U.S. Crew Ship Launch Plans Proceed; Mind and Body Research on Station

U.S. Crew Ship Launch Plans Proceed; Mind and Body Research on Station

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands at the launch pad in Florida. Credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test following a full day of briefings and a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the Kennedy Space Center.

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Florida. The uncrewed flight test will be Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Expedition 61 crew today is exploring how the brain, muscles and bones adapt to long-term exposure in weightlessness. The orbiting lab’s communications systems are also being continuously maintained.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano were back in the Columbus lab module today investigating how the central nervous system manages hand-eye coordination in space. The duo wore virtual reality gear using real-time visual and audible displays while coordinating a variety of body motions. The GRASP study explores how the brain adapts to the lack of a traditional up and down reference in space to ensure mission success farther away from Earth.

The musculoskeletal system also adjusts rapidly to the microgravity environment and studying mice aboard the orbiting lab helps reveal the impacts. Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch continued scanning rodents today in a bone densitometer before placing them back in their habitats. The new Rodent Research-19 study is investigating two proteins that may prevent muscle and bone loss while living off the Earth.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka ensured the upkeep of a variety of Russian space station systems. The duo connected a Progress cargo craft’s thrusters to the Zarya module’s fuel tanks. The veteran cosmonauts also checked out antenna gear, laptop computers and video recording equipment.

Japan’s new high-resolution spectral Earth imager has been installed and activated on the Kibo lab module. HISUI, or Hyperspectral Imagery Suite, is a technology demonstration that will send data to agricultural and environmental industries for improved resource management.

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Mark Garcia

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Wide Range of Space Research Keeping Crew Busy Today

Wide Range of Space Research Keeping Crew Busy Today

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir conduct research operations
NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir conduct research operations inside the Japanese Kibo lab module’s Life Sciences Glovebox.

The International Space Station is a hive of science activity today as the Expedition 61 crew and mission controllers initiate a variety of space research.

Inside the orbiting lab, mice are being scanned to study how their bones change in microgravity. Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch placed the rodents in a new bone densitometer and imaged their bones. The new Rodent Research-19 study is investigating two proteins that may prevent muscle and bone loss in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and ESA Commander Luca Parmitano were in the Columbus lab module exploring how they grip and manipulate objects in space. Insights may help future astronauts adjust to long-term missions farther into space and possibly planetary exploration.

Mission controllers on the ground today commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach into the back of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and extract the new HISUI experiment device. HISUI, or Hyperspectral Imagery Suite, is a unique Earth imaging system that can benefit agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas. HISUI will be installed on the outside of the Kibo lab module to scan the Earth’s surface using high spectral resolution.

In the Russian segment of the station, the cosmonauts focused on docking port inspections and life science. Oleg Skripochka photographed internal and external docking gear and continued unpacking cargo from the Progress 74 resupply ship. Alexander Skvortsov finalized a 24-hour monitoring of his heart activity then contributed to a study observing how space crews interact with mission controllers.

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Mark Garcia

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Advanced Biology Research Taking Place on Station Today

Advanced Biology Research Taking Place on Station Today

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station as both spacecraft were orbiting 257 miles above Egypt.

Advanced space research is in full gear aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 61 crew is activating new science gear and continuing long-running experiments to benefit humans on and off the Earth.

Rodents delivered aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship are now being housed inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. They are being studied for ways to prevent muscle and bone loss in microgravity. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan have been setting up the habitats and stocking them with food and water to support the mice.

A specialized 3-D printer aboard the orbiting lab is testing printing cellular structures in space due to the detrimental effects of Earth’s gravity. NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch has been operating the Bio-Fabrication Facility this week using “bio-inks” with more success than on the ground. The device is dedicated to manufacturing human organs, producing food and personalizing pharmaceuticals.

Koch and Meir also partnered together today to set up and calibrate a new bone densitometer in Japan’s Kibo lab module. The biology research gear will measure and image bone density in the mice living aboard the station.

Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano are participating this week in a pair of motion coordination experiments sponsored by the European Space Agency. In the first study, the astronauts are exploring how weightlessness affects gripping and manipulating objects with implications for exploring planetary bodies. The second investigation explores how the brain adapts to the lack of traditional up-and-down cues in space.

Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continues to unload the nearly three tons of cargo just delivered on the Progress 74 cargo craft. Russian Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov attached a sensor to himself to measure his cardiac activity before spending the rest of the day on lab maintenance.

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Mark Garcia

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Crew Unpacks New Science from U.S. and Russian Cargo Ships

Crew Unpacks New Science from U.S. and Russian Cargo Ships

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured approaching the space station (left) and after it was installed to the Harmony module (right) on Dec. 8, 2019.

Two new cargo spaceships are open for business at the International Space Station as a variety of new space research begins this week. The Expedition 61 crew has begun unpacking several tons new supplies from the U.S. and Russian space freighters.

Russia’s Progress 74 cargo craft automatically docked to the station’s Pirs docking compartment at 5:35 a.m. EST today after launching midday Friday. Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka opened the hatch shortly afterward and began retrieving critical research hardware for stowage on the orbiting lab.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship arrived at the station on Sunday for a capture and installation with the Canadarm2 robotic arm to the U.S. Harmony module. Commander Luca Parmitano joined NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and quickly unpacked brand new science gear and rodents for observation aboard the space station.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch worked throughout Monday juggling numerous science and cargo activities. She was offloading new Dragon supplies and housing lab rodents delivered aboard the U.S. cargo craft.

Meir and Morgan started Monday with ultrasound scans of their veins and eye pressure checks for the Fluid Shifts study. Meir with assistance from Koch in the afternoon installed a bone densitometer in Japan’s Kibo lab module that will measure bone loss in microgravity.

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Mark Garcia

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Russian Space Freighter Docks Automatically to Station

Russian Space Freighter Docks Automatically to Station

Dec. 9, 2019: International Space Station
Dec. 9, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon space freighter, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship and Russia’s Progress 74 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-13 and MS-15 crew ships.

Traveling approximately 260 miles over the Yellow Sea east of Shanghai, the automated Russian Progress 74 cargo resupply spacecraft docked at 5:35 a.m. EST to the Pirs docking compartment on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

It is the second resupply spacecraft to arrive for the six crew members aboard the space station in as many days. The Expedition 61 crew welcomed SpaceX’s cargo Dragon spacecraft early Sunday morning.

The International Space Station is a stepping stone for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. As the only place for conducting long-duration research on how living in microgravity affects living organisms as well as testing technologies to allow humans to work at the Moon, the space station serves as a unique asset in the effort establish a sustainable presence at the Moon and prepare for missions to Mars.

At 9 a.m., NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast a special event with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as he discusses the status of the agency’s Artemis program, highlights the completion of the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon, and takes part in a question-and-answer session from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

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

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Mark Garcia

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