Crew works space farming, physics research as station orbits higher – Space Station

Astronaut Bob Hines explores how a crew member’s cognition and perception are affected in microgravity for the GRIP experiment.

Agriculture, moss and fire research kept astronauts busy this weekend aboard the International Space Station. The pace of microgravity research is accelerating, with the Expedition 67 crew spending more time studying a wide range of space phenomena to promote human well-being on and off Earth.

NASA flight engineer Kjell Lindgren harvested vegetables on Friday after a 30-day growing period inside the Veggie Botany Facility for the study of space agriculture XROOTS. Researchers are studying the use of soilless methods, particularly hydroponics and aeroponics, to produce crops in microgravity and feed crews on missions beyond low Earth orbit.

NASA astronaut Bob Hines observed foams, or dispersions of bubbles in liquid, inside the KERMIT microscope today using the microgravity environment to reveal microstructures not possible on Earth. Observations can lead to more advanced space research opportunities and better design of consumer products and materials on Earth.

Robotics is a very important part of the space station with three external manipulators, or robotic arms, for payload operations outside the station and experimental equipment inside the station to assist astronauts. An investigation is investigating the ability to control robots on a planetary surface from an orbiting spacecraft. On Friday, NASA flight engineer Jessica Watkins installed the Surface Avatar laptop computer in the Columbus lab module to begin investigating ways, such as haptic controls, user interfaces and virtual reality, to command and control surface-bound robots from long distances.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti spent her day maintaining combustion research and other lab equipment. She first opened the integrated combustion rack and connected components that support the investigation of the growth and suppression of solid fuel ignition and extinguishment fires. The station resident twice also reloaded software on a laptop, worked on orbital plumbing tasks and took a cognitive test for studying standard measurements.

The space station is in higher orbit after the docked ISS Progress 81 freighter ignited its engines for one minute and 46 seconds on Thursday. The orbital reboost puts the station at the correct altitude for the upcoming departure and arrival of a pair of Soyuz crew ships.

Commander Oleg Artemyev will lead the return to Earth soon with flight engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov inside the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship. The trio have been aboard the orbiting laboratory since March 18 and docked with the Prichal module less than three and a half hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The three cosmonauts spent Friday checking the communication systems inside the Soyuz vehicle and conditioning their bodies for return to Earth’s gravity after six months of living and working in weightlessness.

Just over a week before the return of the trio of cosmonauts, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will lift off from Baikonur with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin. The three crewmates will make a short trip to the station’s Rassvet module inside the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship and begin a six-month mission at the station as Expedition 68 flight engineers.

Learn more about the station’s activities by following the space station blog, @space station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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