Biology and Agriculture Research on Space Station As Astronaut Begins Record-Breaking Spree

Mark Vande Hei Space Station

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is scheduled to return to Earth on March 30 after 355 days in space. Credit: NASA

Biology and agriculture were the dominant research themes aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. Also, an Expedition 66 Flight Engineer is beginning a set of record-breaking milestones before returning to Earth at the end March.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron started work Thursday morning inside the Kibo laboratory module examining mice for the Rodent Research-18 study. The space biology experiment observes how microgravity affects the visual function and changes the retina. Barron transferred the mice back and forth into the Life Science Glovebox and restocked their habitats with food throughout the day. NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn took over the mice investigation during the afternoon.

Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) started his day with a hearing test for the Acoustics Diagnostics study. The human research investigation seeks to understand how sound levels on the station affect astronauts. Maurer then spent the afternoon setting up AstroPi computer hardware to promote coding and engineering education on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei photographed operations for the Plant Habitat-05 experiment that is studying cotton genetics. Space botany is an important area of study as NASA and its international partners learn to sustain healthy crews on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

As of Thursday, Vande Hei has lived in space continuously for 273 days, surpassing NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan‘s record of 272 days which was set on April 17, 2020. He will go on to break three more NASA records before the end of his mission at the end of March.

Vande Hei, along with Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, arrived at the station on April 9, 2021, and are staying on the station for 355 days. Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who has been aboard the station since October 5, 2021, will lead Vande Hei and Dubrov to a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship on March 30.

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