Dragon’s Arrival Spurs Robotics and Science Frenzy Aboard ISS

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The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft’s thrusters fire automatically as the vehicle’s slow, methodical approach to the International Space Station adjusts for docking with the Harmony module’s forward port. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 70 crew and robotics controllers on the ground were busy unloading a U.S. cargo vessel on Tuesday, November 14. International Space Station (ISS) residents are also activating new science experiments to reveal how microgravity affects humans.

Unpacking and research activities

The astronauts and teams on the ground are working together today to unpack some of the nearly 6,500 pounds of science, supplies and hardware delivered to the spacecraft. SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft on Saturday. Commander Andreas Mogensen worked inside the commercial supply ship on Tuesday, disassembling some of the loaded crew bags strapped into the Dragon. The ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut then moved the smaller cargo items through the hatch to the station to replenish the crew. Mogensen also supported a few experiments in space botany to support crews traveling further from Earth.

The first rays of sunshine and the city lights of the USA

The first rays of sunlight begin to illuminate Earth’s atmosphere in this photo from the International Space Station as it orbited 260 miles above the center of the United States. On the far left, the city lights of Chicago, Illinois, are outlined by Lake Michigan. On the far right, the city lights of the Dallas/Forth Worth metropolitan area shine through the clouds. Credit: NASA

Robotics and hardware installation

Mission controllers from the US and Japan coordinated their robotics activities to retrieve and install some of the heavier science hardware delivered in Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. The American engineers remotely controlled the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract the new ILLUMA-T laser communications experiment from Dragon. The JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) robotics controllers stood by as the Canadarm2 handed over ILLUMA-T to the Japanese robotic arm for installation on the Kibo laboratory module.

Aging studies and cell research

NASA Flight engineer Loral O’Hara worked all Tuesday on a new study to better understand the aging process. She processed human cell samples for incubation and storage in a scientific freezer. The cell samples are grown in space and compared to samples on Earth to observe cell stress, metabolism and other characteristics that may contribute to accelerated aging processes in people living on and off Earth.

NASA astronaut Loral O'Hara replaces hardware

NASA astronaut and Expedition 70 flight engineer Loral O’Hara is replacing hardware at the Plant Habitat facility in preparation for future experiments examining genetic responses and immune system function of tomatoes in microgravity. Credit: NASA

Collaborative experiments

Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Satoshi Furukawa worked together to handle cell samples at the Kibo laboratory for the Cell Gravisensing-2 study. The duo took samples from an incubator, observed them in a microscope and then placed them in a scientific freezer for later analysis. Observations will help researchers learn how cells respond to the lack of gravity, advancing space biology and improving treatments for ailments on Earth.

Technology and maintenance tasks

NASA’s Moghbeli also installed computing equipment in the Combustion Integrated Rack that will allow safe research into fuels and flames in weightlessness. JAXA’s Furukawa laid the cables and installed a laptop computer that will support activities for the ILLUMA-T laser technology research.

Soyuz MS-24 crew ship above the night lights of the Middle East

The Soyuz MS-24 crew ship is prominently featured in this photo from the International Space Station as it flew into an orbital sunrise 410 kilometers above the Iran-Pakistan border. The city lights below highlight the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf and Oman on the Gulf of Oman. Credit: NASA

Research and maintenance of cosmonauts

The three cosmonauts from the orbiting laboratory focused on their range of research and maintenance tasks on Tuesday Roscosmos. Cosmonaut and five-time station visitor Oleg Kononenko inspected the Zvezda service module with input from on-site specialists. Flight engineer Nikolai Chub photographed the internal state of the station’s Roscosmos modules for analysis and then secured a sensor-filled canopy and practiced futuristic piloting techniques. Finally, flight engineer Konstantin worked on orbital plumbing, updated the tablet software, and photographed Earth landmarks for study.

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