Space Biology, Dragon Packing and Station Traffic Fill Crew Schedule

A portion of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured at lower left as the space station orbited above northern France.
A portion of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured at lower left as the space station orbited above northern France.

Rodent research, microbe sampling and Dragon packing filled the Expedition 65 crew’s day at the end of the week aboard the International Space Station. Three orbital residents are also preparing their Soyuz crew ship to switch docking ports next week.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough started their day observing mice once again inside the Life Science Glovebox (LSG) located in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The space biology study is helping scientists identify genes and observe cell functions that are impacted by weightlessness and affect skin processes.

Assisting the duo, ESA (European Space Agency) Thomas Pesquet continued the mice observations during the afternoon. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei handled the LSG set up and closeout operations during Friday’s experiment work.

During the afternoon, McArthur swabbed and collected microbe samples from surfaces in the station’s U.S. segment. She photographed the surface areas and stowed the samples for later analysis to document the types of microbes living on the orbiting lab.

Vande Hei and Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration (JAXA) spent a couple of hours on Friday loading the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship for return to Earth. The Cargo Dragon will undock from the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter on Thursday at 9:05 a.m. EDT. It will parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida several hours later for retrieval by SpaceX and NASA personnel.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov reviewed the procedures today and the path they will take when their Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft moves to a new port. Vande Hei will join his Russian crewmates when they undock from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. on Tuesday. They will temporarily maneuver toward the station’s U.S. segment where they will photograph the orbiting lab’s configuration. Shortly after that, they will move back toward the Russian segment and redock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at around 9 a.m.

The Russian segment’s Zvezda service module fired its engines for less than a minute today slightly lowering the space station’s orbit. The deorbit boost, as it is called, places the station at the correct phase ahead of the arrival of the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and the departure of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship in October.

Space Biology and Upcoming Spaceship Relocation Keep Crew Busy

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei work inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.
NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei work inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 65 astronauts are moving full speed ahead today studying how living in space affects skin processes. The International Space Station is also gearing up for a busy period of spaceship activities.

Rodents continue to be observed aboard the orbiting lab today so scientists can identify genes and observe cell functions that are impacted by weightlessness and affect skin processes. The Rodent Research-1 Demonstration will take place until next week when the mice are transferred into the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle for return and examination on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough partnered with ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet for the space biology study today taking place inside the Kibo laboratory module. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is assisting the astronauts with the rodent research, helping them with operations in the Life Science Glovebox.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent Thursday morning exploring how weightlessness affects microbes living on the station. He extracted DNA earlier this week from microbe samples he swabbed from surfaces inside the station. Today, Hoshide prepared the DNA for onboard sequencing to help researchers understand the microbial environment of the station and future spacecraft.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are familiarizing themselves with the procedures for next week’s relocation of their Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. The duo, along with Vande Hei, will take a short ride in the Soyuz on Tuesday when they undock from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. EDT.

They will temporarily maneuver toward the station’s U.S. segment where they will photograph the orbiting lab’s configuration. Shortly after that, they will move back toward the Russian segment and redock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module module at around 9 a.m.

Crew Studies How Space Affects Skin Before Station Traffic Increases

Astronaut Megan McArthur takes a midday break inside the cupola, the International Space Station's "window to the world."
Astronaut Megan McArthur takes a midday break inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.”

The Expedition 65 astronauts worked on a biology study today exploring how long-term microgravity affects skin and the healing process. Three other crewmates are gearing up for next week’s relocation of their Soyuz crew ship to the International Space Station’s newest science module.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough continued the Rodent Research-1 Demonstration on Tuesday. The space biology study seeks to identify genes and observe cell functions that are impacted by weightlessness and affect skin processes. The rodents will be returned to Earth late next week on the Cargo Dragon vehicle for further examination.

The pace of traffic at the orbiting lab picks up next week as three crewmates prepare to move their Soyuz crew ship to a new port. Two days later, a U.S. resupply ship will be next when it departs the station to return to Earth loaded with cargo and science experiments.

Three station crew members will enter their Soyuz MS-18 crew ship next Tuesday and take a short ride to another port. The trio, led by cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy flanked by NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, will first back away from the Rassvet module at 8:21 a.m. EDT. It will dock less than 45 minutes later to Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Next Thursday, the SpaceX Cargo Dragon will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter at 9:05 a.m. It will splashdown off the coast of Florida about 14 hours later where SpaceX and NASA personnel will retrieve the vehicle and begin unpacking its precious cargo.

Crew Kicks off Week With Space Biology and Robotics

The prominent city lights of Europe from Amsterdam to Paris and London across the English Channel are pictured from the space station.
The prominent city lights of Europe from Amsterdam to Paris and London across the English Channel are pictured from the space station.

Expedition 65 is kicking off the week with a host of space biology and robotics activities aboard the International Space Station today.

