Station Crew Preps for Space Debris Avoidance Maneuver
Flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, with assistance from U.S. Space Command, are tracking an unknown piece of space debris expected to pass within several kilometers of the International Space Station. An avoidance maneuver is scheduled to take place using the Russian Progress resupply spacecraft currently docked to the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 4:19 p.m. CT. Out of an abundance of caution, the Expedition 63 crew will relocate to their Soyuz spacecraft until the debris has passed by the station. The time of closest approach is 5:21 p.m. CT.
Eye checks took place aboard the International Space Station today to help flight surgeons understand how living in space affects vision. The Expedition 63 crew also explored future space-piloting techniques and worked on atmospheric and power systems.
All three space lab residents participated in vision tests today measuring visual acuity, visual field and contrast sensitivity. Just like visiting an eye doctor on Earth, the crew members read an eye chart at various distances and different contrasts. Doctors are exploring why some astronauts have reported vision impacts following the completion of their months-long station missions.
Commander Chris Cassidy also spent Monday working on a variety of life support and science hardware. The veteran NASA astronaut first set up a small, portable device that is testing the continuous analysis of the station’s atmosphere for elements such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane and water. The data is transmitted back to Earth every two seconds for review by ground specialists.
Cassidy then collected and stowed water samples from the plumbing system inside the Tranquility module for later analysis back on Earth. He finally relocated the TangoLab-2, a science facility that supports biology and chemistry studies in a more power efficient device with better cooling capabilities.
Future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond will require updated piloting skills necessary to operate spacecraft and robots in different gravity and planetary environments. Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner continued researching those skills aboard the station today to inform training techniques to successfully control a vehicle on a planetary surface.
Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin spent his morning checking Russian battery temperatures and power connections with assistance from Vagner. The three-time station resident also synchronized cameras to station clocks and worked on computer hardware.
Robotics, Space Tech and Heart Research Wrap Up Work Week
A set of free-flying robotic helpers buzzed around the International Space Station today for visual tests. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 trio conducted a variety of advanced space research and maintained the upkeep of the orbiting lab.
Astrobee is the name given to a trio of small cube-shaped, autonomous robots being tested on the station for its ability to help crews in space. Commander Chris Cassidy powered up the robotic assistants this morning and set them free inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Ground engineers are testing Astrobee’s visual and navigation system and watching video streamed from station cameras and from the devices themselves.
Cassidy then spent the rest of the afternoon tearing down the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment that is exploring technology to support water recovery, planetary surface processing and oxygen production. The research hardware observes gas and liquid flows that could inform the optimal design of chemical and biological reactors benefitting Earth and space industries.
Cardiac research is also a space research priority as doctors learn to keep astronauts safe and healthy during long-term exploration missions. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin attached sensors to himself Friday morning to monitor the adaptation of his blood circulation system for the Russian Cardiovector study. He then moved on to a technology investigation that observes the magnetic and dynamic forces the space station experiences on orbit.
Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner continued the weeklong power connection and life support systems checks. Vagner also was back on photography duty shooting Earth landmarks to help scientists forecast natural and man-made catastrophes.
DNA Repairs, Self-Replicating Materials Highlight Thursday’s Research
Thursday’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station focused primarily on DNA and physics research including ongoing Earth photography sessions. The Expedition 63 trio also maintained life support gear and packed a Russian cargo ship.
The space environment affects a variety of biological and physical phenomena adapted and designed for Earth’s gravity and atmosphere. Organisms from microbes to humans experience a variety of critical changes in microgravity. Fuels, materials and a host of other physical conditions also go through a series of important modifications. NASA and its international partners study these effects to ensure the health of astronauts and safety of spacecraft planned for future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
DNA studies have been ongoing for years on the station to understand the long-term impacts of radiation and weightlessness on biology. This morning, Commander Chris Cassidy set up and checked out a DNA-monitoring device for the Genes In Space-6 experiment. The portable, handheld miniPCR-16 device, also used in Earth laboratories, provides insight into the repair mechanisms of DNA-damaged cells caused by space radiation.
Cassidy then turned his attention to unique materials that self-assemble and self-replicate with powerful implications for future space voyages. He set up a specialized microscope during the afternoon to observe particles suspended in fluids that self-organize into crystalline structures. The experiment takes place inside the Fluids Integrated Rack and explores the possibilities of 3D printing and additive manufacturing in microgravity.
The International Space Station’s advanced microgravity research systems continue to be serviced today ensuring innovative results and insights to benefit humans on and off the Earth.
The Kibo lab module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) contains an airlock used to transfer science experiments into the vacuum of space. Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy installed a variety of components and connected cables this morning that operate the airlock and control the pressure.
JAXA’s robotic arm grapples and maneuvers the experiments back and forth from the airlock to an external pallet. Air pressure inside the airlock is turned off and on as materials exposure investigations are installed outside Kibo or retrieved for analysis.