Expedition 61 Ready for Saturday Spacewalk During Human Research Today

An aurora blankets the Earth beneath a celestial night sky
An aurora blankets the Earth beneath a celestial night sky as the space station orbited 261 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North America.

The Expedition 61 astronauts are ready to finish repairing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) after wrapping up their spacewalk preparations today. The International Space Station residents today also had time to explore what microgravity is doing to their muscles and digestive system.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano have readied the U.S. spacesuits they will wear for about six hours and thirty minutes beginning Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST. They will finalize the complex thermal repairs on the AMS, a dark matter and antimatter detector, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure.

Morgan and Parmitano were joined by NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch for a final procedures review with mission controllers on the ground. Meir and Koch will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm carefully making fine-tuned maneuvers to assist the spacewalkers at the AMS worksite.

Meir and Koch began their workday by performing scans of their neck, arm, leg and feet muscles with an ultrasound device. The scans are downlinked to doctors studying how weightlessness affects the biochemical properties of muscles. The pair also collected their blood samples and stowed them in a science freezer for the human research study. Insights my impact health strategies on future long-term space missions.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent Friday morning on a Russian digestion study today scanning their stomachs with another ultrasound device before and after breakfast. They split up in the afternoon working on a variety of station hardware maintenance and crew departure activities.

Spacewalk Preps Underway as Station Orbits Higher Ahead of Crew Departure

Astronaut Andrew Morgan
Astronaut Andrew Morgan holds on to a handrail during the second spacewalk to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on Nov. 22, 2019.

The International Space Station is orbiting higher today as three Expedition 61 crewmates get ready to return to Earth in two weeks. Meanwhile, two astronauts are finalizing preparations for a spacewalk early Saturday.

Russia’s Progress 74 cargo craft fired its engines twice boosting the space station’s altitude Thursday morning. The orbital adjustment sets up the correct trajectory for the undocking and landing of the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Feb. 6.

The Soyuz MS-13 will be commanded by Alexander Skvortsov returning home with astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:14 a.m. EST (3:14 p.m. Kazakh time). Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days, second only to U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days.

The third spacewalk of January 2020 is set to begin Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST with live NASA TV coverage getting under way at 5:30 a.m. Parmitano with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will complete the complex thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a dark matter and antimatter detector.

Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will assist the spacewalkers with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and are getting up to speed with the fine-tuned robotics maneuvers. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano as the quartet reviewed spacewalk tasks and procedures.

Spacewalking Team Relaxing as Cosmonauts Work Science, Crew Departure

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan
(From left) Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan work on U.S. spacesuits they will wear on a spacewalk scheduled for Jan. 25.

The Expedition 61 spacewalking team aboard the International Space Station is taking a light-duty day ahead of this weekend’s excursion. Meanwhile, the Russian space residents researched human biology and prepared for a crew departure early next month.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano took it easy on Tuesday, relaxing before they begin a six-hour spacewalk on Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST to repair a cosmic ray detector. The duo began organizing their spacewalk tools, custom-designed for the unique job, just after lunch today. NASA TV will start its live broadcast of the spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch spent an hour today reviewing Canadarm2 robotics procedures they will use to assist Saturday’s spacewalkers. Meir and Koch also spent the majority of the day relaxing, having completed two spacewalks in less than a week on Monday.

The Russian duo, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka explored ways to maximize the effectiveness of space exercise. They also studied wearing and operating a specialized suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit, which counteracts the upward flow of body fluids caused by microgravity.

Skvortsov is also packing the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship that will return him, Koch and Parmitano to Earth on Feb. 6. The trio will undock and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan. Koch will have accumulated 328 consecutive days in space upon landing second only to U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days.

Spacewalkers Switch Focus to Final Repairs on Cosmic Ray Detector

Reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir's spacesuit helmet
The reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir’s spacesuit helmet is fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch photographing her crewmate during a spacewalk

The Expedition 61 astronauts have one more spacewalk planned this weekend and they will finish the repair of a cosmic ray detector. This will be the ninth spacewalk for the crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch have turned their attention from Monday’s spacewalk to help two crewmates going on a very different spacewalk on Saturday. The pair completed a spacewalk yesterday upgrading power systems on the Port-6 truss structure.

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finalize thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on Saturday. The AMS, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure, is an astrophysics device searching for evidence of dark matter and antimatter.

The duo will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST signifying the official start of their spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of the planned six-hour AMS repair excursion at 5:30 a.m.

Meir and Koch will be getting up to speed this week with the Canadarm2 robotics procedures necessary to assist Morgan and Parmitano during Saturday’s spacewalk. The quartet gathered together Tuesday afternoon and began reviewing the spacewalk plan with specialists in Mission Control.

Meir, Koch Complete Battery Swaps to Upgrade Station Power Systems

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries on the International Space Station that store and distribute solar power collected for the solar arrays.

At 1:33 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch of NASA concluded their third spacewalk together. During the six hour and 58-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully completed the battery upgrade for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.

Today’s work included removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from this area of the station’s backbone near the port solar array and moving them to an external platform. The batteries will be stored there until they can be disposed of in the next Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft after it delivers tons of supplies to the space station later this year. Meir and Koch also installed the sixth and final new lithium-ion battery, and ground controllers verified the new batteries powered up successfully to provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for station operations.

The spacewalkers concluded their work by paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Meir said he was a personal hero and looking down on planet Earth reminded her of his words: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Koch noted how much is owed to those who worked for civil rights and inclusion and “paved the way for not only us, but so many who have a dream.”

