Space Biology, Physics and Suit Checks Start Memorial Weekend

Space Biology, Physics and Suit Checks Start Memorial Weekend

The "southern lights" above the Indian Ocean
The aurora australis, also known as the “southern lights,” is pictured as the International Space Station orbited 264 miles above the Indian Ocean south of the Australian island state of Tasmania.

The Expedition 59 crew is starting the Memorial Day weekend studying biology, physics and orbital manufacturing techniques. The space residents will also be busy on the U.S. holiday conducting more research and getting ready for the year’s fourth spacewalk at the International Space Station on Wednesday.

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) analyzed his own blood sample today testing the new Bio-Analyzer. The biomedical device from the CSA tests a variety of biomarkers to measure molecular signs of health on the station. He also worked on another biology platform that can produce gravity levels up to 2g for research on an array of materials and small organisms.

Japan’s Kibo laboratory module enables astronauts to place and retrieve space exposure experiments outside of the orbiting lab. Flight Engineer Nick Hague swapped some of those exposed samples today from a platform inside Kibo. The long-running materials exposure studies at the station help scientists understand how microgravity and radiation affect a variety of materials.

Christina Koch of NASA continued exploring the production of superior quality optical fibers inside the U.S. Destiny lab module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. The variety of elements used in the manufacturing process are difficult to control on Earth with gravity bearing down on them. The space-created samples will be analyzed on the ground for their potential to improve a variety of applications such as medicine, navigation, communication and atmospheric monitoring.

At the end of the day, Flight Engineer Anne McClain checked out emergency space navigation techniques using a sextant. She peered at constellations from the cupola during an orbital night period while inspecting and calibrating the hand-held device.

Meanwhile, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin continued setting up their spacesuits and tools today. Next week they will review procedures and timelines for their approximately six-hour spacewalk for external maintenance scheduled for around 11:45 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

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Mark Garcia

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DNA, Physics and Robotics Pack Station Research Schedule Today

DNA, Physics and Robotics Pack Station Research Schedule Today

NASA astronaut Nick Hague of Expedition 59
NASA astronaut Nick Hague of Expedition 59 sequences DNA samples for a study exploring how increased exposure to space radiation impacts crew health.

The Expedition 59 astronauts focused on DNA editing, high-end physics and free-flying robotics aboard the International Space Station today. Two cosmonauts are also ramping up their preparations for next week’s spacewalk.

The orbiting complex is flying higher today after a docked Russian cargo craft fired its engines for 20 minutes. The orbital reboost places the station in the correct trajectory for the undocking and landing of three Expedition 59 crewmembers June 24.

The wide range of advanced space research taking place every day on the orbiting lab benefits humans on Earth and in space. Scientists use the results to treat terrestrial ailments and the negative impacts of microgravity more effectively. Engineers also take the data to improve industrial and commercial processes and design safer, more advanced spacecraft and habitats as NASA prepares to go to the Moon in 2024.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague is researching how space radiation damages DNA today using the CRISPR genome-editing tool. The Genes in Space-6 study also uses DNA extraction and sequencing tools to observe how the damaged DNA repairs itself in space. Results may advance the development of treatments for radiation exposure hazards in harsh environments.

Space manufacturing eliminates the detrimental effect of Earth’s gravity and may provide superior results than on Earth. Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA set up hardware in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to explore the production of high-quality optical fibers on the station. The study seeks to create a high commercial value product benefitting both Earth and space industries.

The Astrobee robotic assistant is being checked out today by Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. He set up the cube-shaped robotic free flyer to map the inside the of Kibo laboratory module and spun it rapidly afterward calibrating its navigation camera. Astrobee is being tested for its ability to perform routine maintenance duties and provide additional lab monitoring capabilities.

Two cosmonauts are ensuring their physical readiness and outfitting a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits ahead of a May 29 spacewalk. Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin each spent over an hour on an exercise bike today measuring their cardiovascular response. Flight surgeons want to make sure the spacewalkers are able to endure the several hours of intense physical exertion. The duo also installed lights and other components onto the spacesuits.

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Mark Garcia

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Midweek Immunology Research and Spacewalk Preps for Lab Residents

Midweek Immunology Research and Spacewalk Preps for Lab Residents

The well-lit coasts of Spain, France and Italy
This oblique nighttime view of Western Europe and the well-lit coasts (from left) of Spain, France and Italy was taken from the International Space Station as it orbited 256 miles above the Mediterranean Sea.

Immunology research has been keeping the Expedition 59 astronauts busy since the SpaceX Dragon space freighter delivered new science gear in early May. Two cosmonauts are also one week away from starting the fourth spacewalk this year at the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain was back inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module today observing how the immune systems of mice, which are similar to humans, respond to the lack of gravity. She teamed up with Flight Engineers Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques for the on-orbit research to help doctors improve astronauts’ immunity in space. The potential for advanced vaccines and therapies may also benefit Earthlings as well as future astronauts exploring the Moon and beyond.

