Heart and Digestion in Space: Microgravity Research Ahead of Cargo Delivery and New Crew

Space Station Orbits Above the Andes Mountain Range in Bolivia

Four main components on the Roscosmos segment of the International Space Station are pictured as the orbital outpost soared 260 miles above the Andes mountain range in Bolivia. From top to bottom, are the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, the European robotic arm attached to Nauka, the Prichal docking module, and the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship. Credit: NASA

A cargo craft is currently orbiting Earth en route to the International Space Station (ISS). As this unfolds, the seven members of Expedition 69 are delving into research on the impact of weightlessness on cardiac tissue and the digestive system. Meanwhile, another crew is gearing up for its launch, scheduled for early Friday.

Three tons of space supplies are packed aboard the Roscosmos Progress 85 cargo craft and on the way to the orbital residents for a delivery scheduled at 11:50 p.m. EDT on Thursday. Station commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin will be on duty Thursday night monitoring the Progress 85 when it automatically docks to the Zvezda service module’s aft port. The duo will wait about two hours during standard leak and pressure checks before opening the resupply ship’s hatch and begin unpacking the new food, fuel, and other cargo.

SpaceX Crew-7 Mission Details

While the cargo activities get underway, the SpaceX Crew-7 mission will launch at 3:50 a.m. on Friday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Four Commercial Crew astronauts will be seated inside the SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket awaiting a 24-hour trip to their new home in space.

Expedition 69 Crew Gathers for a Portrait

The seven-member Expedition 69 crew gathers for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s Kibo laboratory module on August 20, 2023. Clockwise from left are, Flight Engineers Woody Hoburg of NASA and Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos; Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos; Flight Engineers Frank Rubio and Stephen Bowen, both from NASA; and Flight Engineers Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Andrey Fedyaev from Roscosmos. Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut and Crew-7 Commander Jasmin Moghbeli will be leading Pilot Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency) and Mission Specialists Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Konstantin Borisov of Roscosmos aboard Endurance during the ride to the station. Endurance, with the quartet inside, will automatically dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 2:02 a.m. on Saturday. The foursome will open the hatch about two hours later, enter the station, greet the Expedition 69 crew, and begin a six-month microgravity research mission.

Microgravity Research and Crew Activities

Meanwhile, the crewmates living in space explored how microgravity affects cardiac cells and the digestive system to benefit humans living on and off the Earth. NASA Flight Engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg treated samples of stem-cell-derived heart micro-tissues on Wednesday in the Kibo laboratory module. The Project EAGLE biology study takes place in Kibo’s Life Science Glovebox and may reveal potential therapies for space-caused cardiac abnormalities and Earth-bound heart diseases.

Prokopyev and Petelin started the day with ultrasound scans after breakfast to observe how the digestive system adapts to weightlessness. Prokopyev then partnered with Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev in the afternoon for more tests of the lower body negative pressure suit that may help crew members readjust to Earth’s gravity environment.

End of Mission for Some Astronauts

Fedyaev will be returning to Earth soon with Hoburg and astronauts Stephen Bowen of NASA and Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates). The quartet will enter the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft one week after Crew-7 arrives, undock from Harmony’s forward port, and splashdown off the coast of Florida to complete a six-month space mission. On Wednesday afternoon, the four crewmates inspected their SpaceX pressure suits they will wear inside Endeavour when they depart the station for the ride back to Earth.

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