Space Botany and Biology Studies Under Way Benefitting Earth

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur seemingly juggles fresh peppers and avocados that were just delivered to the station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon resupply ship.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur seemingly juggles fresh peppers and avocados that were just delivered to the station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon resupply ship.

Cotton plants and kidney cells were the dominant research topics aboard the International Space Station today. NASA TV will also broadcast a preview on Monday of two upcoming Expedition 65 spacewalks.

The orbiting lab is hosting a variety of life forms to help researchers understand how weightlessness affects biology. Observations provide insights often advancing health and improving conditions for humans on and off the Earth.

During Friday morning, NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough harvested cotton plants growing for the TICTOC botany study. The investigation looks at gene expression and root growth in microgravity which may improve both space agriculture and cotton cultivation on Earth.

The Kidney Cells-02 investigation is under way this week following its delivery aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon resupply ship on Saturday. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur collaborated on the biotechnology study today that is seeking treatments for conditions such as kidney disease and osteoporosis affecting both astronauts and Earthlings.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet worked on a variety of science hardware on Friday ensuring orbital research continues at full pace. Hoshide, currently on his third spaceflight, serviced medical imaging gear the crew uses regularly for eye checks. Pesquet, who is working his second station mission, stowed a small incubator after the completion of a study exploring how drugs work in space. The European Space Agency astronaut then swapped samples inside the Fluid Science Laboratory for a foam study potentially impacting consumer products, fire safety and the petroleum industry.

Kimbrough and Pesquet will go on two spacewalks set for June 16 and 20. The duo will spend six-and-half hours on both excursions installing a new pair of solar arrays robotically-extracted overnight from the Cargo Dragon’s trunk. NASA TV will go live on Monday at 2 p.m. EDT with station managers discussing the upcoming spacewalk activities to augment the station’s power system.

Over in the Russian segment of the space station, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov worked on a variety of communications gear during the morning. After lunchtime, the duo split up to inventory cargo transferred to and from the ISS Progress 77 cargo craft and inspect the Zvezda service module.

Robotics Prepping Station for Upcoming Solar Array Spacewalks

At center, Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei pose with astronauts Shane Kimbrough (far left) and Thomas Pesquet (far right) who are in U.S. spacesuits.
At center, Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei pose with astronauts Shane Kimbrough (far left) and Thomas Pesquet (far right) who are in spacesuits.

Mission controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove a new pair of solar arrays from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship tonight. Four Expedition 65 astronauts are also training for robotics activities to support two spacewalks scheduled to begin next week.

Packed inside the unpressurized segment of the Cargo Dragon, also known as its trunk, is a pair of unique solar arrays that will soon be attached to the International Space Station’s Port-6 truss structure. Also called iROSA, or ISS Roll Out Solar Arrays, they will be extracted tonight from Dragon’s trunk by robotics controllers remotely commanding the Canadarm2. It will be staged on the truss structure where two spacewalkers will install it on the station starting next week.

In the meantime, Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet are preparing for those two installation spacewalks planned for June 16 and 20. The duo joined fellow flight engineers Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur on Thursday afternoon for computerized training to prepare for the robotics activities necessary to support the solar array installation work.

Kimbrough and Pesquet this week have been inspecting their spacesuits, organizing their tools and readying the U.S. Quest airlock where they will stage both spacewalks. They will set their spacesuit batteries to battery power at 8 a.m. EDT on both days signifying the start of their spacewalk. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of both spacewalks at 6:30 a.m.

Science is still ongoing aboard the orbital lab as the astronauts and mission controllers get ready for the two spacewalks.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Pesquet took turns wearing a virtual reality headset and clicking a trackball for the Time Perception experiment. Kimbrough inventoried medical supplies and photographed cotton plants growing for the TICTOC space botany study. McArthur worked on a pharmaceutical freeze-drying study while Vande Hei loaded a CubeSat deployer for upcoming satellite deployments.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy checked on Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 resupply ship gear today. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov assisted with the Soyuz work and worked throughout the day on Russian life support and computer maintenance.

New Dragon Science Under Way during Spacewalk Preps

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei poses for a playful portrait with astronauts Shane Kimbrough (left) and Thomas Pesquet (right) who are trying on their U.S. spacesuits.
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei poses for a playful portrait with astronauts Shane Kimbrough (left) and Thomas Pesquet (right) who are trying on their U.S. spacesuits.

Kidney cells, oral health and pharmaceuticals were the science highlights aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday. The Expedition 65 crew is also continuing to ramp up for a pair of spacewalks set to begin next week.

