The Expedition 66 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk on Wednesday while packing a U.S. resupply ship for its departure on Friday. Meanwhile, the International Space Station also hosted a pair of space biology studies exploring exercise and vision.
Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov finalized their preparations today for the first spacewalk of 2022 set to begin at 7 a.m. EST on Wednesday. The duo completed reviewing the procedures they will use during the seven-hour spacewalk to outfit Russia’s new Nauka and Prichal modules. They will wear their Russian Orlan spacesuits and exit the Poisk module’s airlock at 7 a.m. where their spacewalking gear is staged. NASA TV, on the NASA app and the agency’s website, will broadcast the space activities live beginning at 6 a.m.
Marshburn, along with astronaut Matthias Maurer from ESA (European Space Agency), also participated in an workout session on the exercise cycle located in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The duo took turns pedaling for an hour each wearing monitors that measured their heart rate for a human research study.
Axiom Mission 1, the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, is now targeting to launch March 31 to account for additional spacecraft preparations and space station traffic. Once aboard the orbiting laboratory, the four-person Axiom Space crew will conduct science, outreach, and commercial activities for eight days before their return to Earth.
The International Space Station is gearing up for the departure of a U.S. resupply ship and a Russian spacewalk next week. Meanwhile, the Expedition 66 crew is maintaining its pace of research exploring how microgravity affects variety of biological phenomena.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle has been docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing docking port since Dec. 22 when it delivered over 6,500 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies, and station hardware. It is now being readied for departure on Jan. 21 its return to Earth a day later loaded with completed space research and old lab gear for analysis and inspection.
NASA Flight Engineers Kayla Barron and Raja Chari took turns Tuesday morning organizing and packing gear inside the Cargo Dragon. Chari then spent the afternoon swapping out science freezer components inside Dragon that will soon house research samples for examination by scientists on Earth.
Barron later collected root and shoot samples from Arabidopsis plants grown on petri plates readying them for stowage and analysis back on the ground. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei worked on another space botany investigation as he photographed and harvested cotton cultures grown on the station to understand how weightlessness affects plant genetics.
Two cosmonauts, station Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, continue getting ready for a spacewalk on Jan.19. Today, they configured a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits that will be worn in the vacuum of space when they configure the station’s two newest modules, Nauka and Prichal.
Crew Dragon proficiency checks were on the schedule for a pair of NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday. Eye checks, space biology research, and spacewalk preparations also kept the Expedition 66 crew busy throughout the day.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour, which delivered four astronauts to the orbiting lab, has been docked to the Harmony module’s forward port since Nov. 11, 2021. The Crew Dragon’s commander and pilot, Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn, both station flight engineers, practiced and familiarized themselves with deorbit and landing procedures in Endeavour today. The duo will return to Earth, along with Kayla Barron of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency), aboard the Crew Dragon in the spring.
Chari and Barron earlier joined each other Tuesday morning for vein scans. Chari took charge as crew medical officer and scanned the veins in Barron’s neck, shoulder and legs with the Ultrasound 2 device. Chari later partnered with Marshburn for eye checks and retina scans using medical imaging gear. Doctors on the ground monitored the vein and eye scans in real time. The regularly scheduled health checks provide researchers insight into how microgravity affects the human body long term.
NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei documented his meals today to understand how nutrition affects space health. The veteran astronaut, who will be on the station for nearly a year, also serviced a variety of science hardware to ensure ongoing research operations. Maurer continued setting up the Cytoskeleton space biology study that will explore how the human cell’s internal machinery adapts to weightlessness. The ESA astronaut later assisted Chari and Barron with retinal scans then stowing the eye imaging gear.
Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov are moving right along with their preparations for a spacewalk planned for Jan. 19. The pair from Roscosmos continued collecting and organizing the spacewalk tools they will use to finish configuring and connecting Nauka multipurpose laboratory module to the station’s Russian segment. They are scheduled to work for seven-and-a-half hours outside in the vacuum of space inside their Russian Orlan spacesuits.
The five astronauts and two cosmonauts of Expedition 66 started the first work week of 2022 researching microgravity science, reviewing Crew Dragon emergency procedures and ramping up for a spacewalk.
