Crew-1 NASA Astronaut Victor Glover is seen in the photo above working on spacesuits inside the U.S. Quest airlock. Featured Image Source: NASA
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program aims to perform frequent astronaut flights from American soil. Under the program SpaceX is contracted to conduct six crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS). On November 15, SpaceX launched a crew of four astronauts on the first operational mission, Crew-1, to the Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft. A Falcon 9 rocket propelled Crew-1 to orbit from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Resilience arrived to the orbiting laboratory on November 16, to initiate Crew-1’s six-month-long stay at ISS. Crew-1 NASA Astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, joined ISS Expedition 64 crewmembers: NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian Cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov.
For the past month, Expedition 64 astronauts have been conducting a variety of science research and tasks at the ISS Lab. Early December, SpaceX deployed a Dragon capsule carrying over 6,400 pounds of cargo to the Space Station during the 21st Commercial Resupply Service (CRS-21) mission for NASA. The cargo includes supplies to perform over one hundred science experiments and equipment to upgrade the station, even live rodents. "NASA Flight Engineers Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins removed several dozen rodents from the Cargo Dragon vehicle and placed them inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Observations may enable advanced drug delivery systems to treat muscle diseases on Earth and prevent muscle atrophy in space," the agency stated.
Aboard Dragon is also a new ISS door airlock the crewmembers are preparing to install. “The new NanoRacks Bishop airlock, delivered Dec. 7 in the SpaceX Cargo Dragon’s unpressurized trunk, will be installed to the Tranquility module this weekend using the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Bishop will increase the capacity for commercial research, enable the release of larger satellites, and expand equipment transfers in and out of the station,” the agency announced in a press release on December 18.
This week “the crew cleaned up the U.S. Quest airlock today after a weeklong series of spacesuit maintenance tasks inside the spacewalk staging module. U.S. spacesuit components were upgraded, swapped and cleaned throughout the week as station managers begin planning spacewalks for 2021. Another spacesuit was packed inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship for return to Earth in January.” Since their arrival the crew performed dozens of scientific investigations in zero gravity. “Scientific investigations conducted aboard the International Space Station the week of Dec. 14 included crystallizing antibodies in microgravity and studies of changes in the gene expression of fruit flies and how microbes adapt to space,” NASA shared.
SpaceX Crew-1 Pilot Astronaut Glover reviewed “procedures for the Monoclonal Antibodies PCG experiment, which crystallizes therapeutic monoclonal antibodies in microgravity, where it is possible to achieve higher quality crystals than on Earth. The investigation could accelerate the development of advanced therapies that target cancer cells,” the agency shared (pictured above). While SpaceX Crew-1 Commander Astronaut Hopkins conducted activities for Fiber Optic Production, an experiment that creates optical fibers in microgravity with a material called ZBLAN. “ZBLAN might sound like something from sci-fi, but we're using it to make optical fibers in space! This past week, I've been conducting the Fiber Optic Production experiment, which could help verify if fibers made in microgravity exhibit superior qualities to those made on Earth,” Hopkins shared via Twitter (pictured below).
ZBLAN might sound like something from sci-fi, but we're using it to make optical fibers in space!— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) December 15, 2020
This past week, I've been conducting the Fiber Optic Production experiment, which could help verify if fibers made in microgravity exhibit superior qualities to those made on Earth. pic.twitter.com/XsxrgwAbsr
SpaceX Crew-1 mission specialist JAXA Astronaut Noguchi has been maintaining a garden of radish plants that are growing in space. The Plant Habitat-02 experiment aims to optimize plant growth in microgravity, astronauts evaluate nutrition and taste of the plants.
Green is good!— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡－（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) December 11, 2020
NASA listed all the science research Expedition 64 crew worked on this week:
- Myotones, an ESA (European Space Agency) investigation, observes the biochemical properties of muscles during long-term exposure to spaceflight.
- Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Confocal Space Microscopy facility provides fluorescence images of biological samples on-orbit, which can provide data on the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue structure and function in real-time.
- The Vascular series from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) includes Vascular Aging and Vascular Echo, investigations that examine how microgravity affects the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the head.
- Cardinal Heart studies changes seen in the human heart after spending time in microgravity, using engineered heart tissues (EHTs) to analyze changes in gene expression in three heart cell types.
- Fiber Optic Production produces fiber optic cable in space from a blend of elements called ZBLAN. Previous research suggests optical fibers produced in microgravity should exhibit superior qualities to those produced on Earth.
- BRE focuses on fire prevention in spacecraft, examining burning conditions and the flammability of materials in microgravity. BRE is part of ACME, a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames intended to advance fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth, and to improve spacecraft fire prevention.
- MVP Cell-06 studies the effects of spaceflight on musculoskeletal disease. Astronauts experience exercise-related injuries in space and on Earth, and loss of cartilage and bone due to joint injury can lead to arthritis. This investigation could help identify medication to protect both astronauts and people on Earth.
- Standard Measures collects a set of consistent measurements from U.S. crew members to help characterize the effects of living and working in space on the human body.
- Space Organogenesis, an investigation from JAXA demonstrates the growth of 3D organ buds from human stem cells in order to analyze changes in gene expression.
- The ISS Experience is creating an immersive virtual reality (VR) series documenting life and research aboard the space station.
- Rotifer B2, an ESA experiment, explores the cumulative effect of microgravity and space radiation on living organisms.
- Plant Habitat-02 cultivates radish plants (Raphanus sativus) to determine the effects of microgravity on their growth. This model plant is nutritious, has a short cultivation time, and is genetically similar to Arabidopsis, a plant frequently studied in microgravity.
- AstroRad Vest tests a wearable vest designed to protect astronauts from radiation caused by unpredictable solar particle events. Astronauts provide input on how easy the garment is to put on, how it fits and feels, and the range of motion it allows.
- Food Acceptability looks at how the appeal of food changes during long-duration missions. Whether crew members like and actually eat foods directly affects caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits.
- ISS Ham gives groups of students an opportunity to ask questions of crew members as the space station passes over their school, camp, museum, or other facility.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.