Time Perception, Immersive Exercise, and Nanoparticles Rule the Day

Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide, pictured inside the Columbus laboratory module, wears virtual reality goggles for a time perception study.
Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide, pictured inside the Columbus laboratory module, wears virtual reality goggles for a time perception study.

Wednesday’s activities aboard the International Space Station remained focused on science and maintenance. In preparation of Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module docking to the outpost the following day, July 29, Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy located and gathered equipment to set up temporary ventilation for the 43-foot long, 23-ton module. Live coverage of tomorrow’s event begins at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet took turns participating in a study that explores how astronauts perceive time in microgravity, which can impact physical and cognitive performance. Pesquet, along with NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Shane Kimbrough, continued operations for the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4. This physics study investigates ways to produce high-quality protein crystals in microgravity to benefit pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries on Earth.

Astronauts exercise two hours a day to help compensate for the loss of bone and muscle mass from living and working in weightlessness. However, their daily workout can quickly become repetitive in the closed and unchanging environment, leading to lack of motivation. The Immersive Exercise project aims to break the monotony with virtual reality (VR). In support of the first experiment session, Pesquet retrieved all the equipment and successfully completed the session by exercising on the bike with a VR headset.

Space gardening is key to sustaining human spaceflight as NASA and its international partners plan future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur and Kimbrough continued to work on the Plant Water Management study, an investigation that demonstrates how to operate hydroponics in microgravity. The duo conducted operations, set up, and configured hardware for the botany study that, eventually, may also improve watering systems on Earth.

Meanwhile, two astronauts worked on maintenance activities. Hoshide replaced holder and installed cartridges on the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) developed by JAXA. The ELF is a facility for materials science that melts levitating materials with a very high melting point, measures their properties, and solidifies them from a super-cooled state by taking advantage of the microgravity environment. In addition, Pesquet added ice bricks into the ESA-built Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer, or MELFI, for the space station. The ice bricks provide cooling, or incubation, to the samples stored inside double-cold bags, which are insulated stowage bags used to transport samples to and from the orbiting laboratory.

Cygnus Spaceship at Launch Pad as Crew Trains for Delivery Mission

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket is seen as it rolls out to Pad-0A, Monday, April 15, 2019 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The next U.S. spaceship to deliver goods to the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad in Virginia today. The Expedition 59 crew is training to capture the U.S. space freighter while also filming a virtual reality experience aboard the orbital lab.

Northrop Grumman is poised to launch its Cygnus resupply ship atop an Antares rocket Wednesday at 4:46 p.m. EDT. It will blast off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on a day-and-a-half long delivery trip to the station’s Unity module.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques will be waiting for Cygnus’ arrival Friday morning from inside the cupola. McClain will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus about 5:30 a.m. as Saint-Jacques backs her up. Robotics controllers will take over shortly after and remotely install the Cygnus to Unity’s Earth-facing point about two hours later.

The duo, supported by NASA astronaut Nick Hague, continued reviewing procedures and practicing robotics maneuvers today as Cygnus counts down to its Wednesday launch. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and capture activities live.

More virtual reality filming continued today and has been ongoing for several months now inside the orbital complex. The crew has been filming a 360° experience depicting life on the station for future viewing by audiences on Earth.