Life Science in Microgravity: How the ISS Expedition 69 Is Transforming Health on Earth and Beyond

Orbital Nighttime in Italy

City lights glow in Italy as the International Space Station orbited 260 miles above during orbital nighttime. Credit: NASA

On Monday, the Expedition 69 crew aboard the ISS focused on life science research, including stem cell studies, health monitoring, space manufacturing, and remote spacecraft control. Maintenance work and preparations for an upcoming resupply mission were also part of the day’s tasks.

Life science to benefit humans on Earth and in space was the top research priority aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, August 15. The Expedition 69 crew also began the workweek with housekeeping tasks and cargo craft duties.

Research in microgravity reveals new phenomena that would be impossible to discover or observe in Earth’s gravity environment. These unique insights help scientists and doctors promote innovations and develop advanced therapies benefiting humans living on and off the Earth.

Stem Cell Studies in Space

On Monday, two astronauts partnered together to investigate how to produce stem cells in space. Flight Engineers Frank Rubio of NASA and Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates) worked in the Life Science Glovebox inside the Kibo laboratory module. They serviced stem cell samples that give rise to blood and immune cells, with the potential to improve blood disease and cancer therapies on Earth. The StemCellEX-H Pathfinder biotechnology study may expand both commercial and research opportunities in space as well as patient remedies on Earth.

Health Monitoring and Cardiovascular Research

NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen wore a specialized vest and headband that monitored his cardiac activity and blood pressure while pedaling on an exercise cycle. The Bio-Monitor wearable sensors are being tested for their ability to record astronaut health data without impeding normal activities. Bowen wore the biomedical gear as he exercised for the Cardiobreath cardiovascular and respiratory experiment, aiming to improve crew health.

Maintenance and Manufacturing in Microgravity

NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg spent his day primarily on maintenance work, with some time set aside for a space manufacturing study. He unpacked hardware stowed in the Quest airlock to prepare it for the installation of a new overhead stowage platform. After lunch, Hoburg swapped graphene aerogel samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to learn how to manufacture a more uniform structure in weightlessness. The SUBSA-μgGA physics study seeks to benefit Earth and space industries through better power storage, environmental protection, and chemical sensing.

Spacecraft Remote Control and Resupply Operations

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin tested hardware that can remotely control an approaching or departing spacecraft from the Zvezda service module. The duo activated the telerobotically operated rendezvous unit (TORU) and evaluated its operation with the docked ISS Progress 83 (83P) cargo craft. The 83P is due to end its six-month stay at the orbital lab on Sunday, and it will be replaced on August 24 by the ISS Progress 85 resupply ship docking to Zvezda’s rear port two days after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Personal Time and Daily Activities

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev had the day off on Monday, spending time on personal activities and his daily two-hour workout. After lunch, Fedyaev spent about a half-hour checking life support gear in the Nauka science module.

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