Space Station view
Science & Exploration

Space Station science return and spacecraft shuffle

03/09/2019 2605 views 52 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / International Space Station

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano’s Beyond mission has kicked into high gear during the last two weeks. He has been keeping the International Space Station running smoothly as well as working remotely with European researchers – with even Luca’s mealtimes the subject of experimental scrutiny.

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli using EveryWear for nutrition monitoring
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli using EveryWear for nutrition monitoring

As an amateur triathlete, Luca knows how crucial nutrition is for healthy and efficient living. Getting meals right is an aspect of mission design, so the Nutrition Monitoring for the International Space Station (NutrISS) experiment is tracking Luca’s energy balance.

Using the EveryWear astronaut app and a ‘bioelectric impedance’ device to measure his bodily conductivity, Luca has been tracking his fat to mass ratio. The science teams on Earth hope that a carefully-tailored high-protein diet could limit the typical microgravity-driven loss of bone and muscle.

Spacecraft shuffle

Luca during Soyuz redocking
Luca during Soyuz redocking

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft originally expected to arrive on 24 August, carrying supplies and the Russian ‘Fedor’ robot, had its arrival called off due to a problem with the automated docking system. A different port was selected for what turned out to be a successful follow-up docking, but first it needed to be vacated.

On 26 August US astronaut Andrew Morgan and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov accordingly moved the Soyuz MS-13 in a half-hour spaceflight. The Space Station solar arrays no longer align to the Sun during such manoeuvres, so electrical power needed to be conserved in advance of this transfer.

Many facilities were temporarily switched off, including Europe’s commercial ICE Cubes platform currently hosting three experiments: a test of off-the-shelf computer parts, an art installation and an ESA investigation into orbital cyber security.

Exit the Dragon

Flight of the Dragon
Flight of the Dragon

A fourth ICE Cubes experiment was removed earlier in the month after it completed its operations. SpectroDemo – a new type of spectrometer that could be used on an ESA exobiology experiment, was tested to see if the technology is robust and fit for space science.

Tuesday 27 August saw the departure of Dragon and the end of the spaceflight part of many more European experiments. The samples from the Amyloid Aggregation experiment looking into how protein accumulates in brain cells were removed from the Station’s –80°C freezer and packed for return to Earth.

Taking photos of BioRock
Taking photos of BioRock

The proteins and exobiology instruments flying on Dragon were accompanied by microbes that had also been waiting in the freezer for their return trip to Earth. The BioRock experiment was the first investigation into using organisms to mine for resources in space. Microbes were set lose on a basalt plate in a closed container.

More organisms, in the form of algae, were also flown home, that had been part of German Aerospace Center DLR’s PhotoBioreactor experiment that aimed to convert carbon dioxide to breathable oxygen and edible algae – five samples splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

Matiss-2 in Columbus
Matiss-2 in Columbus

Lastly France’s space agency CNES finished a second investigation into materials for germ-resistant spacecraft. The Matiss-2 experiment was placed in Europe’s space laboratory Columbus for just under a year collecting dust and bacteria. Researchers will now analyse the surfaces to see which materials are least hospitable to unwanted bacteria – focussing on materials that expel water.

Time for an upgrade
Luca and his crewmates have also been helping keep onboard hardware running smoothly – an unglamorous but essential aspect of spaceflight. They prepared laptops for upgrades, installed updated firmware in the  Kubik centrifuge-incubator, prepared the AstroPi educational mini-computers to run new student code and switched over laptop batteries as part of the regular health check of the
BioLab glovebox system.

Luca working with Fluid Science Laboratory
Luca working with Fluid Science Laboratory

Related Articles

Day and night
Science & Exploration

A space cocktail of science, bubbles and sounds

19/08/2019 3385 views 68 likes
Open item
Luca performs GRIP experiment on the International Space Station
Science & Exploration

Two weeks of science and Beyond

05/08/2019 2808 views 50 likes
Open item
Expedition 60 crewmembers in front of a mural of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission
Science & Exploration

Preparing science Beyond Earth

08/07/2019 1955 views 54 likes
Open item
Luca, Drew and Alexander take a selfie with their Soyuz spacecraft
Science & Exploration

Beyond hatch opening – watch live

25623 views 141 likes
Open item
Members of Expedition 60 pose with their Soyuz launcher
Science & Exploration

Europe celebrates a launch and a landing

17/07/2019 783 views 12 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano returns to the International Space Station

21/07/2019 4949 views 86 likes
Open item
Luca
Science & Exploration

ESA launches new podcast for Beyond mission

20/06/2019 2412 views 51 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano goes Beyond

27/09/2018 4963 views 43 likes
Open item
Luca spacewalk
Science & Exploration

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano to be Space Station commander …

31/05/2018 8228 views 93 likes
Open item
CAVES-X1
Science & Exploration

Exploring underground with a colliding drone

22/05/2017 9808 views 101 likes
Open item
Matthias, Luca and Pedro
Science & Exploration

One small step for a geologist

13/11/2016 2379 views 25 likes
Open item
Waterwalk
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano: this year’s Captain NEEMO

06/07/2015 5167 views 37 likes
Open item
Luca Parmitano
Science & Exploration

Chance to meet ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano

14/02/2013 1489 views 2 likes
Open item
Soyuz TMA-09M, Volare mission patch, 2013
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano flying high

07/09/2012 2265 views 5 likes
Open item
Luca Parmitano
Science & Exploration

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano assigned to 2013 Space Station…

18/02/2011 2463 views 3 likes
Open item
Luca spacewalk
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano

158245 views 440 likes
Open item
Dragon capture
Science & Exploration

Learning how to catch a spacecraft

04/06/2012 789 views 1 likes
Open item
Soyuz MS-11
Science & Exploration

Lung health, algae and radiation research on Space Station

24/06/2019 908 views 20 likes
Open item

Related Links