New experiments delivered Saturday aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon resupply ship are already under way on the orbiting lab. This includes the Kidney Cells-02 study that NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei took turns working on today.

The duo removed the kidney study’s hardware from the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory for placement and operations inside the Life Science Glovebox. The biotechnology experiment may provide a new understanding of how kidney diseases develop leading to new treatments impacting humans on and off the Earth.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet collaborated on the new Oral Biofilms study during Wednesday morning. Hoshide started the experiment retrieving sample packs from a science freezer and reconfiguring fluid flows to the samples. Pesquet followed that up by turning off the fluid flows and stowing the samples back in a science freezer. The experiment observes how bacteria is affected by microgravity and investigates ways to counteract any potential harmful changes. Results could also have a positive influence for maintaining oral health in space and on Earth.

Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough spent the morning setting up gear in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to explore freeze-drying as a way to preserve medicines for long periods of time. The experiment, known as Lyophilization-2, could benefit pharmaceutical and other industries on Earth.

Kimbrough and Pesquet later joined each other during the afternoon for a conference with spacewalk specialists on the ground. The duo is scheduled for two spacewalks taking place on June 16 and 20 to install a new pair of solar arrays on the station’s Port-6 truss segment.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov stayed focused on their contingent of Russian maintenance and research today. Novitskiy worked on orbital plumbing tasks before setting up hardware to observe Earth’s nighttime airglow in the near ultra-violet wavelength. Dubrov checked on smoke detectors and ventilation systems then moved on to more space exercise research.

Human Research, Spacewalk Preps as Dragon Cargo Ops Continue

Expedition 65 astronauts (clockwise from left) Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Mark Vande Hei and Akihiko Hoshide are pictured inside the Harmony module.
Expedition 65 astronauts (clockwise from left) Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Mark Vande Hei and Akihiko Hoshide are pictured inside the Harmony module.

The Expedition 65 crew members are helping researchers today understand how living in space affects the human body. Two astronauts are also getting ready for a pair of spacewalks while the SpaceX Cargo Dragon continues being unpacked at the International Space Station.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for vein scans using electrodes and the Ultrasound-2 device on Tuesday. The duo took turns scanning each other’s heart, neck, shoulder and leg veins for the Vascular Echo study that investigates cardiovascular health in space.

Vande Hei later assisted NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur unloading a variety of cargo delivered aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon. The duo started the day with the rest of their crewmates, including astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, reviewing safety procedures necessary while Dragon is docked at the station.

Kimbrough and Pesquet continue gearing up for two spacewalks planned for June 16 and 20 to install a new pair of solar arrays recently delivered in the Cargo Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. The duo first checked out spacesuit helmet cameras and lights then reviewed their spacewalk procedures using specialized 3-D software today.

Over in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment, Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov explored ways to improve exercise in space to maintain crew health. The duo later completed reconfiguring the Poisk module where last week’s seven-hour and 19-minute spacewalk was staged.

Astronauts Unload Dragon, Prep for Two U.S. Spacewalks

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough (from left) and Thomas Pesquet pose for a portrait while working on U.S. spacesuits.
Astronauts Shane Kimbrough (from left) and Thomas Pesquet pose for a portrait while working on U.S. spacesuits.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is open for business at the International Space Station following its automated docking early Saturday. Now, the Expedition 65 crew turns its attention to a pair of U.S. spacewalks to upgrade the orbiting lab’s power system.

Flight Engineer Megan McArthur and Commander Akihiko Hoshide worked throughout Monday unpacking and activating science experiments delivered Saturday aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon. The U.S. space freighter launched from Kennedy Space Center on Thursday carrying over 7,300 pounds of new science, supplies and solar arrays to replenish the orbiting lab.

McArthur started the day transferring research hardware from Dragon to begin work for the Kidney Cells-02 study that seeks to improve treatments for kidney stones and osteoporosis. She followed that up configuring MERLIN and POLAR science freezers containing biological samples inside Dragon.

NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei assisted the duo with the cargo transfers throughout Monday.

Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet partnered together Monday afternoon readying the U.S. Quest airlock and their U.S. spacesuits for two spacewalks set for June 16 and 20. The experienced spacewalkers, who had two spacewalks together in 2017 during Expedition 50, will work both days to install the first two of six new solar arrays on the space station’s integrated truss structure. Robotics controllers will soon command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract the new pair of solar arrays from Dragon’s trunk and stage it in time for the installation spacewalks.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov spent the morning testing satellite navigation gear, studying space exercise and replacing orbital plumbing gear. The duo then wrapped up stowing and inventorying the tools they used during a seven-hour and 19 minute spacewalk on June 2.

