Donning the EMU spacesuit
Science & Exploration

Science never stops on the Space Station

27/11/2019 681 views 13 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration

The past two weeks in Earth orbit saw ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan conduct two of four planned spacewalks to service the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer AMS-02.

Spacewalks are time-consuming to prepare, and can occupy many hours of an astronaut’s week in space. Despite this, much of the science on the International Space Station continues unattended, controlled by operators on Earth. Planners also find creative ways to fit experiment runs into a crewmember’s busy schedule.

Let us take look at some of the European research running at 28 800 km/h above Earth.

Plasma, metals and bubbles

Electromagnetic Levitator on Space Station
Electromagnetic Levitator on Space Station

Many experiments, once they are set up, can run in the background while astronauts do other work. Three experiments like this were initialised and fine-tuned over the past two weeks.

On 18 November, Roscosmos astronaut Alexander Skvortsov changed the camera mode for the Electromagnetic Levitator that recorded the melting and solidifying of metal alloys over the following nights, including one made of copper and zinc – both in vacuum and in helium gas.

The levitator allows researchers to inspect how metals form in controlled circumstances – without gravity skewing results. The findings will help us understand how to make metals with interesting and useful properties for application in electronics and manufacturing.

Plasma Kristall-4
Plasma Kristall-4

The Multiscale Boiling experiment also ran for three days after fine-tuning that started on 11 November. The experiment added an electrical field to boiling bubbles in space to recreate aspects of gravity. At night, the experiment was turned off and data downloaded to ground control for researchers eager to understand more about how bubble formation can influence the way heat is transferred. This study will help improve thermal management systems in space.

Other experiments in progress included radiation monitoring experiment Dosis-3D, and the Matiss-2 experiment that will collect dust and bacteria over six months to assess materials for cleaner spacecraft.

Alexander also prepared the PK-4 science campaign by clearing its tubes of air and then filling them with neon gas. On 11 November gas was ignited into a plasma by applying a high voltage. Micro-particles went for a ride in the plasma-tubes and became charged – behaving like atoms. Lasers and cameras measure how the dust particles move and the data is recorded to hard drives to better understand how atoms interact on a molecular level.

The Russian-European experiment requires astronauts to “catch” the clouds of particles (using electromagnetic fields) when these come into view in the PK-4 chamber. Crewmembers also need to swap the gas and hard drives for the experiments run remotely from ground.

Experiments on and with astronauts

Some experiments require astronauts to be the test subjects. On 13 November Luca started his fifth session of the NutrISS experiment by measuring his body composition and reporting on his diet through the Everywear app. This experiment will help scientists understand and respond to the changing nutritional requirements of humans in space.

Luca also found time during the past two weeks to take an Earth-based rover for a spin. Called Analog-1, the experiment uses the Space Station as a stand-in for spacecraft orbiting another planet. From orbit, Luca controlled a robot in the Netherlands, driving this around a geological site and collecting rocks as directed by a science team at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany.

Loading the software and setting up the experiment on the Station computers was done while Luca was outside the Space Station for the first spacewalk of his Beyond mission.

Related Articles

Day and night
Science & Exploration

A space cocktail of science, bubbles and sounds

19/08/2019 3441 views 69 likes
Read
Luca performs GRIP experiment on the International Space Station
Science & Exploration

Two weeks of science and Beyond

05/08/2019 2864 views 50 likes
Read
Expedition 60 crewmembers in front of a mural of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission
Science & Exploration

Preparing science Beyond Earth

08/07/2019 2000 views 55 likes
Read
Luca, Drew and Alexander take a selfie with their Soyuz spacecraft
Science & Exploration

Beyond hatch opening – watch live

25748 views 142 likes
Read
Members of Expedition 60 pose with their Soyuz launcher
Science & Exploration

Europe celebrates a launch and a landing

17/07/2019 824 views 12 likes
Read
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano returns to the International Space Station

21/07/2019 5046 views 87 likes
Read
Luca
Science & Exploration

ESA launches new podcast for Beyond mission

20/06/2019 2534 views 52 likes
Read
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano goes Beyond

27/09/2018 5162 views 43 likes
Read
Luca spacewalk
Science & Exploration

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano to be Space Station commander …

31/05/2018 8357 views 93 likes
Read
CAVES-X1
Science & Exploration

Exploring underground with a colliding drone

22/05/2017 9877 views 102 likes
Read
Matthias, Luca and Pedro
Science & Exploration

One small step for a geologist

13/11/2016 2436 views 25 likes
Read
Waterwalk
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano: this year’s Captain NEEMO

06/07/2015 5189 views 37 likes
Read
Luca Parmitano
Science & Exploration

Chance to meet ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano

14/02/2013 1510 views 2 likes
Read
Soyuz TMA-09M, Volare mission patch, 2013
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano flying high

07/09/2012 2285 views 5 likes
Read
Luca Parmitano
Science & Exploration

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano assigned to 2013 Space Station…

18/02/2011 2488 views 3 likes
Read
Luca spacewalk
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano

161653 views 448 likes
Read
Dragon capture
Science & Exploration

Learning how to catch a spacecraft

04/06/2012 826 views 2 likes
Read
Soyuz MS-11
Science & Exploration

Lung health, algae and radiation research on Space Station

24/06/2019 966 views 22 likes
Read

Related Links