More Immunity Studies as Crew Preps for Cargo Mission, Spacewalks

Expedition 65 Flight Engineers (from left) Shane Kimbrough and Oleg Novitskiy unpack science hardware for installation inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.
Expedition 65 Flight Engineers (from left) Shane Kimbrough and Oleg Novitskiy unpack science hardware for installation inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The International Space Station hummed with activity on Thursday as the Expedition 65 crew gets ready for the next SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission and continues immune system research. All seven crew members also joined together and practiced their emergency response skills.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide teamed up with ESA Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet during the morning, gathering and organizing items for return to Earth on the next resupply mission from SpaceX. The upgraded Cargo Dragon vehicle is targeted for launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket on June 3 from Kennedy Space Center. It will deliver the first two of six new solar arrays, a kidney disease therapy study, plant and microbe experiments and more, about two days after liftoff.

The Kibo laboratory module’s Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) once again was the center of activity for NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur. The duo continued servicing donor cell samples inside the LSG, which are being compared to cells on Earth, as scientists document the significant differences in microgravity. The Celestial Immunity study’s results may provide insights into new vaccines and drugs and advance the commercialization of space.

At the end of the day, Vande Hei had his veins scanned with an ultrasound device operated by NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough. Kimbrough earlier joined Pesquet and inspected tethers to be used during a pair of upcoming spacewalks. The spacewalks are planned for June and will see the installation of the soon-to-be delivered solar arrays on the station’s Port 6 truss structure.

Finally, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov joined their five crewmates and simulated an emergency aboard the station in conjunction with mission controllers on the ground. The drill consisted of locating emergency gear, practicing procedures and decision-making, and coordinating communications with controllers in Houston and Moscow.

Three-Day Weekend Aboard Lab Ahead of June Cargo Mission

An aurora is pictured streaming above the Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica on April 19, 2021.
An aurora is pictured streaming above the Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica on April 19, 2021.

The seven orbital residents that comprise the Expedition 65 crew aboard the International Space Station took a well-deserved day off on Monday. May looks to be relaxed month, following a very busy April, with no spacecraft activities on the calendar until June.

It was a three-day weekend on the orbiting lab today as the five astronauts and two cosmonauts took Monday off. The septet cleared its schedule for personal activities such as looking at the Earth below, talking to family, watching movies and playing games.

The crewmates continued their daily workouts as each crew member exercises about two hours a day to counteract the lack of gravity on their bodies. There are U.S. and Russian treadmills, an exercise cycle and an advanced resistive exercise device that the space residents use to maintain muscle and bone health in weightlessness.

There were also urine sample collections aboard the orbital lab today which are part of a variety of ongoing studies into the effects of long-term spaceflight on humans. Those samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis by scientists on Earth.

The next cargo mission planned to replenish the Expedition 65 crew is targeted for launch on June 3. The SpaceX Cargo Dragon will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center and dock on June 4 to the Harmony module’s space-facing international adapter. The Cargo Dragon will deliver new solar arrays to augment the space station’s power system.

Life Science, Cargo Packing Midweek Aboard Orbital Lab

SpaceX Crew-2 Mission Specialists and Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Akihiko Hoshide pose for a portrait together.
SpaceX Crew-2 Mission Specialists and Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Akihiko Hoshide pose for a portrait together.

Life science was the main science topic aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday. The Expedition 65 crew is also packing a U.S. cargo ship and maintaining orbital lab systems today.

Four astronauts, who rode to the station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour, kicked off the day with the first health checkup of their expedition today. NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide, and Thomas Pesquet spent a few moments in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module undergoing temperature, blood pressure and ear checks as part of periodic health evaluations.

Kimbrough and Hoshide then took turns loading the Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman with trash and old gear before its departure in a few weeks. Kimbrough spent the rest of the afternoon setting up hardware inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for a semiconductor crystal experiment. Hoshide serviced fluid systems and cleaned electrical hardware.

McArthur charged computer tablets delivered aboard Endeavour and organized cargo in the Tranquility module. Pesquet replaced components on the Destiny lab’s exercise cycle ahead of a space workout study planned on Thursday.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei collected donor samples delivered aboard Endeavour and transferred to the station’s science freezers for the new Celestial Immunity study. The experiment seeks to understand how weightlessness affects the immune system, potentially impacting the development of new vaccines and medicines.