This was the second spacewalk outside the station in 2020. Space station crew members have now conducted 226 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 59 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes working outside the station. It is the third time all spacewalkers have been women and the 45th spacewalk to include women.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and space station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will conduct the next spacewalk Saturday, Jan. 25, to finish installing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) new cooling apparatus and lines and verify they are ready for use. Morgan and Parmitano began that work during three spacewalks in November and December 2019.

Today’s spacewalk was the third for Meir, who now has spent a total of 21 hours and 44 minutes spacewalking, and the sixth for Koch for a total of 42 hours and 15 minutes. Koch is third place behind Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams for cumulative time by a female spacewalker and 21st on the all-time spacewalk list for aggregate time.

Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and is nearing the end of an extended duration mission. She holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6. Her extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.

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.

Meir, Koch Working In Vacuum of Space to Swap Station Batteries

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing for their first spacewalk together on Oct. 18, 2019.

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 6:35 a.m. EST to begin today’s spacewalk. Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are entering into the vacuum of space for about six-and-a-half-hours to finish replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries that store and distribute power generated by the station’s solar arrays on the station’s port truss. The lithium-ion batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Meir is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and with helmet camera #11. Koch is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and her helmet camera is labeled #18.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will assist the spacewalkers. Parmitano will control the Canadarm2 robotics arm and Morgan will provide airlock and spacesuit support.

The primary tasks for the spacewalkers after preparing their worksite will be to complete the replacement of older batteries on the far port truss of the station by removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from that truss’ power system and installing a sixth and final new lithium-ion battery.

The astronauts are expected to tackle a number of additional tasks, if time permits, including the removal of lens filters from a pair of cameras on the station’s exterior.

NASA TV Broadcasts Monday Spacewalk With Jessica Meir and Christina Koch

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing for their first spacewalk together on Oct. 18, 2019.

Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch of NASA are scheduled to begin a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station at 6:50 a.m. EST Monday, Jan. 20.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

This is the second of two battery replacement spacewalks in five days to complete the upgrade of batteries that store and distribute power generated by the station’s solar arrays on the station’s port truss. Meir and Koch will replace nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.

The batteries were transported to the station in September aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle. The spacewalking work continues the overall upgrade of the station’s power system that began with similar battery replacement during spacewalks in January 2017.

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.

Nutrition Studies, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of SpaceX Crew Escape Test

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their U.S. spacesuits

The Expedition 61 crew split its time today between upcoming spacewalk preparations and continuous microgravity research. SpaceX is also preparing for a final test of its commercial crew ship before it launches humans.

The International Space Station is bustling with activity as two astronauts keep their U.S. spacesuits ready for another spacewalk set for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will wrap up installing new lithium-ion batteries upgrading the orbiting lab’s power systems. NASA TV will start its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.

The spacewalking duo also had time for science work in their busy schedule today. Koch provided inputs on how spaceflight is impacting her cognition and documented her meals for a nutrition study. Meir also documented her nutritional intake before researching how flames spread in space.

Andrew Morgan of NASA worked on a secondary nutrition study that may produce vitamins and dietary supplements to support future long-term missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) had hearing checks today then moved on with Morgan to support Monday’s spacewalkers.

Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos spent the day researching ways to maintain sterile conditions while conducting biotechnology experiments in space. Fellow cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka serviced combustion research gear and Earth observation hardware before exploring crew behavior.

The Commercial Crew Program is set for a critical milestone as SpaceX readies its Dragon crew ship for major test. The uncrewed Crew Dragon vehicle will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 8 a.m. and demonstrate its ability to safely escape in the event of a launch failure.

Astronauts Stay Focused on Spacewalks and Keep Science Running

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is pictured working in the vacuum of space
NASA astronaut Christina Koch is pictured working in the vacuum of space 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa during a spacewalk on Jan. 15.

The Expedition 61 crew is fresh off the first spacewalk of 2020 and preparing for two more before the end of the month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station residents continue ongoing microgravity research and life support maintenance.

NASA spacewalkers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch successfully installed two new lithium-ion batteries on Wednesday that store and distribute power collected from solar arrays on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. They will finish the battery replacement work during another six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk scheduled for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 5:30 a.m.

The third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano. They will finish the complex thermal repair work they began last year on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an astrophysics device searching for evidence of antimatter and dark matter.

All four astronauts met in the afternoon and called down to Mission Control for a briefing with spacewalk specialists. The quartet had a routine discussion with the engineers about spacewalking gear and procedures.

On the Russian side of the orbiting lab, the two veteran cosmonauts worked back and forth on space science and the upkeep of the space station. Alexander Skvortsov spent a portion of his day on cell biology research before servicing an exercise cycle. Oleg Skripochka checked out a variety of hardware that detects micrometeoroid impacts on the station and observes natural catastrophes on Earth.

Astronauts Wrap Up First Spacewalk of 2020

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries that store and distribute solar power collected from the solar arrays on the International Space Station.

At 2:04 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA concluded their spacewalk. During the 7-hour, 29-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. Meir and Koch are scheduled to venture outside the station again Monday, Jan. 20, for a second battery replacement spacewalk.

The astronauts were also able to accomplish a get-ahead task of relocating the an additional nickel-hydrogen battery to the external pallet in preparation for next week’s spacewalk.

This was the first spacewalk outside the station this year. Space station crew members have now conducted 225 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 58 days, 23 hours, and 12 minutes working outside the station. It is the second time all spacewalkers have been women and the 44th spacewalk to include women.

It was the second spacewalk for Meir, who now has spent a total of 14 hours and 46 minutes spacewalking, and the fifth for Koch for a total of 35 hours and 17 minutes.

Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and marked 300 days in space on Jan. 9. She currently holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6 from an extended duration mission of 11 months in space. Her extended missions provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.

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.