Crew Preps for Split, Studies Space Effects on Human Body

The aurora australis, or "southern lights," highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass
The aurora australis, or “southern lights,” highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass as the International Space Station orbited 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

The Expedition 59 crew will split up later this month when three International Space Station residents return to Earth. The other three crewmembers today practiced evacuating the orbiting lab in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Station Commander Oleg Kononenko will depart home with Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques inside the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship on June 24. The trio have been living in space since Dec. 3 and will have orbited Earth for 204 days after landing in Kazakhstan. The commander spent the day Thursday collecting cargo for stowage and readying the homebound Soyuz.

The three crewmembers that are staying behind conducted an emergency drill during the afternoon. Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin, Christina Koch and Nick Hague conducted an emergency simulation and rehearsed quickly entering their Soyuz lifeboat, undocking and descending to Earth.

Human research continued full speed ahead today to help doctors keep astronauts healthy in space. McClain and Hague once again collected their breath samples for the Airway Monitoring study. The experiment studies airway inflammation as crewmembers on space missions are at an increased risk of breathing free-floating dust and particles due to the microgravity environment. Results could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for successful long-term missions. Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans of his neck, gut, heart and leg throughout the day. The ground-assisted Vascular Echo scans give flight surgeons insight into an astronaut’s cardiovascular condition.

The crew also worked on robotics power cables and the installation of a small satellite deployer. Koch installed cables in the Unity module during the morning to provide backup power for the Canadarm2 robotic arm. McClain spent the majority of her day in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module installing hardware that will soon eject a set of CubeSats outside the station for research in Earth orbit.

The two cosmonauts, Kononenko and Ovchinin, spent some time in the morning exploring ways to counteract the effects of microgravity. The duo tested a unique suit that draws body fluids towards the feet to minimize head and eye pressure.

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