Amid Crew Departures, Expedition 69 Intensifies Research Efforts on the ISS

NASA SpaceX Crew-6 Splashdown

Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, left, NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg, second from left, NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, second from right, and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, right, are seen inside the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX recovery ship MEGAN shortly after having landed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, Monday, September 4, 2023. Bowen, Hoburg, Alneyadi, and Fedyaev are returning after nearly six months in space as part of Expedition 69 aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Four new Expedition 69 flight engineers are in their second week aboard the International Space Station (ISS) spending more time on microgravity research and lab maintenance. Another trio of station crewmates is nearing one year in space and will soon turn its attention to departure at the end of the month.

Recent Activities and Experiments

Two of the station’s newest flight engineers, Jasmin Moghbeli from NASA and Satoshi Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), worked Tuesday on the NanoRacks Bishop airlock inside the Tranquility module. The duo inspected cameras and installed components on the commercial doorway that enables larger payloads to be moved inside and outside the station. Earlier, mission controllers had spent about a week maneuvering Bishop in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm for an experiment to measure temperature, vibrations, and radiation on external payload sites.

The other two new crewmates, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, worked on biomedical science and station upkeep tasks throughout the day. Mogensen spun blood samples in a centrifuge and then processed them for incubation to study how cellular immune functions are affected by microgravity. Borisov spent his day on battery maintenance and orbital plumbing duties in the orbital lab’s Roscosmos segment.

NASA Astronauts Greet New Station Crew Member Frank Rubio

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (center) is greeted by fellow NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines shortly after he arrived at the International Space Station on September 21, 2022. Rubio docked to the orbiting lab’s Rassvet module earlier with Roscosmos cosmonauts (out of frame) Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin aboard the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship. Credit: NASA

Long-Term Crew’s Activities and Upcoming Departure

NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio is nearing 365 continuous days in space along with Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, both from Roscosmos. The trio, which has been on the station since September 21 of last year, is due to leave the orbital lab at the end of the month inside the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan.

In the meantime, Rubio worked Tuesday removing and replacing components inside the Cold Atom Lab that chills atoms to extremely low temperatures to observe quantum characteristics. Prokopyev inventoried personal items aboard the station and continued transferring cargo from the Roscosmos Progress 85 resupply ship. Petelin attached electrodes to himself and recorded his heart activity for a cardiac investigation.

ISS Configuration September 3, 2023

International Space Station Configuration on September 3, 2023. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon Endurance, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship, and the Progress 84 and 85 resupply ships. Credit: NASA

Recent Departure and the Current Status of Spacecraft

Five spacecraft are still parked at the orbital outpost following the undocking on Sunday of the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour with four Commercial Crew members aboard. Dragon Endeavour, commanded by Stephen Bowen and piloted by Woody Hoburg, both from NASA, with Mission Specialists Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Andrey Fedyaev from Roscosmos splashed down early the next day off the coast of Florida. The quartet split up soon after reaching shore and headed home to their individual countries.

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