

Doctors on the ground are exploring telemedicine as a way to examine astronauts orbiting Earth and farther in space. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) set up and held a remotely controlled ultrasound scanner to his femoral artery for the Vascular Echo study today. A doctor on Earth then guided the device’s motorized probes during the cardiovascular exam.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch set up protein crystal samples for stowage inside an automated incubator. The research takes advantage of microgravity’s weightlessness to support the development of advanced pharmaceutical therapies.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft continues to be unpacked by cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov. They will soon load the crew ship back up with more cargo for return to Earth next week.

Another crew ship, the Soyuz MS-15, is being processed for its launch to the station on Sept. 25. Commander Oleg Skripochka will lead Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori on a six-hour ride to their new home in space. The new trio along with their backups began two days of qualification exams today

In between the Soyuz missions, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is due to blast off Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. It will take a four-day trip to the orbiting lab and deliver new batteries for the Port-6 truss power channels. It will be robotically captured and installed to the Harmony module for a month-long stay.