Space Station Astronauts Work Spine Scans, Heart and Breathing Checks

Russian spacewalkers Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov work on the Prichal module during a spacewalk on January 19, 2022. Credit: NASA

Spinal scans and cardiopulmonary measurements were the key research operations taking place aboard the International Space Station on Friday. The Expedition 66 crew also serviced spacesuits, life support gear, and a Russian science module.

Human research is fundamental to understanding how the body adapts to weightlessness with doctors seeking to keep astronauts healthy during long-term missions. Researchers look at the data using a variety of tools to understand the physiological changes the human body goes through in space.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Marshburn took turns scanning each other’s spines using the Ultrasound 2 device during the afternoon on Friday. The duo marked their lower back area and scanned the lumber spinal section with real time guidance from doctors on the ground.

Another experiment is using portable gear an astronaut can wear that measures heart rate and breathing function. Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) put on the vest-like medical monitoring device Friday morning and worked out on the exercise cycle for the Metabolic Space study.

Two NASA astronauts focused their efforts on maintaining space station hardware on the last day of the workweek. Flight Engineer Kayla Barron worked for several hours in the Quest airlock cleaning cooling loops and water lines inside a pair of U.S. spacesuits. NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari adjusted the station’s Internal Thermal Control System located behind an avionics rack in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

In the station’s Russian segment, Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos worked throughout the day on orbital plumbing and ventilation cleaning tasks. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov spent the day checking cable connections, laptop computers, and other components inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

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