Editor’s note: This post was updated June 8 with changes to crew activities.

SpaceX Cargo Craft Docks to Station

June 5, 2020: International Space Station Configuration.
June 5, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon vehicles, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus-15 resupply ship, all three from the United States, and Russia’s Progress 77 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-18 crew ship.

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 250 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 5:09 a.m. EDT, Saturday, June 5. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur were monitoring docking operations for Dragon.

This 22nd contracted resupply mission for SpaceX delivers the new ISS Roll-out Solar Arrays (iROSA) to the space station in the trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. The robotic Canadarm2 will extract the arrays and astronauts will install them during spacewalks planned for June 16 and 20.

The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 22nd contracted commercial resupply mission at 1:29 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 3 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:

Symbiotic squid and microbes

The Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions (UMAMI) study uses bobtail squid and bacteria to examine the effects of spaceflight on interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts. This type of relationship is known as symbiosis. Beneficial microbes play a significant role in the normal development of animal tissues and in maintaining human health, but gravity’s role in shaping these interactions is not well understood. This experiment could support the development of measures to preserve astronaut health and identify ways to protect and enhance these relationships for applications on Earth.

Producing tougher cotton

Cotton is used in many products, but its production uses significant amounts of water and agricultural chemicals. The Targeting Improved Cotton Through On-orbit Cultivation

(TICTOC) study focuses on improving cotton’s resilience, water-use, and carbon storage. On Earth, root growth depends upon gravity. TICTOC could help define which environmental factors and genes control root development in microgravity. Scientists could use what they learn to develop cotton varieties that require less water and pesticide use.

Water bears take on space

Tardigrades, also known as water bears for their appearance when viewed under a microscope, are creatures that can tolerate extreme environments. The Cell Science-04 experiment aims to identify the genes involved in water bear adaptation and survival in these high-stress environments. The results could advance scientists’ understanding of the stress factors that affect humans in space.

On-the-spot ultrasound

The handheld, commercial Butterfly IQ Ultrasound device could provide critical medical capabilities to crews on long-term spaceflights where immediate ground support is not an option. This study will demonstrate the use of an ultrasound unit alongside a mobile computing device in microgravity. Its results have potential applications for medical care in remote and isolated settings on Earth.

Developing better robot drivers

An ESA (European Space Agency) investigation, Pilote, test the effectiveness of remotely operating robotic arms and space vehicles using virtual reality and haptic interfaces. Pilote studies existing and new technologies in microgravity by comparing those recently developed for teleoperation to those used to pilot the Canadarm2 and Soyuz spacecraft. The study also compares astronaut performance in using the interfaces on the ground and during spaceflight. Results could help optimize workstations on the space station and future space vehicles for missions to the Moon and Mars.

Bonus power

New solar panels headed to station are made up of compact sections that roll open like a long rug. The ISS Roll-out Solar Arrays (iROSA) are based on a previous demonstration of roll-out panels performed on station. They are expected to provide an increase in energy available for research and station activities. NASA plans a total of six new arrays to augment the station’s power supply with the first pair launching on this flight. The Expedition 65 crew is scheduled to begin preparations for spacewalks to supplement the station’s existing rigid panels this summer. The same solar array technology is planned to power NASA’s Gateway in lunar orbit.

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 https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV Broadcasts Early Saturday Arrival of Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with the Cargo Dragon resupply ship from the Kennedy Space Center on June 3, 2021. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with the Cargo Dragon resupply ship from the Kennedy Space Center on June 3, 2021. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

SpaceX Dragon is on track to arrive at the International Space Station tomorrow morning June 5, with an expected capture of the cargo spacecraft around 5 a.m. EDT. NASA Television coverage will begin at 3:30 a.m. Watch live at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

When it arrives to the space station, Dragon will automatically dock to the space-facing side (zenith) of the station’s Harmony module with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur monitoring operations. Dragon lifted off on Thursday, June 3, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cargo spacecraft with more than 7,300 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory. Dragon will join four other spacecraft currently at the space station.

Expedition 65 Crew Preps for Science-Packed Cargo Dragon

Expedition 65 astronauts (from right) Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei share a light moment aboard the space station.
Expedition 65 astronauts (from right) Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei share a light moment aboard the space station.

