Into the Vacuum: Investigating Space Microbes During a Critical NASA Spacewalk

International Space Station Soars Into an Orbital Sunset

The International Space Station soars into an orbital sunset 258 miles above the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. In the left foreground, is the Soyuz MS-25 crew ship docked to the Prichal docking module. Credit:

Astronauts on Expedition 71 are set for a spacewalk to perform hardware removal and study microorganisms in space. Other team members are working on genetic sequencing and routine maintenance, while cosmonauts have a day off.

The Expedition 71 crew is in final preparations for a science and maintenance spacewalk set to begin in the morning on Thursday, June 13. The two astronauts on NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test spent their day aboard the International Space Station (ISS) performing genetic sequencing and orbital plumbing.

Spacewalk Details and Objectives

NASA astronauts Tracy C. Dyson and Matthew Dominick are in their final day of preparations for a spacewalk planned to start at 8 a.m. EDT on Thursday. Once the astronauts set their spacesuits to battery power, the spacewalkers will exit the Quest airlock into the vacuum of space for six-and-a-half hours of maintenance and science work.

The duo will first remove the radio frequency group hardware from a pallet on the side of the Destiny laboratory module with assistance from the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Next, the spacewalkers will swab surfaces on the Destiny and Quest modules to determine if microorganisms released through station vents can survive the external microgravity environment.

Astronaut Tracy C. Dyson Works Inside the Quest Airlock

NASA astronaut and Expedition 71 Flight Engineer Tracy C. Dyson works inside the International Space Station’s Quest airlock and checks procedures on a computer tablet to prepare a spacesuit for a fit verification. Credit: NASA

Spacewalk Support and Coverage

Dyson and Dominick readied Quest, checked their spacesuits, and organized spacewalking tools on Wednesday morning. NASA Flight Engineers Mike Barratt and Jeanette Epps practiced on a computer the Canadarm2 maneuvers they will use during Thursday’s spacewalk. All four astronauts at the end of the day called down to mission controllers for a final spacewalk preparedness conference.

NASA TV will begin its spacewalk broadcast at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. Live coverage will air on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app, YouTube, and the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms including social media.

Lakes Mansarovar and Rakshastal From Space

Lakes Mansarovar (top) and Rakshastal, on the Chinese side of the Himalayan border with India, are pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited 260 miles above the Indian subcontinent. Credit: NASA

Maintenance and Research Activities

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams spent Wednesday focusing on lab maintenance and researching advanced biotechnology. Wilmore started his day checking cargo stowed in the Harmony module before replacing components in the station’s bathroom, known as the waste and hygiene compartment located in the Tranquility module. Williams extracted DNA from microbes collected from station water samples and sequenced their genes for identification. Results may inform ways to keep crews healthy and space habitats cleaner.

Leisure Day for Cosmonauts

The station’s three cosmonauts, Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub, and Alexander Grebenkin, had an off-duty day on Wednesday spending time relaxing, exercising, and on light housekeeping tasks.

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