Astronauts Conduct Bone and Optical Fiber Studies As Ax-3 Crew Nears Departure From Station

Earth’s Atmospheric Glow and Starry Sky Pictured From Space Station

This high exposure photograph from the International Space Station shows Earth’s atmospheric glow and a starry sky as the orbital complex soared 258 miles above the Pacific Ocean northeast of Papua New Guinea. At left, are the station’s Nauka science module and the Prichal docking module, both from Roscosmos. Credit: NASA

Four Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) astronauts continue waiting for favorable weather conditions before ending their stay at the International Space Station (ISS). Meanwhile, the seven-member Expedition 70 crew focused its research objectives on bone health and high-quality optical fibers on Tuesday.

Mission managers from NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom Space waved off Tuesday’s planned undocking for the Ax-3 mission aboard the SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft. Ax-3 is now targeted to undock from the Harmony module’s forward port no earlier than 9:05 a.m. EST on Wednesday. Officials will continue to monitor the weather at the potential splashdown sites off Florida’s coast before giving the final go for Ax-3 to return to Earth.

Ax-3 Crew’s Space Endeavors

Veteran astronaut Michael López-Alegría is commanding Ax-3 leading Pilot Walter Villadei and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravcı and Marcus Wandt on their first spaceflight. The foursome docked to the orbital laboratory on January 20 beginning two weeks of science, educational, and commercial activities. All four Ax-3 astronauts spent their 17th day in space performing light science duties, photographing Earth, and relaxing.

Clouds Stop on the Peaks of the Snow-Capped Alps

Clouds stop on the peaks of the snow-capped Alps that separate Italy’s Po Valley from Austria in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 261 miles above. Credit: NASA

Expedition 70’s Research and Maintenance Activities

The Expedition 70 crew stayed busy learning how to keep humans healthy in space and improve optical fiber production processes. The orbital septet also kept up its ongoing cargo work and life support maintenance.

NASA Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara spent the day processing bone cell samples obtained from human donors on Earth. She was exploring space-caused bone loss helping doctors learn how to protect and treat astronauts on long-term missions. Results may also inform treatments for bone conditions on Earth.

Astronaut Loral O’Hara Poses in Front of Advanced Plant Habitat

NASA astronaut and Expedition 70 Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara poses in front of the Kibo laboratory module’s Advanced Plant Habitat housing tomato plants for an experiment investigating how the plant immune system adapts to spaceflight and how spaceflight affects plant production. Credit: NASA

Advancements in Space-Based Research

Several investigations on the space station have tested producing optical fibers using the microgravity environment that are higher quality than those made on Earth. The newest investigation, Flawless Space Fibers-1, is examining fiber drawn aboard the station and comparing the results to samples drawn on Earth. NASA Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli set up the experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox that may expand commercial production opportunities in space and communication and remote-sensing applications on Earth.

Commander Andreas Mogensen from ESA (European Space Agency) treated blood samples that are being analyzed to understand how weightlessness impacts an astronaut’s immune system. Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) worked in the Kibo laboratory module and checked out a free-flying camera robot for its ability to videotape and photograph activities on behalf of the crew.

The three cosmonauts representing Roscosmos spent their day readying a cargo ship for its departure while maintaining orbital lab systems. Veteran Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko packed the Progress 85 resupply ship with discarded gear for disposal ahead of the spacecraft’s departure planned for next week. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub set up a personal carbon dioxide monitor and then collected hair samples to be examined for a Roscosmos space adaptation study. Flight Engineer Konstantin Borisov spent his day servicing orbital plumbing gear and electronics components.

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