Robotics Work, Space Biology Keep Station Humming

The International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is pictured as the International Space Station flew into an orbital sunrise above the Pacific Ocean.

Robotic controllers unloaded new research hardware off a U.S. cargo craft today for installation outside the International Space Station. Inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 62 crew continued exploring microgravity’s impact on a variety of life forms.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today offered the Bartolomeo science payload system for installation on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Robotics engineers on the ground commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract Bartolomeo from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk and stage it for installation later. The European research device will enable numerous external science experiments to be conducted and controlled outside the space station.

Botany, biology and physics were the focus of today’s research aboard the orbiting lab. The space science work is helping NASA keep astronauts safe and healthy as it plans missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA spent a couple of hours on botany research learning how to cultivate vegetables and fruits in space. She also continued the Vascular Echo study attaching a sensor to her leg that monitored her arteries during a light exercise session.

Afterward, she joined fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan servicing and photographing samples of gut microbes. The study seeks to understand how microgravity enriches and depletes the microbes that affect crew health

The duo also unpacked samples that were exposed to the harsh environment of space outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Scientists want to understand what happens to materials such as paint, metals and other substances that could make up future spacecraft and habitats experiencing long-term space radiation and differing gravity environments.

Commander Oleg Skripochka updated the station’s inventory system today after unloading and organizing cargo inside the Russian Progress 74 space freighter. The veteran cosmonaut also worked on computers and communications gear before some research on crew dynamics.

The next to crew to launch to the station, Expedition 63, is in Kazakhstan today getting fitted in their Sokol launch and entry and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship seats. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will lift off April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to begin a 195-day mission on the orbiting lab.

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