Biology and botany are critical research subjects on the orbiting lab as NASA and its international partners plan human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Robotics is also important as scientists and engineers explore a variety of ways to assist space crews.
NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari swabbed bacteria samples today and began sequencing their DNA with the BioMole Facility to understand the microbial environment on the station. Thomas Marshburn of NASA photographed operations for the Plant Habitat-05 experiment that is studying cotton genetics. Finally, NASA astronaut Kayla Barron set up an AstroBee robotic free flyer with an experimental audio sensor that may possibly identify early indications of space hardware failure.
The three NASA astronauts also joined ESA (European Space Agency) Matthias Maurer and reviewed their procedures for a variety of emergency scenarios aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle. The quartet trained on a computer for unlikely events such as a fire, a depressurization, and an emergency undocking in the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The station’s other NASA astronaut, Mark Vande Hei, had Monday morning off before going into the afternoon working on experimental gear that may maintain safe temperatures in U.S. spacesuits. Vande Hei, along with cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov, are due to depart the station in the spring after nearly a year in space.
The astronauts and cosmonauts of Expedition 66 worked throughout Wednesday on U.S. and Russian spacesuits. The orbital residents will also end 2021 working on life science and cargo operations aboard the International Space Station.
Among the 6,500 pounds of cargo delivered aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon on Dec. 22 were a U.S. spacesuit and other spacewalking gear. NASA Flight Engineers Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn removed the new spacesuit from Dragon on Wednesday then installed communications gear and configured it. The duo also packed an older U.S. spacesuit inside the Cargo Dragon for return to Earth in January. The next U.S. spacewalk is targeted for spring when two astronauts will install a third set of roll-out solar arrays on the orbiting lab.
Russian spacewalks are also planned at the station in 2022 to outfit the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module that arrived in July. Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov began reviewing procedures today for the upcoming excursions when they will configure Nauka to operate with the rest of the space station. The pair from Roscosmos also started organizing Russian Orlan spacesuit components and spacewalking tools.
The last days of 2021 will see the station crew move headlong into a variety of space biology research. The astronauts have already begun initiating some of the nearly 2,500 pounds of science experiments and research gear delivered in Dragon. Barron and Marshburn will start observing mice on Thursday to understand how microgravity affects the visual function. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer has already started the new Cytoskeleton experiment and will work on it the rest of the week to study how the human cell adapts to weightlessness.
Orbital maintenance is critical to ensure ongoing and safe station operations. NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Raja Chari will focus on that work the rest of the week. Vande Hei will be configuring different research hardware while also assisting the cosmonauts with their Russian spacesuit work. Chari will spend the next few days unpacking the Cargo Dragon and work on station life support and plumbing tasks.
The space station blog is taking a short break until Monday, Jan. 3, as the station’s five astronauts and two cosmonauts orbit Earth into the New Year.
The Expedition 66 crew members continue unpacking the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle and initiating brand new microgravity investigations. Some of the new science taking place aboard the International Space Station today is looking at plant genetics, human cellular function, and even space laundry techniques.
The four NASA astronauts living on the orbital lab took turns on Tuesday offloading some of the 6,500 pounds of new crew supplies, station hardware, and science experiments. Flight Engineer Kayla Barron began her morning working inside the Cargo Dragon. She then serviced samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a research device that observes the thermophysical properties of high temperature materials.
Astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Thomas Marshburn and Raja Chari got together on Tuesday afternoon to unpack the Cargo Dragon as well. Vande Hei and Marshburn have also begun work on a pair of new experiments exploring how to improve life in space. Vande Hei is testing detergent samples to learn how to keep clothes clean in a variety of gravity environments during long-term space missions. Marshburn set up the Veggie botany research facility for observing plant growth at the genetic level to promote space agriculture. Chari collected and spun his blood samples in a centrifuge then stowed them for later analysis. Afterward, Chari entered the Columbus laboratory module and began organizing cargo packed inside.
Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) collected research hardware from inside Columbus for a space biology investigation. He then began assembling that gear and thawing culture chambers inside the Kibo laboratory module. The work is for the new Cytoskeleton biology study, taking place in the Life Science Glovebox, and will explore how the machinery of the human cell is impacted by weightlessness.
Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, along with Vande Hei, started their day practicing emergency evacuation procedures. The trio trained on a computer for the procedures they would use in the unlikely event they would have to quickly board the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship, undock and return to Earth. Shkaplerov then unpacked Russian spacewalk gear delivered recently aboard the Prichal docking module. Dubrov focused on electronics and hardware maintenance for the rest of the day.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon arrived just in time to deliver holiday treats, crew supplies and new science experiments to the Expedition 66 crew today. NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn were on duty Wednesday morning monitoring Dragon’s automated approach and docking to the Harmony module’s space-facing port that occurred at 3:41 a.m. EST.
Less than two hours later, Dragon’s hatch was opened as Chari and NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron entered the vehicle and began unloading critical research hardware and samples.
Astronauts Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) also joined in the cargo activities beginning to unpack crew supplies, spacewalk gear, station hardware, and computer equipment to replenish the orbiting lab. Vande Hei also started setting up a new cancer study, delivered aboard Dragon, that could improve drug delivery methods as well as manufacturing processes. Dragon will stay at the station for one month before returning to Earth loaded with station hardware and completed microgravity research for analysis by engineers and scientists.
Over in the station’s Russian segment, the Progress propulsion module that delivered the Prichal docking port and attached it to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module on Nov. 26 is due to leave today. It will undock from Prichal at 6:03 p.m. and reenter the Earth’s atmosphere several hours later for a fiery, but safe destruction above the south Pacific Ocean. Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov will be observing the Progress when it undocks and photographing its departure from the station. NASA TV will not provide live coverage of Progress’ departure.
The space station blog is taking a short break until Monday, Dec. 27, as the station’s five astronauts and two cosmonauts spend the holidays orbiting above Earth.
While the International Space Station was traveling more than 260 miles over the South Pacific Ocean, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the space-facing side of the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module at 3:41 a.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec. 22. NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn were monitoring docking operations for Dragon.
The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 24th contracted commercial resupply mission at 5:07 a.m. EST, Tuesday, Dec. 21 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.
Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:
Bioprinting uses viable cells and biological molecules to print tissue structures. The German Aerospace Center study Bioprint FirstAid demonstrates a portable, handheld bioprinter that uses a patient’s own skin cells to create a tissue-forming patch to cover a wound and accelerate the healing process. On future missions to the Moon and Mars, bioprinting such customized patches could help address changes in wound healing that can occur in space and complicate treatment. Personalized healing patches also have potential benefits on Earth, providing safer and more flexible treatment anywhere needed.
Improving delivery of cancer drugs
Monoclonal antibodies, used to treat a wide range of human diseases, do not dissolve easily in liquid and so typically must be given intravenously in a clinical setting. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Protein Crystal Growth 20 (CASIS PCG 20) experiment continues work on crystallizing a monoclonal antibody, pembrolizumab, that Merck Research Labs developed. It is the active ingredient in Keytruda, a drug that targets multiple cancers. Scientists analyze these crystals to learn more about the structure and behavior of the component to create drug formulations that can be administered at a doctor’s office or even at home.
Assessing infection risk
Scientists have observed that spaceflight sometimes increases the virulence of potentially harmful microbes and reduces human immune function, increasing the risk for infectious disease. Host-Pathogen assesses space-induced changes in immune status by culturing cells collected from crew members before, during, and after spaceflight with both “normal” bacteria and bacteria grown under simulated spaceflight conditions. Results could help assess the potential risk infectious microbes may pose and may support development of countermeasures. This could improve care for those with compromised immune systems on Earth.
Roots, shoots, and leaves
Multi Variable Platform (MVP) Plant-01 profiles and monitors the development of the shoots and roots of plants in microgravity. Plants could serve as a vital part of human life support systems for long-duration spaceflight and habitation of the Moon and Mars. However, space-grown plants experience stress from various factors and recent studies indicate changes in plant gene expression in response to those stressors. Improved understanding of these changes could enable the design of plants that are better suited for growth in spaceflight environments.
