Dragon Leaves Station, Returns to Earth with Valuable Science

Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship's release
Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Tuesday morning. Credit: @AstroDrewMorgan

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 20th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

Generating a nutritional meal

Planning ways to supply food for a multi-year mission on the Moon or Mars may require making food and nutrients in space. BioNutrients demonstrates a technology that enables on-demand production of nutrients needed during long-duration space missions. Although designed for space, this system also could help provide nutrition for people in remote areas of our planet.

Toward printing human organs in space

Biological printing of the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillaries, is difficult in Earth’s gravity. The BioFabrication Facility (BFF) attempts to take the first steps toward the printing of human organs and tissues in microgravity. The facility may also help maintain the health of crews on deep space exploration missions by producing food and personalized pharmaceuticals on demand.

Helping the heart

The Engineered Heart Tissues (EHTs) study looks at how human heart tissue functions in space. It uses unique 3D tissues made from heart cells derived from human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSCs), essentially adult stem cells. Researchers expect significant differences in function, structure and gene expression between EHTs in microgravity and those on the ground. Understanding these differences could help them find ways to prevent or mitigate problematic changes on future long-duration missions.

Biofilm festival

Samples from the Space Biofilms investigation, which examines microbial species and their formation of biofilms, are returning on Dragon. Biofilms are collections of one or more types of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and protists – that grow on wet surfaces. Better control of biofilms may help maintain crewed spacecraft and protect the health and safety of crew members as well as help prevent the introduction of Earth-based microbes to planetary bodies on which humans land.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to 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.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts

NASA TV Broadcasts Dragon Departure Tuesday Morning

Astronaut Andrew Morgan will monitor the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
Astronaut Andrew Morgan will monitor the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship when ground controllers command its robotic release Tuesday morning.

Filled with more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Tuesday, April 7. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 8:45 a.m. EDT.

Robotic flight controllers at mission control in Houston will issue commands to release Dragon using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, and Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan of NASA will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Station Gets Ready to Send off Cargo Ship and Welcome New Crew

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured during Expedition 58 before its release from the Canadarm2 in January of 2019.

A Russian rocket rolled out to its launch pad today as a new crew gets ready for liftoff to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew will send off a U.S. cargo craft on Tuesday packed with science and hardware.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-16 crew ship stands at its launch pad in Kazakhstan today after rolling out from its processing facility at daybreak. The rocket will launch on Thursday at 4:05 a.m. carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The new Expedition 63 trio will dock to the Poisk module at 10:15 a.m. to begin a 195-day mission. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities live starting at 3 a.m.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are loading the final critical research samples aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean carrying live mice, plant cells and other biological samples for analysis on Earth. Dragon is also packed with station hardware including spacesuit components for servicing and inspection.

Morgan will be monitoring departure activities when ground controllers command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. EDT. This will end a 29-day stay at the Harmony module. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 8:45 a.m.

Station Commander Oleg Skripochka is getting ready for his departure when he Morgan and Meir return to Earth on April 17. The veteran cosmonaut will be packing the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship with personal items and station cargo over the next week-and-a-half.

 

Science Packing, Robotics Work Ahead of Spaceship Traffic

The space station flies into an orbital sunset
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship (at right) and a pair of the space station’s main solar arrays foreshadow a trek into an orbital sunset.

A U.S. cargo craft is being packed for its return to Earth next week while robotics controllers get ready to install a new European science platform on the International Space Station. The Expedition 62 crew also continued its ongoing human research activities.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon space freighter is being loaded this week with thousands of pounds of science experiments and station hardware. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove Dragon from the Harmony module after its hatch is closed early Monday. Dragon will be released back into Earth orbit Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan will wrap up the science packing late Sunday. The duo will be transferring live mice, plant cells and other time-critical research samples into Dragon so scientists can understand how genetic expression changes in space.

Human research continued on board the station today as Meir examined and captured imagery of Morgan’s eyes with a fundoscope to learn how space-caused upward fluid shifts affect vision. Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos measured the station’s radiation environment then explored how future crews could pilot spaceships and robotic rovers on planetary expeditions.

