The International Space Station is orbiting slightly higher today placing it in position for a crew swap taking place in March. Meanwhile, the seven-member Expedition 66 crew participated in life science and physics research and a variety of robotics activities.
Russia’s ISS Progress 79 cargo craft, docked to the aft end of the Zvezda service module, fired its engines early Tuesday morning for two minutes and 22 seconds. The orbital maneuver boosted the station’s orbit by six-tenths of a mile in preparation for the Soyuz MS-20 crew ship arriving in mid-March as well as the Soyuz MS-19 trio departing on March 30. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will be returning to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship completing a NASA single spaceflight record-breaking mission of 355 days.
Today’s science schedule aboard the orbiting lab covered a wide variety of subjects exploring phenomena benefitting astronauts in space and humans on Earth.
NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn configured the Combustion Integrated Rack to begin operations for a pair of studies exploring fire growth in microgravity. Marshburn also took a robotics test for the Behavioral Core Measures investigating how living in space affects crew stress, performance, and behavior. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer watered and photographed plants growing for the Veggie PONDS space agriculture study.
NASA astronaut Kayla Barron set up an Astrobee robotic assistant to collect visual data and create a localization map inside the Harmony module. She also joined fellow NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari and reviewed spacewalk responsibilities and configured spacewalk tools. Vande Hei swapped samples and cleaned the inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a research device that enables the observation of thermophysical properties at high temperatures.
In the station’s Russian segment, Commander Anton Shkaplerov joined Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov and studied how the heart and circulation system adapt to weightlessness. The duo from Roscosmos also partnered together on cargo activities and air repressurization activities inside the Progress 79 vehicle.