Space Station Crew Busy With Plants, Bioprinting and Orbital Plumbing

The Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and the Prichal docking module attached to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module are pictured during an orbital sunset. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 66 crew split its research schedule between space botany and life science aboard the International Space Station yesterday.

NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn started Thursday watering plants growing for the Veggie PONDS study that explores ways to reliably grow vegetables in microgravity. Afterward, the three-time space station visitor verified the operability of the two robotics workstations, located in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and the cupola, that control the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Matthias Maurer, flight engineer from ESA (European Space Agency), printed samples from a handheld bioprinter for analysis back on Earth. The samples were printed to investigate how to develop tissues in microgravity to advance personalized medicine on Earth and in space.

The three other NASA Flight Engineers aboard the orbiting lab, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Mark Vande Hei, worked throughout the day on a variety of life support and science maintenance tasks. Chari was on plumbing duty draining and transferring fluids in station tanks. Barron serviced the lab’s exercise cycle before replacing components in the waste and hygiene compartment, the station’s bathroom. Vande Hei processed samples for DNA analysis for the Food Physiology experiment that documents how diet affects a crew member’s health during a long-term space mission.

The station’s commander, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, was back on exercise research on Thursday exploring how to maximize the effectiveness of working out in weightlessness. Russian Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov cleaned up the Zvezda and Poisk modules, returning them to a post-spacewalk configuration following his excursion with Shkaplerov on January 19.

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