Five astronauts out of the seven crewmates who comprise the space station crew joined each other today for a review of upcoming research operations with rodents. The quintet reviewed roles and procedures for the study to learn how microgravity affects normal skin and healing functions. The astronauts will take turns transferring the mice to the Life Science Glovebox for observation.

Full-fledged operations for the Rodent Research-1 Demonstration will begin Tuesday and continue before the SpaceX Cargo Dragon returns to Earth with the rodents on Sept. 30. NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough will trade shifts on Tuesday with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency). NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei will also contribute to the experiment later in the week.

Kimbrough started Monday checking out and activating the toaster-sized Astrobee robotic fee-flyers in cooperation with engineers on the ground. Hoshide began his day extracting DNA from microbe samples for sequencing to understand the microbial environment of the station. McArthur replaced fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack. Pesquet set up student-controlled Earth observation hardware then cleaned up debris to support the Plant Habitat-04 space crop experiment.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are continuing to set up hardware, including cables and laptop computers, inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. The new gear will enable the crew to control the European Robotic Arm from both inside and outside the station. The duo then split up Monday afternoon for Russian communications work and life support maintenance.

BEAM Open for Cargo Transfers as Robotics, Eye Checks Continue

Portions of the space station, including BEAM seen at right attached to the Tranquility module, are seen in this picture taken in August.
Portions of the space station, including BEAM seen at right attached to the Tranquility module, are seen in this picture taken in August.

The Expedition 65 crew opened up BEAM today and transferred cargo for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship. The orbital residents also worked on robotics, continued eye checks, and configured new life support gear.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) opened up the station’s first commercial module BEAM, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, today for cargo work. He was assisted by ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet as they transferred some of the stowed hardware from BEAM into the Cargo Dragon for return to Earth at the end of the month.

Robotics has also kept the crew busy this week aboard the International Space Station. Today, NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough practiced capturing a cargo craft using a virtual Canadarm2 robotic arm on a computer. McArthur also checked audio sensors on the Astrobee robotic free-flyers that monitor the orbiting lab’s acoustic environment.

Kimbrough spent the afternoon finalizing connections of a new carbon dioxide (CO2) removal device in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Called the Four Bed CO2 Scrubber, the new life support gear seeks to demonstrate advanced technology that will support future human missions longer and farther into space.

Vision is a key factor during long term space missions and doctors on the ground continuously monitor how microgravity affects an astronaut’s eyes. Once again, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei took on the crew medical officer role and scanned Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy‘s eyes with an ultrasound device. Vande Hei, who is staying in space until March 2022, then set up optical coherence tomography gear and imaged the veteran cosmonaut’s retinas.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov continued configuring Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module today. He connected ethernet cables and installed a laptop computer inside the new science module. Pesquet also trained on a pair of unique interfaces to operate the new European Robotic Arm that is attached to Nauka.

Crew Readies for Thursday, Sunday Spacewalks as Science Rolls On

Russian spacewalkers (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are pictured on Sept. 3 outfitting the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module with cables and handrails.
Russian spacewalkers (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are pictured on Sept. 3 outfitting the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module with cables and handrails.

Two Expedition 65 cosmonauts are ready for their second spacewalk to continue outfitting Russia’s new science module on Thursday. Meanwhile, another spacewalk is due to take place on Sunday to modify the International Space Station’s power system.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov wrapped up their spacewalk reviews and Orlan spacesuit checks just before lunchtime on Wednesday. The Russian duo is ready to begin Thursday’s spacewalk set to begin at 11 a.m. EDT when they open the hatch on the Poisk airlock to the vacuum of space. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk coverage at 10:30 a.m. on the NASA app and the agency’s website.

They will spend about six-and-a-half hours continuing power and ethernet cable connections and installing handrails on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. The three-time spacewalkers will also complete tasks deferred from the Sept. 3 spacewalk including more ethernet cable connections, cable jettisoning and biology experiment installations.

Another spacewalk is scheduled to start Sunday at 8:30 a.m. to install a modification kit on the station’s Port-4 (P4) truss structure. Astronauts Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet are preparing for that spacewalk to ready the P4 for the orbiting lab’s third Roll-Out Solar Array due to arrive on a SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission early next year. NASA TV will begin its live coverage at 7 a.m. as the experienced astronauts prepare to exit the U.S. Quest airlock in their U.S. spacesuits for a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk.

Meanwhile, science and maintenance continued on the orbiting lab with the crew finding time to work on human research, biology, and combustion. Pesquet from ESA (European Space Agency) studied how astronauts grip objects and move their limbs in microgravity while NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough fed rodents and cleaned their habitats during the morning.