Bartolomeo, an external science payload from the European Space Agency (ESA), will soon be installed on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The complex installation work is being choreographed from the ground as flight controllers remotely command the Canadarm2 and the Dextre fine-tuned robotic hand. The ESA science device will enable the command and control of numerous external investigations on Columbus.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, the Expedition 63 crew continued reviewing its mission procedures today then took a break for traditional pre-launch activities. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch to the station April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. After a six-hour ride to their new home in space, the trio will begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

Exercise Research, Spaceship Packing During Robotics Work

The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre extract Bartolomeo
The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre, the fine-tuned robotic hand, are remotely controlled on Earth to extract Bartolomeo from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Exercise tests aboard the International Space Station today are helping doctors evaluate the best ways to keep crews healthy and fit on long-term space missions. The Expedition 62 crew also readied cargo and crew ships for departure as a variety of other life science experiments took place.

Aerobic fitness in space is critically important so astronauts can successfully support physically demanding mission events such as spacewalks and spaceship landings. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan took turns testing their fitness on an exercise bike today while attached to sensors. Doctors will use the data to understand crew health and adapt exercise techniques so astronauts can maintain strong bones and muscles, and add to the body of knowledge that is helping astronauts readapt to gravity after long missions.

Afterward, Meir had a blood pressure check for the Vascular Echo cardiovascular study. Morgan checked on mice being observed for space-caused changes to their genetic expression.

The duo also continued loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply with station hardware and science experiments for analysis on Earth. Dragon will depart the station on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT and splashdown in the Pacific a few hours later. Meir and Morgan are also packing personal items to get ready for their return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos worked a pair of different Russian investigations today. He first studied how weightlessness affects blood circulation in the heart. The veteran cosmonaut then activated gear that observes the Earth’s atmosphere at nighttime in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.

The new Bartolomeo science platform from the European Space Agency is in the process of being installed to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module. Robotics controllers are remotely guiding Bartolomeo in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground teams will finalize the installation over two days.

Space Biology on Station Ahead of Cargo and Crew Ship Activities

Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are pictured in front of the hatch to the Space Dragon resupply ship shortly after it was attached to the Harmony module on March 9.

The Expedition 62 crew wrapped up the workweek with more space biology research to understand what living in space does to the human body. The International Space Station is also getting ready to send off a U.S. cargo craft and swap crews.

A 3D bioprinter inside the station’s Columbus laboratory module is being deactivated and stowed today after a week of test runs without using human cells. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir packed up the device that seeks to demonstrate manufacturing human organs to help patients on Earth. The Bio-Fabrication Facility may even lead to future crews printing their own food and medicines on missions farther away from Earth.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan checked out hardware for an experiment exploring how to create heart cells on the orbiting lab. The investigation may lead to advanced treatments for cardiac conditions on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Meir are also getting the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship ready for its departure on April 6. The duo gathered U.S. spacesuit components and packed them inside Dragon for engineering analysis on the ground.

During the morning, Commander Oleg Skripochka continued servicing a variety of laptop computers in the station’s Russian segment. After lunchtime, the veteran cosmonaut serviced hardware for a pair of experiments, one looking at the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the other to understand the degradation of station gear.

Back on Earth at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in final preparations for their April 9 launch to the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stepped out of the Cosmonaut Hotel today for pre-launch activities celebrating spaceflight heroes such as Yuri Gagarin.

Robotics Work, Space Biology Keep Station Humming

The International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is pictured as the International Space Station flew into an orbital sunrise above the Pacific Ocean.

Robotic controllers unloaded new research hardware off a U.S. cargo craft today for installation outside the International Space Station. Inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 62 crew continued exploring microgravity’s impact on a variety of life forms.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today offered the Bartolomeo science payload system for installation on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Robotics engineers on the ground commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract Bartolomeo from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk and stage it for installation later. The European research device will enable numerous external science experiments to be conducted and controlled outside the space station.

Botany, biology and physics were the focus of today’s research aboard the orbiting lab. The space science work is helping NASA keep astronauts safe and healthy as it plans missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA spent a couple of hours on botany research learning how to cultivate vegetables and fruits in space. She also continued the Vascular Echo study attaching a sensor to her leg that monitored her arteries during a light exercise session.

Afterward, she joined fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan servicing and photographing samples of gut microbes. The study seeks to understand how microgravity enriches and depletes the microbes that affect crew health

The duo also unpacked samples that were exposed to the harsh environment of space outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Scientists want to understand what happens to materials such as paint, metals and other substances that could make up future spacecraft and habitats experiencing long-term space radiation and differing gravity environments.

