Station Boosts Orbit During Research and Spacewalk Preps
DNA, time perception and combustion investigations filled the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew is also training for a pair of spacewalks set to start next week.
Researchers are studying how microgravity affects a human’s DNA and even time perception as astronauts spend more time living in space. Radiation and weightlessness can impact DNA while the lack of an up-down orientation and a day-night cycle may influence spatial and time perception.
Biologist and NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space in 2016, was once again preparing DNA samples for sequencing to learn how to monitor crew health and identify organisms in space. She also replaced fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to maintain safe fuel and flame studies aboard the orbiting lab.
Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA took turns Thursday morning helping researchers understand the subjective changes in time perception they may experience in space. The duo wore a virtual reality headset, used a trackball and performed tests to measure their timed responses.
All three astronauts then joined NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover in the afternoon to practice robotics maneuvers they will use during a pair of spacewalks set for Jan. 27 and Feb. 1. Hopkins and Glover will be the spacewalkers for both excursions. The duo will set up European science and communications hardware on the first spacewalk and configure battery gear and high definition cameras on the second.
The orbiting lab slightly boosted its orbit this morning after the Progress 75 cargo craft fired its engines for nearly seven minutes. The new altitude readies the station to receive a new cargo craft, the Progress 77, when it docks on Feb. 17 to the Rassvet module.
Spacewalk Training, Science Maintenance on Schedule for Wednesday
Spacewalk preparations and science maintenance tasks kept the seven-member Expedition 64 crew busy today aboard the International Space Station.
Two NASA astronauts are getting ready for a pair of spacewalks scheduled for Jan. 27 and Feb. 1. Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover will spend about six and a half hours during both excursions upgrading science hardware and high definition cameras. The duo trained on a computer throughout the day on a variety of spacewalking techniques and procedures.
The orbiting lab is humming everyday with numerous science experiments investigating how microgravity impacts a diverse range of phenomena including biology and physics. The facilities that host and power those space studies are constantly attended to, both remotely from ground specialists and directly from the astronauts.
NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, on her second station mission, worked on life science gear today maintaining ongoing research operations. She first swapped centrifuge components inside the Human Research Facility that evaluates physiological, behavioral, and chemical changes that take place in space. Rubins then spent the afternoon servicing the BioLab automated research device that enables observations of small organisms from microbes to plants.
JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi installed new combustion hardware in the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack that will help scientists and engineers improve fire safety aboard spacecraft. Shannon Walker of NASA updated a computer that supports external payloads on the station. She then cleaned a device that monitors and measures the small forces the station experiences as it orbits Earth.
The two cosmonauts, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, started the day processing their blood samples for a Russian space immunity study. Ryzhikov then replaced smoke detectors and cleaned ventilation filters. Kud-Sverchkov expanded on the immunity research before setting up Earth observation hardware at the end of the day.
Safety Training, Spacewalk Preps and Eye Checks Keep Crew Busy
Emergency training took precedence aboard the International Space Station today with the Expedition 64 crew reviewing safety procedures and equipment. The orbital residents also had eye checks while gearing up for a busy period of spacewalks.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins joined her two crewmates from Roscosmos, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, at midday and practiced emergency escape procedures. The trio trained on a computer for the unlikely event they would have to evacuate the station and quickly undock inside their Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.
During the morning, NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover inspected fire extinguishers and a variety of personal protective equipment including breathing gear components. The first-time space flyer then spent the rest of Tuesday afternoon servicing life support components inside U.S. spacesuits.
Glover is getting ready for a pair of spacewalks he and Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA will be conducting on Jan. 27 and Feb. 1. The duo will be setting up European science and communications hardware on the first spacewalk and configuring battery gear and high definition cameras on the second. NASA TV will preview the upcoming spacewalks on Friday beginning at 3 p.m. EST.
Two more spacewalks are planned for February with Rubins and Glover slated for the third spacewalk of 2021 to install new solar arrays. For the fourth spacewalk, Rubins will pair up with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi for more upgrade work on the orbital lab.
Finally at the end of the day, Rubins joined fellow NASA astronaut Shannon Walker for eye checks. The veteran station residents used optical coherence tomography with Walker leading the effort to image Rubins’ retinas to understand microgravity’s impact on eyes and vision.
Human Research, Space Combustion on Station Science Schedule Today
Understanding how microgravity impacts perception, vision and combustion highlighted Thursday’s research aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 64 crew also explored ways to improve space exercise and space piloting techniques.
NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins kicked off her day inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module conducting a session for the Vection perception study. The investigation is exploring how an astronaut adapts to visually interpreting motion, orientation, and distance in weightlessness.
Rubins also configured hardware for a suite of studies known as the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments, or ACME, that takes place in the Combustion Integrated Rack. JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi worked on installing the Solid Combustion Experiment Module in a science rack located in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Combustion studies on the station help improve fire safety and fuel efficiency on Earth and in space.
NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Shannon Walker joined each other for ultrasound eye scans at the end of the work day. The duo had worked earlier on an array of science and life support maintenance tasks throughout the orbital lab.
SpaceX Cargo Dragon Splashes Down Loaded With Science Experiments
SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 8:26 p.m. EST west of Tampa off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 21st contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft carried more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth.
The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be delivered back to scientists. Some scientists will get their research returned quickly, four to nine hours after splashdown.
Some of the scientific investigations Dragon returns to Earth are:
Microgravity causes changes in the workload and shape of the human heart, and it is still unknown whether these changes could become permanent if a person lived more than a year in space. Cardinal Heart studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue level using 3D-engineered heart tissues, a type of tissue chip. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.
This investigation from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) demonstrates the growth of 3D organ buds from human stem cells to analyze changes in gene expression. Cell cultures on Earth need supportive materials or forces to achieve 3D growth, but in microgravity, cell cultures can expand into three dimensions without those devices. Results from this investigation could demonstrate advantages of using microgravity for cutting-edge developments in regenerative medicine and may contribute to the establishment of technologies needed to create artificial organs.
The sextant used in the Sextant Navigation experiment will be returning to Earth. Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sailors have navigated via sextants for centuries, and NASA’s Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. This investigation tested specific techniques for using a sextant for emergency navigation on spacecraft such as NASA’s Orion, which will carry humans on deep-space missions.
This experiment studies the function of arteries, veins, and lymphatic structures in the eye and changes in the retina of mice before and after spaceflight. The aim is to clarify whether these changes impair visual function. At least 40 percent of astronauts experience vision impairment known as Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) on long-duration spaceflights, which could adversely affect mission success.
This technology demonstration tested a method to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from air aboard the International Space Station, using actively heated and cooled amine beds. Controlling CO2 levels on the station reduces the likelihood of crew members experiencing symptoms of CO2 buildup, which include fatigue, headache, breathing difficulties, strained eyes, and itchy skin.
Bacteria and other microorganisms have been shown to grow as biofilm communities in microgravity. This experiment identifies the bacterial genes used during biofilm growth, examines whether these biofilms can corrode stainless steel, and evaluates the effectiveness of a silver-based disinfectant. This investigation could provide insight into better ways to control and remove resistant biofilms, contributing to the success of future long-duration spaceflights.
Fiber Optic Production, which includes the return of experimental optical fibers created in microgravity using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum. The return of the fibers, called ZBLAN in reference to the chemical formula, will help verify experimental studies that suggest fibers created in space should exhibit far superior qualities to those produced on Earth.