The Ax-3 Equation: Unraveling Expedition 70’s Fusion of Space Exploration and Research

City Lights of North America Appear Under Earth’s Airglow

The city lights of North America appear under Earth’s airglow and a starry night sky in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 262 miles above North Dakota. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 70 crew is turning its attention to the third private astronaut mission from Axiom Space as it counts down to launch next week. Meanwhile, the seven International Space Station (ISS) residents are also continuing their focus on human research, space botany, and life support maintenance tasks.

The next spacecraft to launch to the orbital outpost rolled out to its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon Freedom crew spacecraft atop, is scheduled to launch four private astronauts at 5:11 p.m. EST on January 17 on a day-and-a-half-long ride to the space station.

NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli will be monitoring the arrival of Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) as the Dragon approaches the Harmony module’s forward port for an automated docking at 5:15 a.m. on January 19. About an hour and a half later, the hatches will open and Ax-3 Commander and veteran astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will enter the station. He will be followed by first-time space visitors Pilot Walter Villadei and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravci and Marcus Wandt. The Ax-3 quartet will live and work aboard the station for two weeks of research, education, and commercial activities.

Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli Sequences DNA Samples for BioMole Study

NASA astronaut and Expedition 70 Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli sequences DNA samples for the BioMole study demonstrating hardware that can analyze microbes to protect crew health and spacecraft life support systems. Credit: NASA

O’Hara and Moghbeli on Friday reviewed the Dragon’s approach and rendezvous procedures that will see the duo monitoring data from the vehicle as it nears Harmony for a docking. The pair also joined astronauts Andreas Mogensen from ESA (European Space Agency) and Satoshi Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) earlier in the day familiarizing themselves with the Ax-3 mission profile including crew coordination expectations, the research program, and other activities. The quartet then called down to mission controllers discussing their readiness for the Ax-3 mission.

The four station astronauts also kept up their science work to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. O’Hara began her day collecting and stowing blood samples for analysis followed by a cognition test for the CIPHER suite of 14 human research experiments. Furukawa checked wire connections on combustion experiment gear and then tended to tomato plants growing for a plant immunity investigation. Mogensen worked on a science laptop computer and a lab freezer before exploring how virtual reality may improve morale on long-term space missions. Moghbeli explored anti-microbial coatings that may prevent the spread of microbes caused by the human touch on spacecraft.

Southwestern Tip of Western Australia From Space Station

The southwestern tip of Western Australia, with its capital city of Perth at bottom right, is pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited 265 miles above the Indian Ocean off the coast of the island continent. Credit: NASA

The three cosmonauts from Roscosmos kept up their maintenance duties ensuring the upkeep of the orbital lab. Oleg Kononenko once again spent the day inspecting the Zvezda service module’s internal structures. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub checked out electronic components on a carbon dioxide removal device. Flight Engineer Konstantin Borisov worked throughout the day on fluid physics and communications gear.

The space station is orbiting slightly higher after the 85P fired its engines for 17 minutes and 30 seconds Friday morning. The orbital reboost sets up the correct phasing for the ISS Progress 87 resupply mission next month.

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