The two cosmonauts aboard the station, Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, had hearing tests today aboard the orbiting lab. The duo then spent most of the day on a variety of Russian computer and electrical maintenance tasks. Novitskiy also spent a few moments on a study investigating how international space crews get along and work together. Dubrov gathered Russian discarded items for disposal on the U.S. Cygnus resupply ship.

Crew-1 Takes Questions Thursday, Station Busy with Human Research

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience, with four astronauts aboard, is pictured from the station reentering Earth's atmosphere on May 2, 2021.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience, with four astronauts aboard, is pictured from the station reentering Earth’s atmosphere on May 2, 2021.

The SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts are back in Houston after splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday completing a 168-day mission. The quartet will have a news conference on NASA TV then participate in a Facebook Live event on Thursday.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi will talk to reporters and answer social media questions on Thursday. The NASA TV news conference starts at 3:45 p.m. EDT. The Facebook Live event will begin at 4:35 p.m. and last 20 minutes.

Back in space, seven Expedition 65 crew members will be orbiting Earth on the International Space Station until October. The five astronauts and two cosmonauts are participating in a variety of research today to understand how living in space affects the human body.

Microbes can change characteristics in microgravity and scientists are testing anti-microbial coatings on the station. Today, an astronaut touched a sample with the coating representing a high-touch surface. The sample was stowed in a science freezer and will be returned later to Earth for analysis. Results could mitigate health issues on spacecraft and planetary surfaces.

The Celestial Immunity study taking place today on the orbiting lab is exploring how the immune system adapts to weightlessness. The astronauts look at human blood cells for age-associated effects giving scientists insights into the development of new vaccines and drugs to treat diseases.

Some of the crewmates also had ultrasound scans today to understand how long-term microgravity affects their muscle’s biochemical properties such as tone, stiffness and elasticity. Samples, including blood, saliva and urine, were also collected and stowed for the Standard Measures and Repository biology studies.

Station Astronauts Relax Before SpaceX Crew Launches

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket during a sunset at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket during a sunset at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Five Expedition 65 astronauts are off-duty today relaxing one day before four Commercial Crew astronauts launch toward the International Space Station. The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts focused on Russian science and life support maintenance tasks throughout Thursday.

NASA Commander Shannon Walker and Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Mark Vande Hei of NASA including Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) took it easy on the station today. The quintet is relaxing before gearing up for six days of crew swap activities. They will get back to work on Friday with more space research and preparations for the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts early Saturday.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov stayed busy on Thursday in the station’s Russian segment. The duo partnered up for a study to maximize the effectiveness of space exercise. Novitskiy then checked out power systems while Dubrov worked on life support gear.

SpaceX Crew-2 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Pilot Megan McArthur will launch Friday at 5:49 a.m. to the station aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour. The NASA duo will be flanked by Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. The veteran foursome will dock on Saturday at 5:10 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter. NASA TV begins its continuous launch and docking coverage on Friday at 1:30 a.m.

The new quartet’s arrival will set in motion the next crew swap as the SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts turn their attention toward returning to Earth on April 28. Hopkins will lead his crewmates Glover, Walker and Noguchi as they undock from the station then parachute inside the Crew Dragon Resilience to a splashdown off the coast of Florida just a few hours later.

Vande Hei will stay behind with Novitskiy, Dubrov and the four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts. They will remain at the station as the Expedition 65 crew until the next series of crew swaps planned for later this year begins.

Orbital Science Continues as Crew-2 Launch Slips a Day

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop stands at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop stands at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

The seven Expedition 65 crew members will wait an extra day to greet the four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts after their launch slipped due to high winds. The International Space Station residents will stay focused on their human research activities to improve life on Earth and in space.

NASA and SpaceX managers pushed back the launch of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to Friday at 5:49 a.m. EDT. Unfavorable weather conditions were predicted along the flight path after Thursday’s launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet, are now due to arrive at the orbital lab on Saturday at 5:10 a.m. The quartet will dock the Crew Dragon Endeavour to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter. NASA TV begins its continuous coverage of the launch and docking activities on Friday at 1:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, space research continues full speed ahead as the station residents help scientists understand how their bodies are adapting to living in microgravity. Four of the station astronauts are also preparing to return to Earth next week in the midst of the science and maintenance work on orbit.

