Space Station Astronauts Perform Zero-Gravity Research As Cygnus Counts Down To Launch

Cygnus Captured by Canadarm2 Robotic Arm August 2023

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft is pictured moments after it was captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm controlled by NASA astronaut and Expedition 69 Flight Engineer Woody Hoburg from inside the International Space Station on August 4, 2023. Credit: NASA

Cargo mission preparations and space research kept the Expedition 70 and Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crews busy at the beginning of the week. The 11 residents working together aboard the International Space Station (ISS) also continued their ongoing biomedical science and lab maintenance activities.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is sitting atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket counting down to a lift off no earlier than 12:07 p.m. EST on Tuesday. Cygnus is packed with more than 8,200 pounds of science and supplies scheduled for delivery to the orbital outpost on Thursday, February 1. Among the new science experiments being delivered are the Metal 3D Printer which tests the 3D printing of small metal parts in space and the Robotic Surgery Tech Demo which tests remotely controlled surgical techniques.

NASA’s Northrop Grumman NG 20 Commercial Resupply Mission

NASA’s Northrop Grumman 20th commercial resupply mission will carry more than 8,200 pounds (3,720 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara trained on a computer Monday afternoon for Cygnus’ arrival. Moghbeli will be at the robotics workstation on Thursday commanding the Canadarm 2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus at 4:20 a.m. O’Hara will also be on duty monitoring Cygnus’ automated approach and rendezvous early Thursday.

The duo along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa started the day with blood, saliva, and urine sample collections. The samples were processed first then stowed in a science freezer for later analysis to understand how living in weightlessness affects the human body. Furukawa later assisted Ax-3 crewmates Michael López-Alegría and Alper Gezeravcı as they studied how to use the CRISPR method to genetically modify plants promoting space agriculture and sustainable life support systems.

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa Works Out on ARED

Expedition 70 Flight Engineer and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa works out on the Advanced Resisitive Exercise Device located (ARED) in the International Space Station’s Tranquility module. The ARED is designed to mimic the inertial forces generated when lifting free weights on Earth. Credit: NASA

Station Commander Andreas Mogensen from ESA (European Space Agency) started his day with a cognition test measuring his spatial orientation, visual tracking, and decision-making abilities in microgravity. Afterward, he supported the Ax-3 crew throughout the day, prepared the station for Cygnus cargo transfers, and recorded video messages for European students.

Ax-3 Pilot Walter Villadei documented his meals on Monday and answered a few questions about his dining experience. Villadei then videotaped a simple space physics experiment using a yo-yo and then recorded a video message for future Italian pilots. Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt from ESA also recorded a video message using 360-degree virtual reality gear to promote science for Swedish audiences. He later documented his sleep experiences, took a cognition test, then uninstalled a high-speed camera that photographed Earth’s thunderstorms.

Roscosmos Components on International Space Station

Four main components on the Roscosmos segment of the International Space Station are pictured as the orbital outpost soared 265 miles above a cloudy Pacific Ocean. 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

Over in the orbiting lab’s Roscosmos segment, veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko repressurized thermal control system components and then swapped batteries inside hardware designed to inspect difficult-to-reach areas on the station. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub spent his day inventorying tools and equipment inside the Poisk module and photographing windows on the Zvezda service module. Cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov started his day disconnecting a student-controlled Earth observation camera and then serviced ventilation systems in Zvezda and the Nauka science module.

The space station is orbiting a few miles higher after the Roscosmos Progress 85 cargo craft fired its engines for over 13 minutes on Saturday. The orbital reboost lifted the station to the correct altitude for an upcoming Progress cargo launch in February and the next Soyuz crew swap planned for early spring.

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