Human Research in Space; Next Crew Preps for Launch on Earth

Expedition 58 crew members in front of their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft
Expedition 58 crew members (from left) Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques pose Nov. 20 in front of their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft during a vehicle fit check.

The Expedition 57 crew aboard the International Space Station conducted human research and space physics today while maintaining life support systems. The space trio also continued U.S. and Russian cargo operations as another crew on Earth prepared for its launch early next week.

Commander Alexander Gerst started his day with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and scanned her eyes with an ultrasound device helping doctors understand how microgravity impacts vision. Gerst then observed protein crystals associated with Parkinson’s disease to help improve treatments on Earth. Auñón-Chancellor jotted down her space experiences for a psychological study then set up hardware for a semiconductor crystal experiment.

Gerst also gathered items to be packed inside the next SpaceX Dragon cargo vessel due to launch Dec. 4 and arrive at the station for capture Dec. 6. Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev transferred fluids for disposal aboard the Russian Progress 70 cargo craft which will depart from the Pirs docking compartment Jan. 25.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, three Expedition 58 crew members are in their final week of mission preparations before beginning a six-and-a-half-month mission aboard the orbital lab. Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques will join Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko for a six-hour ride aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft to the station. The new trio will launch Dec. 3 at 6:31 a.m. EST and dock to the Poisk module at 11:36 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast live the launch, docking and crew greeting.

Three Humans Will Spend Thanksgiving 260 Miles Above Earth

Expedition 57 crew selfie
Serena Auñón-Chancellor (right) takes a group selfie with her Expedition 57 crew mates (from left) Sergey Prokopyev and Alexander Gerst. The three-person crew was gathered for dinner in the Zvezda Service Module, part of the International Space Station’s Russian segment.

Three humans will spend Thanksgiving orbiting about 260 miles above Earth. Another three individuals are spending the holiday in Kazakhstan preparing to launch to the International Space Station on Dec. 3.

The Expedition 57 trio from the U.S., Russia and Germany will share a traditional Thanksgiving meal together with fresh ingredients delivered over the weekend on a pair of new cargo ships. Commander Alexander Gerst from ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will take the day off in space. Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev will work a normal day of Russian science and maintenance then join his crewmates for the holiday feast.

Gerst called down to European mission controllers today for a weekly tag up then answered a questionnaire about his experiences living in space. Afterward, he continued unpacking inventory from the new Cygnus cargo craft.

Auñón-Chancellor spent most of her day in Japan’s Kibo lab module working on life support gear. Toward the end of the day, she stowed research samples in a science freezer then debriefed ground controllers with Gerst about Cygnus cargo operations.

Prokopyev focused his attention on the Russian side of the orbital lab working on life support gear and unloading the new Progress 71 cargo craft.

Back on Earth, three Expedition 58 crew members from the U.S., Russia and Canada are in final training ahead of their six-and-a-half month mission on the orbital lab. Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko will lead the six-hour flight aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft flanked by NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

This will be Kononenko’s fourth mission to the space station and his second as station commander. McClain and Saint-Jacques are both beginning their first missions to space.

Rocket Investigation Complete; Russia, Japan Announce Mission Updates

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched Oct. 11, 2018
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched Oct. 11, 2018, with Expedition 57 crew members Nick Hague of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos. During the Soyuz spacecraft’s climb to orbit, an anomaly occurred, resulting in an abort downrange. The crew was quickly recovered in good condition.

NASA is working closely with its International Space Station partner Roscosmos to move forward on crew launch plans. Roscosmos plans to launch the Progress 71 resupply mission on Nov. 16, and is targeting the launch of the Expedition 58 crew including NASA astronaut Anne McClain for Dec. 3, pending the outcome of the flight readiness review.

Roscosmos completed an investigation into the loss of a Soyuz rocket last month that led to a suspension of Russian rocket launches to the station. One of four first stage rocket engines abnormally separated and hit the second stage rocket that led to the loss of stabilization of the Soyuz on Oct. 11. A statement from Roscosmos describes the cause…

“The reason for the abnormal separation is the non-opening of the nozzle cap of the “D” block oxidizer tank because of the deformation of the stem of the separation contact sensor (bending on 6 ˚ 45 ‘), which was admitted when assembling the “package” at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cause of the LV accident is of operational nature and extends to the backlog of the “Soyuz” type LV “package”.”

Japan also announced today the release of its H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) resupply ship, also called the Kounotori, from the station’s Harmony module. Commander Alexander Gerst will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Kounotori Nov. 7 at 10:50 a.m. EDT as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor supports him.

