Expanded Space Station Crew Busy With Spacewalk Preps and Microgravity Research

Soyuz MS-21 Crew Ship Approaches Space Station

The Soyuz MS-21 crew ship (upper left) with three cosmonauts aboard approaches the space station for a docking on March 18. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station is hosting 10 individuals after the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship arrived Friday carrying three new crew members. As the new crewmates adjust to life on the station, the rest of the Expedition 66 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk and continuing microgravity research this week.

The station’s three newest crew members are getting used to life on orbit as they begin a six-and-a-half-month mission in Earth orbit. Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev docked to the station’s Prichal module on Friday less than three-and-a-half hours after launching from Kazakhstan. Artemyev is starting his third mission at the orbiting lab having last visited in 2018 when he was an Expedition 55-56 Flight Engineer. Korsakov and Matveev are on their first space flight and will spend the next few days getting up to speed with station systems and safety procedures.

Two astronauts are getting ready for a spacewalk set to begin on Wednesday at 8:50 a.m. EDT. NASA astronaut Raja Chari and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer will spend about six-and-a-half hours installing new thermal system and electronics components on the station’s U.S. segment. The duo spent Monday organizing their spacewalk tools and attaching checklists to their U.S. spacesuit cuffs.

NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Kayla Barron were on science duty on Monday working on a pair of different experiments. Vande Hei explored how microbes grow in space to keep crews healthy and spacecraft systems safe. Barron serviced samples for the Hicari crystal growth study that seeks to improve the development of solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics.

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn spent the day on a variety of orbital plumbing and life support maintenance tasks. He also joined Chari for a conference with mission controllers as they plan to return to Earth with Barron and Maurer aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance next month.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov continued evaluating a specialized suit, the lower body negative pressure suit, for its ability to counteract the effects of weightlessness on the human body. Doctors are studying the suit’s ability to offset space-caused head and eye pressure by drawing fluids toward the legs and feet while expanding veins and tissues.

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