Hoshide and NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked on a pair of different combustion studies today. Hoshide, the commander from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), removed combustion research hardware from the Kibo laboratory module‘s multipurpose small payload rack. Vande Hei replaced an igniter inside the Combustion Integrated Rack for the ACME series of space combustion studies.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur focused on orbital plumbing tasks and dismantling air resupply tanks during the morning. After lunch, she turned her attention to unpacking the Cargo Dragon vehicle then joining Vande Hei for a procedures review conference with Sunday’s spacewalkers Hoshide and Pesquet.

Cosmonauts Get Ready for Friday Spacewalk, New Science Kicks Off

Cosmonauts (from left) Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy prepare Russian Orlan spacesuits.
Cosmonauts (from left) Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy prepare Russian Orlan spacesuits.

Two cosmonauts will exit the International Space Station on Friday to begin powering up the new Russian science module. While they prepare today for the excursion, the rest of the Expedition 65 crew focused on new science experiments and reviewed an upcoming U.S. spacewalk.

Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, attached to the station since July 29, will be connected to the station’s ethernet and power systems during a spacewalk set to start Friday at 10:35 a.m. EDT. Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov will exit the Poisk airlock to begin about seven hours of routing and mating cables on the outside of Nauka.

The spacewalking cosmonauts were joined on Thursday by NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei and Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for a review of Friday’s spacewalk procedures. Vande Hei will also assist the spacewalkers in and out of their Russian Orlan spacesuits inside the Poisk module.

Novitskiy and Dubrov have another spacewalk scheduled on Sept. 9 to continue outfitting Nauka with handrails and cables. Both spacewalks will be broadcast live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

New space investigations recently delivered aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon are just getting under way aboard the orbiting lab. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur kicked off the Genes In Space-8 study today to explore how medicines may act differently in microgravity. A student-designed experiment, started today by NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough, looks at the mating habits of tardigrades living inside mixture tubes and stowed in a NanoRacks research device.

Kimbrough also swapped out science components inside the Fluids Integrated Rack. Hoshide worked in the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace cleaning and removing sample cartridges. Vande Hei installed a new incubator, a temperature controlled device that supports a variety of biology and physics research, in JAXA’s Kibo laboratory module.

The next spacewalk following the Russian excursions is planned for Sept. 12 with Hoshide and Pesquet. The duo reviewed procedures today tasked for the scheduled six-and-a-half hour excursion. They will exit the U.S. Quest airlock to modify the Port-4 (P4) truss structure preparing it for a new Roll-Out Solar Array due to arrive next year aboard the Space Cargo Dragon space freighter.

New Dragon Science Under Way Ahead of Friday’s Spacewalk

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the International Space Station on Aug. 30, 2021.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the International Space Station on Aug. 30, 2021.

The Expedition 65 crew continued unloading a variety of cargo including rodents from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon today. The International Space Station residents are also headlong into preparations for two Russian spacewalks and one U.S. spacewalk.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) spent Wednesday morning transferring rodents from the Cargo Dragon into a habitat in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The animals are being observed for the Rodent Research Demonstration-1 experiment that is exploring how microgravity affects the healing process.

Space botany is also a critical part of the station research program as scientists learn to support astronauts longer and farther in space. During a break in today’s rodent transfers, Kimbrough serviced petri plates for the new APEX-08 investigation that is studying how plants adapt to space-caused stress.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei also partnered together unpacking science gear from Dragon. McArthur installed a new NanoRacks module, recently delivered aboard the U.S. space freighter, during the morning that will soon host science experiments. Vande Hei helped out in the afternoon continuing to unload the more than 4,800 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware.

Pesquet will join Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for a spacewalk on Sept. 12 to modify the station’s Port-4 (P4) truss structure. They will install a modification kit that will prepare the P4 for future Roll-Out Solar Array installation work. Hoshide worked Wednesday afternoon cleaning their U.S. spacesuit cooling loops today with assistance from Vande Hei.

The first two spacewalks will be conducted by Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. The duo will first exit the Poisk airlock on Friday at 10:35 a.m. EDT to route and mate power and ethernet cables on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory. The second spacewalk will be on Sept. 9 to install handrails and finish the cable work on Nauka. NASA TV will broadcast both excursions live.

Crew Unpacks Dragon and Gears Up for Spacewalks

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet works during a spacewalk on June 25 to install the second roll out solar array on the station's Port-6 truss structure.
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet works during a spacewalk on June 25 to install the second roll out solar array on the station’s Port-6 truss structure.

The Expedition 65 crew is unpacking brand new science experiments that arrived Monday when the SpaceX Cargo Dragon docked to the International Space Station. Two cosmonauts are also getting ready for the first of two spacewalks to power up Russia’s new science module.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur opened the Cargo Dragon’s hatch and entered the U.S. space freighter about two hours after it docked to the Harmony module’s forward port on Monday morning. Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) followed her shortly after and began unloading over 4,800 pounds of cargo including some of the 2,300 pounds of new science experiments.

NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei started transferring research gear and preserved samples Tuesday morning from Dragon into science freezers, incubators, and other locations. The new experiments will look at how microgravity affects plant genetics, robotic assistants, bone tissue and astronaut vision among other phenomena.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) also joined his crewmates and helped to unpack the new space shipment. The three-time station visitor is also preparing for another spacewalk set for Sept. 12 with Pesquet. He worked on a 360-degree virtual reality camera that will film him and Pesquet during the spacewalk and began filling U.S. spacesuit water tanks. The duo will begin preparing the Port-4 (P4) truss structure for a new Roll-Out Solar Array.

Two cosmonauts are gearing up for the first pair of up to 11 spacewalks to outfit the Nauka multipurpose laboratory for science operations. Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov will exit the Poisk airlock on Friday at 10:35 a.m. EDT to route and mate power and ethernet cables on Nauka. The duo will go out again on Sept. 9 to install handrails and finish the cable work on the new module that docked to the Zvezda service module on July 29.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Successfully Docks to Station

Aug. 30, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter; the SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragon vehicles; and Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.
Aug. 30, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter; the SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragon vehicles; and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.

While the International Space Station was traveling about 260 miles over the Western Australia, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the forward-facing port of the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module at 10:30 a.m. EDT, Monday, Aug. 30. Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA monitored operations.

Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:

Building bone with byproducts
REducing Arthritis Dependent Inflammation First Phase (READI FP) evaluates the effects of microgravity and space radiation on the growth of bone tissue and tests whether bioactive metabolites, which include substances such as antioxidants formed when food is broken down, might protect bones during spaceflight. The metabolites that will be tested come from plant extracts generated as waste products in wine production. Protecting the health of crew members from the effects of microgravity is crucial for the success of future long-duration space missions. This study could improve scientists’ understanding of the physical changes that cause bone loss and identify potential countermeasures. This insight also could contribute to prevention and treatment of bone loss on Earth, particularly in post-menopausal women.

Keeping an eye on eyes
Retinal Diagnostics tests whether a small, light-based device can capture images of the retinas of astronauts to document progression of vision problems known as Space-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS). The device uses a commercially available lens approved for routine clinical use and is lightweight, mobile, and noninvasive. The videos and images will be downlinked to test and train models for detecting common signs of SANS in astronauts. The investigation is sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency) with the German Aerospace Center Institute of Space Medicine and European Astronaut Centre.

Robotic helpers
The Nanoracks-GITAI Robotic Arm will demonstrate the microgravity versatility and dexterity of a robot designed by GITAI Japan Inc. Results could support development of robotic labor to support crew activities and tasks, as well as inform servicing, assembly, and manufacturing tasks while in orbit. Robotic support could lower costs and improve crew safety by having robots take on tasks that could expose crew members to hazards. The technology also has applications in extreme and potentially dangerous environments on Earth, including disaster relief, deep-sea excavation, and servicing nuclear power plants. The experiment will be conducted inside the Nanoracks Bishop Airlockthe space station’s first commercial airlock.

Putting materials to the test
MISSE-15 NASA is one of a series of investigations on Alpha Space’s Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility, which is testing how the space environment affects the performance and durability of specific materials and components. These tests provide insights that support development of better materials needed for space exploration. Testing materials in space has the potential to significantly speed up their development. Materials capable of standing up to space also have potential applications in harsh environments on Earth and for improved radiation protection, better solar cells, and more durable concrete.

Helping plants deal with stress
Plants grown under microgravity conditions typically display evidence of stress.  Advanced Plant EXperiment-08 (APEX-08) examines the role of compounds known as polyamines in the response of the small, flowering plant thale cress to microgravity stress. Because expression of the genes involved in polyamine metabolism remain the same in space as on the ground, plants do not appear to use polyamines to respond to stress in microgravity. APEX-08 attempts to engineer a way for them to do so. Results could help identify key targets for genetic engineering of plants more suited to microgravity.

Easier drug delivery
The Faraday Research Facility is a multipurpose unit that uses the space station’s EXPRESS payload rack systems, which enable quick, simple integration of multiple payloads . On this first flight, the facility hosts a Houston Methodist Research Institute experiment and two STEM collaborations, including “Making Space for Girls” with the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council in Orlando, Florida.

The Faraday Nanofluidic Implant Communication Experiment  (Faraday-NICE) tests an implantable, remote-controlled drug delivery system using sealed containers of saline solution as surrogate test subjects. The device could provide an alternative to bulky, cumbersome infusion pumps, a possible game changer for long-term management of chronic conditions on Earth. Remote-controlled drug delivery could simplify administration for people with limitations.

partnership between Faraday and Girls Scouts allows troops to play a role in conducting the control experiments, including providing them with images of the same experiments that are happening in space. The studies involve plant growth, ant colonization, and the brine shrimp lifecycle.

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 long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through Artemis.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.