Spaceflight Insider

Crew packs Dragon, performs science; NASA announces future ISS crew members

Earth via Exp47

In addition to performing the many science experiments aboard the International Space Station, crew members get to take stunning pictures of Earth. Recently, the three millionth photo was taken from the orbiting laboratory. Photo Credit: NASA

The crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) spent the past week primarily focused on science while packing the CRS-8 Dragon spacecraft for its return to Earth. The SpaceX capsule is slated to bring back science and equipment on May 11 for ground analysis.

Monday, May 2, saw Expedition 47 Commander Jeff Williams harvest and fixate plant growth for the Plant Gravity Sensing study, an experiment designed to understand how plants can detect gravity. Plants can sense gravity, which enables them to grow stalks in the opposite direction. Scientists hope the absence of a gravity environment will help fuel the understanding of how plants develop a “gravity sensor”.

WetLab-2 Installation

Commander Jeff Williams installs equipment for WetLab-2. Photo Credit: NASA

After working with plants, Williams floated over to help validate WetLab-2 system hardware. This device is designed to help improve the speed in which genes are analyzed by having equipment on board to rapidly analyze the sample and send the data back to Earth.

Meanwhile, British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake worked to swap gear on a specialized microscope for the Light Microscopy Module, a modified commercial state-of-the-art imaging microscope facility which could provide researchers diagnostic hardware aboard the outpost. It has the capability of sending, remotely, images and video back to Earth. The goal is to help scientists on the ground understand how materials are affected by microgravity at a microscopic level in order to build more efficient machines on Earth and in space.

Peake went on to save data collected from his armband for the Energy study—designed to investigate energy requirements of astronauts on long-duration missions. He then did work on the Rodent Research study to help scientists better understand the process of bone and muscle atrophy. Twenty mice were flown aboard the Dragon capsule and will be returned with the capsule.

To prepare for the return of Dragon, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Williams continued to load the spacecraft with cargo in advance of unberthing on May 11.

Plant and rodent research continued on Tuesday with samples that were placed inside a freeze aboard Dragon. Loading of the SpaceX vessel continued as well.

Also that day, ground teams maneuvered the robotic Canadarm2 toward the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-2) on the S3/34 truss, located on the starboard side of the station. Ground teams want to survey its condition.

Dragon berthed

Photo Credit: Tim Kopra / NASA

The crew shifted over to Fluid Shift on Wednesday. This experiment collects data from each astronaut that wears a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure (LBNP) device. It measures how much fluid moves from the lower body to the upper body. Scientists want to understand the impact these shifts have on pressure inside the head, which can affect vision. This is the third and final week of the experiment.

Later in the day, ground controllers guided Canadarm2 to the Harmony module in advance of Dragon unberthing, where, on Thursday, it will be used to look for defects in the Thermal Protection System (which were intentionally made) in order to validate techniques for inspection of future crewed vehicles. After those inspections, the arm was grappled onto the Dragon in preparation for unberthing operations.

In addition to continuing the fluid shift experiment on May 5, astronauts also took surface and air samples around the outpost to study microbial diversity for the Microbial Observatory-1 experiment.

Another experiment that was worked on was Strata-1. Hardware was setup to download imagery taken for the study, which explores how soil from other planetary bodies might behave in order to help design future spacesuits and other space gear.

Friday, May 6, was mostly spent on ongoing experiments and, as usual, Saturday was primarily for station cleaning and off duty activities for the crew.

CRS-8 Dragon Arm

Much of the week’s activities included preparing Dragon for departure on May 11. Photo Credit: NASA


Scott Tingle trains at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. Photo Credit: NASA

Also on Friday, NASA and the rest of the space station partners announced the newest round of expedition crew members that will visit the outpost in the second half of 2017. The selection includes first-time NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and veteran Randy Bresnik.

“There’s so much going on aboard the space station at this point, so many science experiments and technology demonstrations,” Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a press release. “Scott and Randy have their work cut out for them, but I have no doubt they’ll do excellent jobs.”

Tingle, 50, is a member of NASA’s 2009 astronaut class. He will fly with Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner—who will also be on his first spaceflight—and veteran Alexander Skvortsov. The three of them will launch in September 2017 aboard Soyuz MS-06.

They will join with the Expedition 53 crew of NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

Tingle was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He was commissioned as a naval officer in 1991 and earned gold wings of a naval aviator in 1993. He is currently a captain in the U.S. Navy and has accumulated more than 4,000 hours in 48 different types of aircraft. This includes 700 aircraft carrier landings and 54 combat missions.


Randy Bresnik performed two spacewalks on his previous flight to space, STS-129. Photo Credit: NASA

Tingle has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, which he earned in 1987 from Southern Massachusetts University in Dartmouth. He earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering—specializing in fluid mechanics and propulsion—from Purdue University in Indiana in 1988. He graduated from the Navy Test Pilot School in 1998.

While Tingle will launch in September, he will be joined by Bresnik in November of that year as part of Expedition 54.

Bresnik will launch aboard Soyuz MS-07 with Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Bresnik, 48, is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He received his commission in May 1989 and was designated a Marine Corps aviator in 1992. In support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom, he flew the F/A-18 Hornet. In total, he has accumulated more than 6,000 hours in 81 different types of aircraft.

He was selected as an astronaut in May 2004, and his first flight into space was aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis as part of STS-129. During that mission to the ISS, he conducted two spacewalks totaling 11 hours and 50 minutes.

Graduating from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1989, Bresnik earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. In 2002, he earned a master’s degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee. Additionally, he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Air War College in 2008.

Video courtesy of NASA


Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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