Advanced Physics and Human Research as Space Station Crew Readies for Pair of Spacewalks

Astronaut Kayla Barron Advanced Plant Habitat

Astronaut Kayla Barron poses for a portrait in front of the Advanced Plant Habitat inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA

The seven-member Expedition 66 crew juggled a variety of science experiments on Wednesday including space physics and human research. Four International Space Station astronauts also reviewed procedures for a pair of spacewalks set to begin in less than two weeks.

A new experiment on the space station is using artificial intelligence to help process complex glasses in microgravity. NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron began setting up hardware for the Intelligent Glass Optics investigation in the Microgravity Science Glovebox today. The advanced physics study may provide insights into manufacturing systems for Earth and space including communications, aerospace, and medical diagnostics.

Barron also joined fellow flight engineers Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn from NASA and Matthias Maurer from ESA (European Space Agency) to prepare for two upcoming spacewalks to continue modifying the orbiting lab’s power system. The quartet reviewed the tools and procedures that Barron and Chari will use on March 15 when they exit the U.S. Quest airlock to ready the station for its third roll-out solar array. The second excursion will be on March 23 with two astronauts yet to be named. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk coverage at 7:50 a.m. EST on both days.

At the beginning of the day, Chari assisted Marshburn and Maurer as they collected their blood, saliva, and urine samples. The samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis as part of the long-running Repository investigation. That study looks at a bank of biological specimens collected from station astronauts over the years for insights into the physiological changes occurring in humans living in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked throughout the day inside the Kibo laboratory module on payload hardware that will soon be placed outside the station in the harsh environment of space. Vande Hei is also on track to surpass two NASA single spaceflight records this month. He will pass NASA astronaut Christina Koch’s mark of 328 days on March 3, then he will break NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s record of 340 days on March 15. When Vande Hei returns to Earth on March 30, he will hold the NASA single spaceflight record having spent 355 days in space.

The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts, Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, replaced life support components in the station’s Russian segment.

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