Commander Shannon Walker began her day scanning the leg muscles of Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins using an ultrasound device to observe muscle tone, stiffness and elasticity. The duo then partnered up in the afternoon observing microscopic worms to study how space affects the genetic expression of muscles.

Flight Engineers Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi took turns wearing virtual reality goggles and clicking a trackball today for a study exploring how astronauts perceive time when living off the Earth. The duo, along Walker and Hopkins, is also getting ready to complete its station mission on April 28. The foursome will parachute to Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience and splashdown off the coast of Florida ending a 162-day space research mission.

Nearly two weeks into their mission, three new Expedition 65 crewmates have stepped into their roles as orbital researchers and troubleshooters. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei collected and stowed his blood, urine and fecal samples for a pair of space biology studies today. Veteran cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy worked on Russian power and plumbing systems. First time cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov checked computer electronics and studied Earth photography techniques and optimal space exercises.

Station Science in Full Swing as SpaceX Crew-2 Nears Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop stands at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop stands at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in Florida.

Science is in full swing aboard the International Space Station today as the Expedition 65 crew studies how microgravity affects the human body. Back on Earth, four Commercial Crew astronauts are less than two days away from launching to the orbiting lab from Florida.

Blood samples, muscle scans and exercise were the subjects of Tuesday’s space research to learn how the human body adapts to weightlessness. To start the day, Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi collected their blood samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Hopkins then joined Flight Engineer Victor Glover for muscle scans using an ultrasound device to understand how space impacts muscle tone, stiffness and elasticity.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who is in his second week aboard the station, attached sensors to his chest and worked out on a stationary bike for another human research experiment during the day. The exercise study measures an astronaut’s aerobic capacity and the effort required to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks.

Another muscle study is observing changes in the genetic expression of muscles that take place in microgravity. Station Commander Shannon Walker of NASA peered at tiny worms in a microscope and recorded video as they wriggled through a specialized device that measures muscle strength. Muscle proteins change in space affecting muscle mass and strength and scientists are exploring therapies to offset this loss.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov juggled a variety of science and maintenance tasks in the station’s Russian segment today. Novitskiy powered down an atmospheric study then configured communications and ventilation gear. Dubrov inspected areas in the Russian modules and studied ways to maximize a workout in space.

NASA and SpaceX mission managers are “go” for Thursday’s launch at 6:11 a.m. EDT of four Crew-2 astronauts to the space station. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will occupy the commander and pilot seats respectively inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour during the ride to their new home in space. They will be flanked by Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet when they dock on Friday at 5:30 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew-2 mission continuously from launch to docking beginning Thursday at 2 a.m.

Expedition 64 Leaving Station as New SpaceX Crew Preps for Launch

(From left) The Expedition 64 crew is returning to Earth today as the SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts prepare for an April 22 launch to the station from Florida.
(From left) The Expedition 64 crew is returning to Earth today as the SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts prepare for an April 22 launch to the station from Florida.

Three Expedition 64 crew members are preparing to return to Earth today completing a 185-day research mission on the International Space Station. Meanwhile, four new SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center preparing for a launch next week to the orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will say goodbye to their station crewmates today. They will enter the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship and close the hatch for the final time at 6:10 p.m. EDT. The trio will then undock from the Poisk module at 9:34 p.m. and parachute to Earth about three-and-a-half hours later inside the Soyuz crew ship. NASA TV will broadcast all the homecoming activities live beginning at 5:45 p.m. today.

Four Commercial Crew astronauts left Houston today and arrived in Florida to prepare for an April 22 liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center to the space station. The quartet will take a near 24-hour ride inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour before docking to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter.

Endeavour will be commanded by Shane Kimbrough and piloted by Megan McArthur, both NASA astronauts. They will be accompanied by Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency. All four astronauts have previously flown on space shuttles or Soyuz vehicles.