Toward lunar laundromats
Astronauts on the space station wear items of clothing several times, then replace them with new clothes delivered on resupply missions. Limited cargo capacity makes this a challenge, and resupply is not an option for longer missions, such as those to the Moon and Mars. In a collaboration with NASA, Procter & Gamble has developed Tide Infinity, a fully degradable detergent specifically designed for use in space, and the P&G Telescience Investigation of Detergent Experiments (PGTIDE) study the performance of its stain removal ingredients and the formulation’s stability in microgravity. Once proven in space, Tide plans to use the new cleaning methods and detergent to advance sustainable, low-resource-use laundry solutions on Earth.
Parts made in space Turbine Superalloy Casting Module (SCM) tests a commercial manufacturing device that processes heat-resistant alloy parts in microgravity. Alloys are materials made up of at least two different chemical elements, one of which is a metal. Researchers expect more uniform microstructures and improved mechanical properties in superalloy parts processed in microgravity compared to those processed on Earth. These superior materials could improve the performance of turbine engines in industries such as aerospace and power generation on Earth.
Students and citizens as space scientists
Students enrolled in institutions of higher learning can design and build microgravity experiments as part of NASA’s Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS). As part of their experiments, selected teams include students in kindergarten through 12th grade as citizen scientists. Citizen science allows individuals who are not professional scientists to contribute to real-world research. The NASA STEM on Station project is funding experiments flying on this SpaceX resupply mission, including a study on antibiotic resistance in microgravity from Columbia University in New York and one on how microgravity affects bacteria-resistant polymers from the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon and long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX has rolled out its Falcon 9 rocket with the Cargo Dragon vehicle attached to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon 9 is due to lift off at 5:06 a.m. EST on Tuesday placing the Cargo Dragon into orbit for a docking at the International Space Station at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
The orbiting lab has returned to its occupancy rate of seven crew members after three visitors departed and returned to Earth on Sunday. Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin led spaceflight participants Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano inside the Soyuz MS-20 crew ship when they undocked from the Poisk module at 6:50 p.m. EST. The trio aboard the Soyuz parachuted to landing in Kazakhstan less than three-and-a-half hours later completing an 11-day station mission.
NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron continued the GRIP experiment that they began earlier this week. The experiment studies how long-duration spaceflight affects crews’ ability to regulate grip force and upper limbs trajectories when manipulating objects during different movements. The pair set up hardware and completed GRIP science tasks in the supine position while donning noise-canceling headphones. Chari performed the GRIP science tasks in the seated position as well.
Additionally, NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Barron completed a robotics research session for the Behavioral Core Measures experiment. The study aims to accurately assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions during extended spaceflight. Marshburn and Barron set up the appropriate robotics hardware and performed the BCM testing. Crews are expected to complete the session at least once per month, starting two weeks after they arrive aboard the space station.
For medical training, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos reviewed rescuer roles for a situation requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Emergency medical equipment was deployed during the session. The trio practiced CPR positioning to ensure they could perform the procedure in space if necessary.
Focusing on fitness, crews also squeezed in a workout today. The astronauts completed cardio exercises on a stationary bicycle and treadmill fastened to the space station and resistive exercises using equipment that enables them to lift weights in weightlessness. Crews workout on average two hours per day in space. Routine exercise helps astronauts counter the bone and muscle loss that accompanies living and working in microgravity.
Meanwhile, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer transferred data from a fiber-optic monitor called Lumina. The device tracks radiation levels aboard the space station in real-time. Maurer completed the data transfer with an iPad-based application that gathers medical data from astronauts.
Looking ahead, Barron, Chari, Marshburn, and Vande Hei made final preparations to the Cygnus cargo ship, which is slated to depart from the space station on Saturday at 11 a.m. EST. Cygnus arrived at the space station in August carrying more than 8,200 pounds of cargo. Flight controllers will remotely decouple Cygnus from the space station by forwarding commands to the Canadarm2 robotic arm from Earth. Live coverage of the spacecraft’s departure will begin at 10:45 a.m. on NASA TV.