Astronauts Assembling Gear for Installation During Upcoming Spacewalk
The Expedition 55 crew members are getting their U.S. spacesuits and equipment ready for a spacewalk in two weeks. The Dragon cargo craft from SpaceX is nearly loaded with NASA science and gear ahead of its Saturday return to Earth.
NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are assembling hardware today that will be installed on the International Space Station when they conduct a spacewalk on May 16. The duo were assisted throughout the day by fellow NASA astronaut Scott Tingle scrubbing U.S. spacesuit water cooling loops and testing water samples for conductivity.
The veteran spacewalkers were mating repaired components from an external television camera group (ETVCG) that will be attached to the starboard side of the Destiny laboratory module. Their primary spacewalking task however, will be the swap out of thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.
Final packing is taking place inside the Dragon space freighter today as Tingle loads critical time-sensitive research samples inside the Earth-bound resupply ship. Robotics controllers will detach Dragon from the Harmony module Friday before releasing it Saturday at 9:24 a.m. from the grips of the Canadarm2. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the departure at 9 a.m. but will not televise its 3 p.m. splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Station Readies Dragon for Departure Ahead of Upcoming Spacewalk
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s stay at the International Space Station has been extended until Saturday after unfavorable conditions were reported at the splashdown zone in the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, time-sensitive payloads are still being readied for return to Earth as the crew wraps up final cargo packing.
Robotics controllers will operate the Canadarm2 to detach Dragon from the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Friday. It will be remotely released into Earth orbit Saturday at 9:24 a.m. EDT before finally splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 3 p.m. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring Dragon as it slowly backs away from the space station.
NASA TV’s live coverage of Dragon’s departure begins Saturday at 9 a.m. The space freighter’s parachuted splashdown 403 miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif. will not be televised.
Two NASA astronauts are looking ahead to their next spacewalk scheduled for May 16. Veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel took their body measurements today to ensure a proper fit inside their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will work outside the orbital lab for about 6.5 hours to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.
Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, who will assist the spacewalkers in two weeks, began configuring the Quest airlock where the 210th spacewalk at the station will be staged. He also trained to detect and clean ammonia from the spacesuits should they become contaminated during the maintenance spacewalk.
Dragon’s departure was pushed back from Wednesday after SpaceX personnel observed high sea states in the Pacific Ocean splashdown zone southwest of Long Beach, California. Its remotely controlled release from the Canadarm2 is now scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT with live NASA TV coverage beginning at 9 a.m. Dragon’s splashdown is targeted at about 3 p.m. but will not be seen on NASA TV.
Mice living on the station have been transferred to specialized habitats in Dragon. They will be studied on Earth to observe how their bones and muscles have changed during their stay in microgravity. Other critical biological samples preserved in science freezers, such as plants, insects and human tissue, have also been transferred into Dragon for retrieval and analysis.
The astronauts and cosmonauts living on the space station exercise every day to maintain strong bones and muscles on orbit. One of the workout machines, the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device (ARED), got a tune up today amid the Dragon close out activities. Flight Engineer Drew Feustel greased the ARED’s rails and rollers and inspected its x-axis rotation points.
What Does It Take to Keep the Station Stocked With Supplies?
The crew on board the International Space Station has been busy this month unloading the bounty of supplies and equipment brought up by the SpaceX Dragon and repacking it with cargo to be returned to Earth. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into a layover at the space station, check out chapter 14 of the new NASA ebook, The International Space Station: Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier. The book, which was written by space station flight directors, is now available to download for free at https://go.usa.gov/xQbvH.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 14: Vital Visiting Vehicles – Keeping the Remote Outpost Crewed and Operating.
Purpose and Importance of Visiting Vehicles
On Earth, a person’s typical week might consist of a trip to the grocery store, several trips to the local home improvement store, taking out the trash and recyclables, and doing a few loads of laundry. If something is broken in the home, a replacement part is ordered and the homeowner must wait for a delivery. Or, he or she might need to schedule a professional to make the repair. Homeowners probably do not think about the water supply. They definitely do not worry about the supply of oxygen needed to breathe or the removal of carbon dioxide that is expelled from the human body.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique, world-class orbiting laboratory. It is also home to astronauts and cosmonauts. The logistics of keeping such a home running are complicated. In space, there are no grocery stores or home improvements stores. The “trash truck” only comes around every few months. Washers and dryers for clothing do not exist, and access to clean attire can take months. Much of the breathable air and drinkable water must be delivered. When supplies (e.g., bathroom tissue) are low, crew members cannot tap a few keys on the computer and wait for resupplies to arrive at the door. They call Mission Control and place their order, and then they wait.
Moving astronauts and cosmonauts, science experiments, food, water, air, spare parts, and other supplies to and from the ISS is a highly choreographed international operation that must be executed with near perfection, every time. Such an effort requires more than one spacecraft. This was never more evident than in an 8-month span between October 2014 and June 2015 when three different resupply missions were lost during or shortly after launch. Three different rockets from three different companies experienced three different failures. According to statistics, this scenario was supposed to be nearly impossible. Yet, it happened. Operations on board the ISS continued despite the lack of resupply.
So, exactly what does it take to keep the ISS resupplied? It starts with a procession of vehicles from around the world that visit the ISS.
Crew Packs Dragon With Science While Continuing More Space Research
The Expedition 55 crew members are packing up the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft today for its return to Earth on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the six International Space Station residents continue operating a multitude of space experiments while ensuring the orbital lab remains in tip-top shape.
NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold transferred an array of biological samples from station science freezers to specialized freezers stowed inside Dragon. The research samples are for analysis by scientists and are among a variety of cargo, including station hardware for refurbishment, returning to Earth inside Dragon Wednesday.
NASA TV begins its live coverage of the Dragon departure at 10 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. Robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon at 10:22 a.m. Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring the release and departure activities. Dragon will fire its engines for the final time at 3:06 p.m. beginning its descent back into Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 4 p.m. NASA TV will not cover Dragon’s splashdown about 260 miles southwest of Long Beach, Calif.
Flight Engineer Drew Feustel tended to a variety of experiment hardware today supporting life science and biomedical research. He spent the morning working on the Multi-Use Variable-G Platform that houses tiny organisms such as fruit flies, flatworms, plants, fish and cells. Feustel then configured the Human Research Facility-2 with gear enabling ongoing observations of the physical and mental changes taking place in astronauts living in space.