Crew Researching Plants, Medicine and Unloading New Science from Dragon
Today’s research aboard the International Space Station is primarily focusing on how plants react and how medicine works in space. The Expedition 55 crew and robotics controllers are also continuing cargo operations inside and outside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.
Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold participated today in the Plant Gravity Perception experiment, one of several ongoing space botany studies. The station crew is helping scientists explore how plants determine which way to grow and perceive light in microgravity. Results may help future astronauts training for longer missions beyond low-Earth orbit learn how to grow crops in space to sustain themselves.
Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai continued research into how the human body in space metabolizes medicine. NASA astronaut Drew Feustel started operations with the Metabolic Tracking (MT) experiment this morning before handing it off to Kanai. MT is looking at a particular type of medicine and how it interacts with human tissue cultures. Results could improve therapies in space and lead to better, cheaper drugs on Earth.
Scott Tingle of NASA partnered with Arnold today unloading more cargo from Dragon. They continue to unpack several thousand pounds of new science experiments, station hardware and crew supplies.
Outside the Dragon in its trunk is the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) experiment that will be robotically removed Friday. Engineers on the ground operating the Canadarm2 will maneuver ASIM, an Earth observation facility, and install it on Europe’s Columbus lab module.
Variety of Life Studied to Benefit Humans on Earth and in Space
The Expedition 55 crew explored a wide variety of life science today studying how different biological systems are affected by long-term exposure to microgravity. The multi-faceted space residents observed human genetic and tissue samples, rodents and fruit flies aboard the orbital laboratory today.
Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold started his morning gearing up the student-designed Genes in Space-5 experiment. He processed hardware and genetic samples to help scientists understand the relationship between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems possibly caused by living in space.
Arnold later joined fellow NASA astronaut Drew Feustel for ultrasound eye exams with remote assistance from doctors on the ground. Feustel wrapped up his workday checking on fruit flies housed in the Multi-Use Variable-G Platform that enables research into smaller and microscopic organisms.
Norishige Kanai, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, tended to mice recently launched to space aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. The rodents are part of the Mouse Stress Defense experiment that tests strategies to counteract microgravity stresses and cell signaling that lead to bone and muscle loss.
Doctors are learning how medicine works in space and what it does inside astronaut’s bodies. NASA Flight Engineer Scott Tingle looked at a particular type of medicine today and how it interacts with human tissue cultures. Results could improve therapies in space and lead to better, cheaper drugs on Earth.
Crew Researches Biology and Physics, Practices for Emergency
The fully-staffed Expedition 55 crew worked throughout the International Space Station today exploring how microgravity affects a variety of phenomena including biology and physics. The six long-term space residents also practiced a simulated emergency today to maintain their safety skills and awareness.
Flight Engineer Drew Feustel started Tuesday collecting a urine sample and stowing it inside the Human Research Facility’s (HRF) science freezer for later analysis. Shortly afterward, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai inserted a dosimeter and biological samples in the HRF’s freezer to research the effects of cosmic radiation on mammalian reproduction.
Commander Anton Shkaplerov swapped manifold bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack, a device that enables the safe observation of flames and soot on the orbital laboratory. Shkaplerov’s work today is in support of the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME). ACME is a set of five independent studies researching gaseous flames in space that may enable more fuel efficient and less polluting technologies on Earth.
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle unpacked new medicine for the crew from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. He also packed up and stowed expired or unused medicine back inside Dragon for return and disposal back on Earth.
The entire crew got together in the middle of the day and trained for the unlikely event of an emergency aboard the orbital lab today. The four astronauts and two cosmonauts practiced communication coordination and familiarized themselves with the location of response areas and safety gear.
Meanwhile, robotics flight controllers are remotely swapping Pump Flow Subassemblies on the outside of the station. They are removing a spare launched on Dragon and replacing it with a failed unit on the Port 6 truss. This is the first of a series of maneuvers that will culminate with another swap of components during the next spacewalk in mid-May.
Astronaut Scott Tingle opened Dragon’s hatch this morning and was the first to enter the spaceship. He and fellow NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold began offloading new science gear immediately afterward. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai tended to new mice shipped aboard Dragon and transferred them to habitats located inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.
Some of the new space studies will enable research into a variety of biological organisms to understand microgravity’s long term effects on life systems. Scientists hypothesize their observations will benefit both crews in space and people on Earth. Other experiments will study physics phenomena both inside and outside the orbital lab with potential impacts on future space systems and industrial and manufacturing processes on the ground.
Robotics operators on the ground will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to ungrip the newly-installed Dragon today. They will remotely maneuver the Canadarm2 on Friday to extract unpressurized cargo, including life support gear and external research, from Dragon’s exposed aft-end, also called its trunk. Dragon will remain attached to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port until early May.
Among the research arriving to the U.S. National Laboratory is a Metabolic Tracking investigation to evaluate the use of a new method to test, in microgravity, the metabolic impacts of pharmaceutical drugs. This could lead to more effective, less expensive medicines on Earth. The Multi-use Variable-g Platform (MVP) will serve as a new test bed aboard the space station, able to host 12 separate experiment modules with samples such as plants, cells, protein crystals and fruit flies. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory, is sponsoring the investigation and the MVP.
Dragon will remain attached to the space station until May, when it will return to Earth with more than 3,500 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.