Space Station Crew Unpacks Cargo Dragon and Starts New Research

Prichal Attached to Progress Delivery Vehicle

Russia’s newest docking module, known as Prichal and still attached to the Progress delivery vehicle, is pictured docked to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module as the International Space Station orbited into a sunrise 260 miles above the Central African Republic. Credit: NASA Johnson

The Expedition 66 crew members continue unpacking the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle and initiating brand new microgravity investigations. Some of the new science taking place aboard the International Space Station is looking at plant genetics, human cellular function, and even space laundry techniques.

The four NASA astronauts living in the orbital lab took turns on Tuesday offloading some of the 6,500 pounds (2,950 kilograms) of new crew supplies, station hardware, and science experiments. Flight Engineer Kayla Barron began her morning working inside the Cargo Dragon. She then serviced samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a research device that observes the thermophysical properties of high-temperature materials.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Thomas Marshburn, and Raja Chari got together on Tuesday afternoon to unpack the Cargo Dragon as well. Vande Hei and Marshburn have also begun work on a pair of new experiments exploring how to improve life in space. Vande Hei is testing detergent samples to learn how to keep clothes clean in a variety of gravity environments during long-term space missions. Marshburn set up the Veggie botany research facility for observing plant growth at the genetic level to promote space agriculture. Chari collected and spun his blood samples in a centrifuge then stowed them for later analysis. Afterward, Chari entered the Columbus laboratory module and began organizing cargo packed inside.

Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) collected research hardware from inside Columbus for a space biology investigation. He then began assembling that gear and thawing culture chambers inside the Kibo laboratory module. The work is for the new Cytoskeleton biology study, taking place in the Life Science Glovebox, and will explore how the machinery of the human cell is impacted by weightlessness.

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, along with Vande Hei, started their day practicing emergency evacuation procedures. The trio trained on a computer for the procedures they would use in the unlikely event they would have to quickly board the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship, undock, and return to Earth. Shkaplerov then unpacked Russian spacewalk gear delivered recently aboard the Prichal docking module. Dubrov focused on electronics and hardware maintenance for the rest of the day.

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