More Space Biology, Lab Upkeep Day Before Thanksgiving

Four Expedition 70 crewmates wish a Happy Thanksgiving from the International Space Station to the Earth below.
Four Expedition 70 crewmates wish a Happy Thanksgiving from the International Space Station to the Earth below. Watch the video on YouTube. Credit: NASA TV

All seven members of the Expedition 70 crew spent Wednesday continuing its space biology research and maintaining the upkeep of the International Space Station. The orbital septet will also observe the Thanksgiving holiday and share a traditional turkey meal aboard the space laboratory.

Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli, Satoshi Furukawa, and Andreas Mogensen kicked off the day with a periodic health evaluation checking each other’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. The trio also took turns using an otoscope examining their ear canals and eardrums. Doctors are constantly monitoring how living and working in microgravity affects an astronaut’s health.

Afterward, NASA’s Moghbeli processed liver stem samples inside the Life Science Glovebox for the Space AGE investigation exploring regenerative medicine technology. Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) worked in the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock removing lithium-ion batteries and installing research gear to be exposed to the space environment. Mogensen from ESA (European Space Agency) wore a specialized vest filled with sensors monitoring his heart and breathing for the Cardiobreath blood pressure study.

NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara performed orbital plumbing tasks in both the station’s Tranquility module and the SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft. She then filmed a video for students on Earth demonstrating how to use a microscope in the microgravity environment of the space station.

In the orbiting lab’s Roscosmos segment, five-time station visitor and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko swapped out life support and electronics gear. He also joined cosmonaut Nikolai Chub and tested communications with the Progress 84 cargo craft that is due to undock from the Poisk module and depart at the end of the month. Chub also partnered with Flight Engineer Konstantin Borisov for abdomen scans using an ultrasound device after breakfast to learn how microgravity affects the digestive system. Borisov later worked on ventilation systems in the Rassvet module.

On Thursday, the entire seven-member crew will take the day off, relax, and enjoy a hearty meal. The seven crewmates from four countries are due to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with items such as turkey, duck, quail, seafood, and cranberry sauce. Treats awaiting the crew include chocolate, pumpkin spice cappuccino, rice cake, and mochi. Crew preference is also considered when planning festive meals in space.

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

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Belated Thanksgiving Meal Ahead of Spacewalk and New Cargo Ships

NASA astronaut and spacewalker Andrew Morgan
NASA astronaut and spacewalker Andrew Morgan is pictured during the second spacewalk on Nov. 22, 2019, to repair the International Space Station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

The six-member Expedition 61 crew is relaxing today and enjoying a belated Thanksgiving meal after an intense week of biology research and spacewalk preparations. A Russian resupply ship also departed the International Space Station this morning as two more space freighters are poised to replenish the orbiting lab. The ISS Progress 73 cargo ship, loaded with trash, undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment and was deorbited, burning up over the Pacific Ocean.

The four astronauts and two cosmonauts on the orbiting lab were off-duty today sharing a Thanksgiving meal together after working all day during the U.S. holiday. Most of the fixings that dress a turkey on a dining table on Earth were available aboard the station’s galley including cornbread, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan were busy on Thursday finalizing research operations as they collected blood and cell samples from rodents. Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Christina Koch also assisted the duo in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Scientists on Earth will observe the samples to gain insights into afflictions such as cancer and diabetes potentially designing advanced therapies for humans on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Parmitano now turn their attention to Monday’s spacewalk to continue the complex repair job on a cosmic particle detector on the station’s truss. They will be employing complex and innovative repair techniques never performed in space to replace a faulty cooling pump on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The spacewalkers will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at 6:50 a.m. EST on Monday signifying the start of their venture. NASA TV begins its live broadcast at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka monitored the Progress 73 resupply ship as it undocked at 4:25 a.m. EST Friday completing its four-month mission at the station. It reentered the Earth’s atmosphere a few hours later and burned up safely over the south Pacific.

SpaceX is targeting Dec. 4 for the launch if its 19th commercial cargo mission to the space station. The Dragon space freighter would arrive on Dec. 7 delivering a variety of brand new research gear including Japan’s Hyperspectral Imager Suite, or HISUI.

Russia will follow SpaceX with the launch of its Progress 74 (74P) cargo craft on Dec. 6. The 74P will arrive on Dec. 9 for an automated docking to the Pirs docking compartment.

High-flying Turkey on Station Crew’s Thanksgiving Menu

The six International Space Station crew members, in orbit 260 miles above Earth, will enjoy a somewhat traditional Thanksgiving dinner but with a few tweaks.

While most Americans are roasting turkeys and emptying cranberry sauce out of cans, the station crew will be cutting open bags of freeze-dried, irradiated and thermostabilized foods.

Their menu will include traditional holiday fare with a space-food flair — irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized candied yams and freeze-dried green beans and mushrooms. The meal also will feature NASA’s own freeze-dried cornbread dressing — just add water. Dessert features thermostabilized cherry-blueberry cobbler.

The space station Expedition 42 crew is made up of Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA, Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov, Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Russia’s Roscosmos and Italian Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency.

Station food generally resembles that, for the most part, flown in space since the inception of the Space Shuttle Program some 30 years ago. NASA is researching and developing ways to extend the shelf-life of food needed for deep space missions, such as those to Mars, and to minimize the volume of packaging. The agency also is using the International Space Station as a laboratory to learn how to grow plants, such as lettuce, in space.

Future crew members spending Thanksgiving in space may have one traditional staple, fresh sweet potatoes. The sweet potato may be one of the crops chosen for crews to grow on deep space missions. It provides an important energy source — carbohydrate — as well as beta-carotene.

The sweet potato is able to adapt to a controlled environment with artificial sunlight. It is highly adaptable to a variety of vine-training architectures. The main shoot tip, or the end of the main vine, is the only really sensitive part. It sends hormones throughout the plant that stimulate root development, which is important since it is the roots that become the sweet potatoes. The side shoots, if picked when young, are tender and can be eaten in salads, improving the plant’s usefulness.

Scientists believe most food items in the transit food system on future deep space missions will resemble those used on the station. Advanced processing and packaging methods will be needed to provide extended shelf lives and improved nutrition for the longer missions. Stored food and salad crops will be used in the early stages of planetary stays until permanent living bases are constructed.