Crew Studies How Space Impacts Brain and Perception

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured Oct. 4, 2018, from the departing Expedition 56 crew during a flyaround aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

A pair of Expedition 57 astronauts spent the day exploring how humans think and work while living long-term in space. A cosmonaut also tested a pair of tiny, free-floating satellites operating inside the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is helping doctors on the ground understand if an astronaut’s brain structure and mental abilities change in space. She took part in a behavioral assessment test today that involves the mental imaging of rotating objects, target accuracy during motion or stillness and concentrating on two tasks at the same time. The NeuroMapping experiment, which has been ongoing since 2014, is exploring an astronaut’s neuro-cognitive abilities before, during and after a spaceflight.

Scientists are also learning how an astronaut’s nervous system may be impacted by different gravitational environments such as the moon, asteroids or planets. The GRIP study from ESA (European Space Agency) is exploring how space residents interact with objects by monitoring their grip and load forces.

Commander Alexander Gerst from Germany strapped himself into a specialized seat in the Columbus lab module for the GRIP study today. He performed several motions in the seat while gripping a device collecting data measuring cognition, grip force and movement kinematics.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev set up the bowling ball-sized SPHERES satellites for a test run inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are used for a variety of experiments including autonomous formation-flying, shipping liquids such as fuels and introducing students to spacecraft navigation techniques.

Hague Back in Houston, Station Crew Works Science and Cargo

Celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way
The International Space Station was orbiting about 256 miles above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth’s atmospheric glow and the Milky Way.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague is safe and sound and back in Houston after last week’s mission to the International Space Station was aborted during ascent. Meanwhile, the three orbiting Expedition 57 crew members continue ongoing research, maintenance and cargo packing.

Hague returned to Houston Saturday following his emergency landing shortly after launch in the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Thursday. He and fellow Soyuz crew member Alexey Ovchinin were flown back to Moscow after medical checks in Kazakhstan then returned home to their families.

Back in space, two astronauts Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst and worked on a variety of life support and science experiments today. The duo also partnered up for cargo operations inside JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 resupply ship.

Auñón-Chancellor started her day testing the performance of battery life in space for the Zero G Battery Test experiment. Gerst was activating and checking out a life support rack to ensure good carbon dioxide and water management in the device.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked throughout Monday on life support maintenance in the station’s Russian segment. The Russian flight engineer also ran on a treadmill in the Zvezda service module for an experiment observing how microgravity impacts exercise.

Station Crew Busy With Science After Aborted Launch Ascent

North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea
North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea are pictured as the International Space Station orbited 254 miles above the African continent. Japan’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) is pictured at left attached to the Harmony module.

Three Expedition 57 crew members are staying busy aboard the International Space Station after the climb to orbit of two crewmates was aborted Thursday morning. American Nick Hague and Russian Alexey Ovchinin made an emergency landing shortly after launch, but are in excellent shape and back in Russia. The trio in orbit is continuing science and maintenance aboard the orbital laboratory.

NASA astronaut Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Ovchinin are safe and returned to Moscow with mission officials after their aborted mission. The Soyuz MS-10 rocket booster experienced a failure about two minutes after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Hague will return to Houston, Texas, on Saturday and Ovchinin will stay in Moscow. Investigations into the cause of the failure are beginning, and the space station international partner agencies are evaluating what changes to the station’s operating plan will need to be adopted.

The three humans still orbiting Earth are safe with plenty of supplies and work to do on orbit. Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor started their day measuring how microgravity has impacted their muscles for the Myotones study. They then moved on to researching an ancient technique that may be used for emergency navigation on future space missions.

Serena Auñón-Chancellor is scheduled to talk with two different school groups on Monday and Thursday next week. One of those conversations will involve the flight of Seaman Jr., a plush toy that is part of the National Park Service’s celebration of its the 3,700 mile Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev maintained life support systems in the Russian segment of the space station. He also updated the station’s inventory system and checked on Russian science experiments.

Crew in Good Condition After Booster Failure

Astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin
Astronaut Nick Hague (left) and Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin

.@AstroHague NASA Astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are seen in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. They are in good condition following their safe landing on Earth after a Soyuz booster failure after launch earlier. Latest updates: nasa.gov/live

Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin
Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin
NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague

Statement on Soyuz MS-10 Launch Abort

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has shared the following statement on Twitter @JimBridenstine.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in good condition following today’s aborted launch. I’m grateful that everyone is safe. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted. Full statement below:

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:40 a.m. EDT Thursday, October 11 (2:40 p.m. in Baikonur) carrying American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft.

Search and rescue teams were deployed to the landing site. Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition. They will be transported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia outside of Moscow.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully. NASA is working closely with Roscosmos to ensure the safe return of the crew. Safety of the crew is the utmost priority for NASA. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.