Space Station Crew Busy With Research as Managers Work Axiom Ax-1 and SpaceX Crew-4 Missions

SpaceX Dragon Endurance Crew Ship Harmony Module

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance crew ship is pictured from a window aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour crew ship. Endurance is docked to the Harmony module’s forward-facing port while Endeavour is docked to Harmony’s space-facing port on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The four private astronauts from Axiom Space are now due to depart the International Space Station on Saturday night and return to Earth the following day. Four commercial crew astronauts assigned to SpaceX Crew-4 are also looking ahead to their mission aboard the orbiting lab, which is set to begin after the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew departs.

NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom Space are planning for the Ax-1 crew to undock from the station inside the Dragon Endeavour crew ship on Saturday at 6:35 p.m. EDT. Ax-1 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria will lead Pilot Larry Connor and Mission Specialists Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe back to Earth inside the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft for splashdown on Sunday at 1:46 p.m. near the coast of Florida.

The SpaceX Crew-4 mission awaits its launch date as mission managers monitor weather conditions at the Ax-1 splashdown site and review mission data after Endeavour’s return. The Falcon 9 rocket that will the launch the Crew-4 astronauts to space inside the Dragon Freedom crew ship successfully fired its nine Merlin engines on Wednesday during its static fire test. In the meantime, Crew-4 Commander Kjell Lindgren with Pilot Robert Hines and Mission Specialists Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti, continue training for their mission while in quarantine at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Operations on the station continue normally, as the four Expedition 67 astronauts worked on an array of space research on Thursday. Commander Tom Marshburn of NASA joined ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer for muscle measurements and ultrasound scans. The duo contributed to the Myotones human research experiment to understand how weightlessness affects the biochemical properties of muscles. NASA Flight Engineers Kayla Barron and Raja Chari collected blood and urine samples and stowed them in science freezer for future analysis for more insights into spaceflight’s impact on the human body. The quartet also checked out their Dragon spacesuits as they look ahead to their departure inside the Dragon Endurance soon after the Crew-4 astronauts begin their station mission.

The three cosmonauts living and working on the orbital lab concentrated on their suite of science and maintenance jobs. Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev studied piloting techniques that may be used on future planetary or robotic missions. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Denis Matveev attached a heart monitor to himself and then photographed the condition of Russian module windows. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov pursued cardiac research during the morning before working on Russian life support and photography gear.

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