They will be greeted by station Commander and Houston native Shannon Walker of NASA and her SpaceX Crew-1 crewmates Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA. The foursome, having been aboard the station since November, will then turn its attention to an April 28 return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience.

Staying behind at the station with the Crew-2 astronauts will be NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. They arrived on April 9 docking their Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft to the Rassvet module less than three-and-a-half hours after launching from Kazakhstan.

Walker to Command Station Until Departure at End of April

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, seen here signing the Unity module's vestibule that leads to the Cygnus space freighter, will command the station till her departure at the end of April.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, seen here signing the Unity module’s vestibule that leads to the Cygnus space freighter, will command the station till her departure at the end of April.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker of Houston will assume command of the International Space Station today from Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov. Walker will lead the Expedition 65 crew for almost two weeks until she returns to Earth with her crewmates aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

NASA TV is broadcasting the traditional change of command ceremony beginning at 3:45 p.m. EDT today.

Ryzhikov will depart the orbiting lab on Friday with his Expedition 64 crewmates Kate Rubins of NASA and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. The trio will undock from the Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship at 9:34 p.m. and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan about three-and-a-half hours later.

The seven-member Expedition 65 crew will be waiting for the arrival of four new Commercial Crew members due to launch to the station on April 22 at 6:11 a.m. SpaceX Crew-2 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Pilot Megan McArthur will be guiding the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle toward the station with Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet. The new quartet will dock to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter a little less than 24 hours later.

11 people will occupy the orbiting lab until April 28 when the four members of SpaceX Crew-1 end their 162-day space research mission. Michael Hopkins will be in charge of the Crew Dragon as Victor Glover pilots the vehicle, with Walker and Soichi Noguchi inside, when it undocks from Harmony’s space-facing port at 7:04 a.m. They will parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida about five-and-a-half hours later.

The day before the Crew-1 departure Walker will hand over station command to Hoshide who will lead the Expedition 65 crew. Hoshide will be the second astronaut overall from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to lead a station crew since Koichi Wakata commanded Expedition 39 in 2014.

Walker Takes Command Thursday Ahead of Two Departures and Next SpaceX Crew

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker will assume command of the station from Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov on Thursday afternoon.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker will assume command of the station from Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov on Thursday afternoon.

Ten people occupy the International Space Station today but that will change on Friday when three Expedition 64 crew members return to Earth. Soon after that, four new Commercial Crew members will launch to the orbital lab when it will temporarily host 11 crew members.

Houston native and NASA astronaut Shannon Walker is preparing to take command of the space station on Thursday when Commander Sergey Ryzhikov hands over control before departing the next day. NASA TV will broadcast the traditional change of command ceremony from Expedition 64 to Expedition 65 live beginning at 3:45 p.m. EDT.

Expedition 65 officially begins when Ryzhikov undocks inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship with Flight Engineers Kate Rubins of NASA and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. The automated undocking command will come at 9:34 p.m. on Friday when the Soyuz spacecraft will slowly back away from the Poisk module. Less than three-and-a-half hours later the three space travelers will parachute to Earth inside their spacecraft after a 185-day space research mission.

The second operational crew mission from SpaceX is gearing up for launch on April 22 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two NASA astronauts, one Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and one ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut will ride inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station to complete the Expedition 65 crew. NASA TV will be on air live broadcasting the 6:11 a.m. launch next Thursday. NASA TV’s continuous coverage will also show the docking taking place the following day at 5:30 a.m.

The four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts are all veteran astronauts having previously launched to space on space shuttles and Soyuz crew ships. Crew-2 Commander Shane Kimbrough rode to the station twice on space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and the Soyuz MS-02 crew ship in 2016. Pilot Megan McArthur flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2009 to service the Hubble Space Telescope. JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide took two rides to low-Earth orbit, the first aboard space shuttle Discovery in 2008 and the second in 2011 aboard the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft. This will be ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s second space mission, his first aboard the Soyuz MS-03 crew ship in 2016.

Less than a week after the veteran quartet’s arrival, the four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts will return to Earth after working in space for 162 days. Walker, along with her commercial crewmates Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi, will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter on April 28 at 12:04 p.m. and splashdown off the coast of Florida about five-and-a-half hours inside their Crew Dragon vehicle.