A variety of other space biology and human research took place today as Flight Engineer Nick Hague collected and stowed his blood and urine samples for later scientific analysis. He also worked on the Biolab hardware before stowing the Biomolecule Sequencer that sequences DNA aboard the space station. The advanced science gear is part of the Genes In Space-6 experiment researching how space radiation impacts DNA and the cell repair mechanism.

Commander Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin were back on spacesuit duty today. The Roscosmos cosmonauts transferred their Orlan spacesuits to the Pirs airlock and installed portable repressurization tanks in the Russian lab module. Next week they will review procedures and timelines for their approximately six-hour spacewalk for external maintenance scheduled for Wednesday, May 29.

A docked Russian Progress cargo craft will fire its engines for 20 minutes raising the station’s orbit on Thursday. The reboost will place the orbiting complex in the correct trajectory for the undocking and landing of three Expedition 59 crewmembers June 24.

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Mark Garcia

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Today’s DNA, Immunity, Time Studies Boost Health in Space and on Earth

Today’s DNA, Immunity, Time Studies Boost Health in Space and on Earth

The full moon above the South Atlantic Ocean
The full moon is pictured from the International Space Station as the orbiting complex orbited 263 miles above the South Atlantic Ocean.

The Expedition 59 crew is spending all day Tuesday exploring how astronauts adjust with Earth’s gravity no longer bearing down on them. Spacewalk preparations and lab maintenance are also ongoing aboard the International Space Station.

Station crewmembers and future astronauts going to the Moon in 2024 have to adjust to the lack of a sunrise/sunset cycle humans experience everyday on Earth. As a result, time perception is impacted and may affect sleep and work patterns. Astronauts Anne McClain, Nick Hague and David Saint-Jacques started the day on a study, going on since July 2017, exploring subjective changes in time that can alter physical and cognitive performance.

Hague later sequenced DNA samples for a study exploring how increased exposure to space radiation impacts crew health. He used the Biomolecule Sequencer for the investigation to demonstrate DNA sequencing in space. The Genes In Space-6 experiment is researching how space radiation damages DNA and how the cell repair mechanism works in microgravity.

Immune system studies continued full speed ahead today to test the hypothesis the immune response decreases in space. Astronaut Christina Koch teamed up with McClain and Saint-Jacques throughout the day observing mice for the study. Observations may help scientists develop advanced vaccines and therapies benefiting both astronauts and Earthlings.

Commander Oleg Kononenko continues to set up a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits and outfit the Pirs airlock as the May 29 spacewalk approaches. Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin worked on space cardiology research before switching to space plumbing and pumping urine into the Progress 71 cargo craft.

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Mark Garcia

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Biology and Physics on Station Today Promote Moon Mission Success in 2024

Biology and Physics on Station Today Promote Moon Mission Success in 2024

A moonrise from 2016
A moonrise from 2016 is photographed from the space station with the Earth’s limb, the atmospheric glow and the aurora below.

The six residents aboard the International Space Station kicked off the workweek today exploring microgravity’s long-term impacts on biology and physics. The Expedition 59 crew is also ramping up for a fourth spacewalk at the orbital lab this year.

NASA is planning to send men and women to the Moon in 2024 and life science on the station will help flight surgeons keep lunar astronauts healthy. The space physics research will also provide critical insights to engineers designing future spacecraft and habitats for exploration missions.

Several dozen mice and their immune systems, which are similar to humans, are being continuously observed in specialized habitats. Flight Engineer Anne McClain tended to the mice today cleaning cages and restocking food in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Doctors are testing the hypothesis the immune response decreases in space and exploring advanced vaccines and therapies benefiting both astronauts and Earthlings.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague also researched a variety of space biological phenomena. Koch wrapped up a pathogen study today seeking to understand why virulence increases in microgravity. Hague cleaned up Veggie Ponds botany hardware in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module where small crops of edible plants are grown. He then photographed protein crystal samples in the afternoon for a student-designed investigation as Koch assisted him.

David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency recorded a video demonstrating Isaac Newton’s Second and Third Laws. The video will help young students understand how force and acceleration influence air and space missions. He also transferred data captured from tiny internal satellites exploring space debris cleanup technology.

Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin are getting ready for a spacewalk planned for May 29. The cosmonauts are resizing their spacesuits, inspecting the components and checking for leaks today. The duo will remove experiments, sample station surfaces and jettison obsolete hardware during their six-hour excursion.

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Mark Garcia

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