New science, supplies and solar arrays are packed inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle as it orbits toward the International Space Station. Two cosmonauts are also cleaning up following a successful spacewalk early Wednesday.

Five Expedition 65 astronauts are relaxing today, but will be on duty Saturday unpacking time-sensitive science experiments from the new Cargo Dragon resupply ship. NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will be monitoring Dragon during its rendezvous and approach on Saturday until its automated docking about 5 a.m. EDT. NASA TV begins its live coverage at 3:30 a.m.

Afterward, the duo will join Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Pesquet and Commander Akihiko Hoshide transferring cargo from the U.S. space freighter into the station. They will focus first on installing and activating new experiments researching rodents, microbes, sea life and plants.

Space biology studies help scientists understand how microgravity impacts a variety of life forms. This leads to new insights and developments that improve human health, innovate Earth industries and commercialize space.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are cleaning up today following a seven-hour and 19-minute spacewalk on Wednesday to ready the station’s Russian segment for a new module. The duo spent Friday servicing their Orlan spacesuit components and stowing their spacewalking tools.

The spacewalkers worked early Wednesday to deconfigure the Pirs docking compartment which will undock from the Zvezda service module after 20 years later this summer. This will open up Zvezda’s Earth-facing port for the arrival of Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module planned to arrive shortly after Pirs’ departure.

Crew Focusing on Russian Spacewalk, U.S. Cargo Mission This Week

Roscosmos cosmonauts (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are pictured inside BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.
Roscosmos cosmonauts (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are pictured inside BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

Two cosmonauts will exit the International Space Station early Wednesday to begin the first spacewalk of the Expedition 65 mission. Meanwhile, the next SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission to resupply the orbital lab is counting down to its launch on Thursday.

Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are sleeping in Tuesday ahead of six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin Wednesday at 1:20 a.m. EDT. The duo will exit the Poisk module in Orlan spacesuits and ready the Pirs docking compartment for its undocking and disposal later this year. Pirs will be replaced a couple of days after its departure by the new Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

The first-time spacewalkers will also replace hardware and install science experiments on the station’s Russian segment. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 1 a.m.

On Thursday, SpaceX will launch its upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle to the space station at 1:29 p.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center. It will automatically dock Saturday at 5 a.m. to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter (IDA). NASA TV is broadcasting both mission events live.

The Cargo Dragon will deliver about 7,300 pounds of science, supplies and hardware to replenish the seven-member crew. This includes the first of three pairs of new solar arrays that will be installed on an upcoming spacewalk to augment the orbital lab’s power system.

NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough prepared for the Cargo Dragon’s arrival with 3D computer training today. They will be monitoring Dragon early Saturday ensuring it safely approaches the station during its automated rendezvous and docking.

Biology on Station Ahead of Spacewalk, Cargo Dragon Mission

Expedition 65 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide perform maintenance on a pair of U.S. spacesuits.
Expedition 65 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide perform maintenance on a pair of U.S. spacesuits.

Human research and space botany kept the Expedition 65 crew busy today. The International Space Station residents also stayed focused on next week’s spacewalk and packed a U.S. cargo craft.

Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet worked throughout Thursday scanning their leg, foot, arm, neck and lower back muscles with an ultrasound device. The duo performed the scans before and after working out on the advanced resistive exercise device. The long-running Myotones experiment, ongoing since 2011, measures how space affects muscle tone, stiffness and elasticity.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide installed an incubator inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module for upcoming research for the Kidney Cell-02 study. The biology study could lead to improved treatments for kidney stones and osteoporosis for humans living on and off the Earth. The three-time station visitor then joined NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei packing the U.S. Cygnus space freighter ahead of its departure at the end of June.

Vande Hei and Kimbrough also took turns during the day contributing to a space agriculture study that started in October of last year. The Plant Water Management explores hydroponics in microgravity and may also improve watering systems on Earth.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov partnered together Thursday morning pedaling on an exercise bike to evaluate their cardiovascular function. The duo then spent the rest of the day configuring Orlan spacesuits for a spacewalk scheduled on June 2 to service Russian hardware and install science experiments.

The very next day SpaceX will launch its upgraded Cargo Dragon vehicle from Kennedy Space Center to the station at 1:29 p.m. EDT. It will automatically dock on June 5 at 5 a.m. to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter carrying about 7,300 pounds of science, supplies and hardware. Dragon is also carrying the first set of new solar arrays that will be installed on upcoming spacewalk to augment the orbital lab’s power system.