Commander Oleg Skripochka updated the station’s inventory system today after unloading and organizing cargo inside the Russian Progress 74 space freighter. The veteran cosmonaut also worked on computers and communications gear before some research on crew dynamics.

The next to crew to launch to the station, Expedition 63, is in Kazakhstan today getting fitted in their Sokol launch and entry and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship seats. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will lift off April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to begin a 195-day mission on the orbiting lab.

Crew Begins Cardiac Research and Continues Unloading New Science Experiments

The atmospheric glow above Earth's limb.
The amber hue hovering just above the Earth’s limb is the atmospheric glow with the Milky Way’s stars sparkling in the background as photographed from the space station.

Bone cells and now heart cells are on the space research agenda for the Expedition 62 crew. The International Space Station continues gearing up for more space investigations recently delivered aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir turned her attention today to a new experiment exploring cardiac activity in microgravity. She tended to heart cells swapping media that nourishes the samples being observed and manipulated with magnetic sensors. The results could inform measures to keep astronauts healthy on long-term missions and possibly treat heart conditions on Earth.

Bone health is also important for humans living and working on and off the Earth. Over in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan worked in the Life Science Glovebox servicing bone cell samples for an experiment that began in February. That research is comparing samples nurtured in weightlessness to a set of samples that are magnetically levitated in a lab on Earth. Insights could prove valuable when treating bone ailments such as osteoporosis.

The pair also split their time on several other investigations ranging from radiation detection to protein crystals. Radiation detectors were retrieved from Dragon and installed throughout the station to characterize the orbital lab’s radiation dosage and distribution. The crew also looked at protein crystals that grow better in space than on Earth, for a pair of studies, PCG-10 and JAXA Moderate Temp PCG, supporting the development of more effective medications.

Commander Oleg Skripochka focused on Russian communications gear throughout the day testing two-way audio and video satellite links. He also spent some time exploring advanced photography techniques to locate Earth targets.

Crew Sets Up New Science During Ongoing Bone Research

NASA astronauts and Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts and Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are pictured inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” shortly after capturing the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

The Expedition 62 crew started unloading and activating new science experiments, which were delivered Monday aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir opened Dragon’s hatch shortly after its capture and installation on Monday. The duo quickly retrieved critical research samples and installed science hardware, setting up operations aboard the International Space Station.

Mice are living on the station now after their ride to space aboard Dragon. Morgan placed the rodents in specialized habitats for a JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) investigation exploring how microgravity affects genetic expression. Observations will give doctors insights into the how human body will adapt to longer missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Meir collected a science freezer and commercial research hardware from inside Dragon and began setting up the gear throughout the orbital lab. In the afternoon, she got back to work on ongoing bone research tending to bone cells being observed to understand Earth ailments such as osteoporosis.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos collected air samples from inside Dragon shortly after its hatch opening Monday. The veteran cosmonaut focused on Russian life support maintenance Tuesday morning before setting up Earth observation hardware during the afternoon.

Robotic Arm Captures Dragon Packed With Science

The 20th SpaceX Dragon resupply mission approaches the space station
The 20th SpaceX Dragon resupply mission approaches the space station.

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 262 miles over the Northeast Pacific near Vancouver, British Columbia, Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA grappled Dragon at 6:25 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2 with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan acting as a backup.

Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is now scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.

Here’s some of the research arriving at station:

New Facility Outside the Space Station

The Bartolomeo facility, created by ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus, attaches to the exterior of the European Columbus Module. Designed to provide new scientific opportunities on the outside of the space station for commercial and institutional users, the facility offers unobstructed views both toward Earth and into space. Potential applications include Earth observation, robotics, material science and astrophysics.

Studying the Human Intestine On a Chip

Organ-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Space on Human Enteric Physiology (Gut on Chip) examines the effect of microgravity and other space-related stress factors on biotechnology company Emulate’s human innervated Intestine-Chip (hiIC). This Organ-Chip device enables the study of organ physiology and diseases in a laboratory setting. It allows for automated maintenance, including imaging, sampling, and storage on orbit and data downlink for molecular analysis on Earth.

Growing Human Heart Cells

Generation of Cardiomyocytes From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiac Progenitors Expanded in Microgravity (MVP Cell-03) examines whether microgravity increases the production of heart cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The investigation induces stem cells to generate heart precursor cells and cultures those cells on the space station to analyze and compare with cultures grown on Earth.

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.