Space Station Science Highlights: Week of Oct 8, 2018

ISS – Expedition 57 Mission patch.

Oct. 15, 2018

Last week’s departure of Expedition 56 astronauts marked the start of Expedition 57 and a new commander of the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. Current crew members also include NASA astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying Nick Hague of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:40 a.m. CDT on Thursday. Shortly after launch, an anomaly with the booster resulted in an abort of the ascent to orbit and a ballistic landing of the spacecraft in Kazakhstan. Hague and Ovchinin were recovered from the capsule and are in good condition. Crew aboard the station were informed and continue to operate the station and conduct important scientific research.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscomos launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:40 a.m. CDT on Thursday. Shortly after launch, an anomaly with the booster resulted in an abort of the ascent to orbit and a ballistic landing of the spacecraft in Kazakhstan. Both are in good condition. Image Credit: NASA.

Research last week included investigations related to human health and performance, and growing better protein crystals.

Advancing DNA and RNA sequencing in space continues

Crew members conducted operations with the Biomolecule Sequencer for the BEST investigation. This study seeks to advance use of DNA and RNA sequencing in space, using sequencing to identify microbial organisms living on the space station and to help determine how humans, plants and microbes adapt to life there.

Image above: The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) biomolecule sequencer floats in the International Space Station above a view of Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Samples collected for ongoing look at effects of spaceflight

For the Biochemical Profile investigation, a crew member collected blood and urine samples at 120 days into spaceflight. The investigation tests blood and urine samples before, during, and after spaceflight to analyze biomarkers, or specific proteins and chemicals in the samples used as indicators of health. Scientists can use a database of post-flight analysis of samples and test results to study the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

A cooler way to create crystals

The crew prepared JAXA LT PCG samples and placed them in the Stirling-Cycle Refrigerator (FROST) to begin the process of producing high-quality protein crystals in microgravity at low temperatures. This new technique contributes to the development of new drugs by revealing disease-related protein structure, and to the production of new catalysts for the environmental and energy industries.

Animation above: The JAXA LT PCG investigation grows high quality protein crystals in microgravity to determine protein structures in detail. Last week, crew members prepared the samples and placed them in the FROST facility aboard the station. Animation Credit: NASA.

And a closer look at crystal formation

Also last week, crew members reconfigured the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) Light Microscopy Module (LMM) Biophysics facility for the LMM Biophysics 4 investigation. Proteins are important biological molecules that, when crystallized, provide better views of their structure that help scientists understand how they work. Proteins crystallized in microgravity are often higher in quality than those grown on Earth, and LMM Biophysics 4 examines the movement of single protein molecules in microgravity in order to determine why this is so.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Other work was done on these investigations:

– Food Acceptability examines changes in how food appeals to crew members during their time aboard the station. Acceptability of food – whether crew members like and actually eat something – may directly affect crew caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits:

– Sextant Navigation tests a hand-held sextant instrument that could provide emergency navigation for future manned spacecraft:

– BCAT-CS studies dynamic forces between sediment particles that cluster together:

– The Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) is a sealed work area that accommodates life science and technology investigations in a workbench-type environment. Due to its larger size, two crew members can work in the LSG simultaneously:

– Meteor is a visible spectroscopy instrument used to observe meteors in Earth orbit:

– ACME E-FIELD Flames studies the stability and sooting behavior of flames in microgravity to support development of less polluting and more efficient combustion technology for use on Earth:

Related articles:

Crew in Good Condition After Booster Failure:

Soyuz MS-10 – Emergency landing after a failure:

Related links:

Expedition 57:


Biochemical Profile:


LMM Biophysics 4:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 57/58.

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Hague Back in Houston, Station Crew Works Science and Cargo

ISS – Expedition 57 Mission patch.

October 15, 2018

NASA astronaut Nick Hague is safe and sound and back in Houston after last week’s mission to the International Space Station was aborted during ascent. Meanwhile, the three orbiting Expedition 57 crew members continue ongoing research, maintenance and cargo packing.

Hague returned to Houston Saturday following his emergency landing shortly after launch in the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Thursday. He and fellow Soyuz crew member Alexey Ovchinin were flown back to Moscow after medical checks in Kazakhstan then returned home to their families.

Image above: The International Space Station was orbiting about 256 miles above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth’s atmospheric glow and the Milky Way. Image Credit: NASA.

Back in space, two astronauts Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst and worked on a variety of life support and science experiments today. The duo also partnered up for cargo operations inside JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 resupply ship.

Flying above auroras. Animation Credit: NASA

Auñón-Chancellor started her day testing the performance of battery life in space for the Zero G Battery Test experiment. Gerst was activating and checking out a life support rack to ensure good carbon dioxide and water management in the device.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked throughout Monday on life support maintenance in the station’s Russian segment. The Russian flight engineer also ran on a treadmill in the Zvezda service module for an experiment observing how microgravity impacts exercise.

Related links:

Expedition 57:

Zero G Battery Test:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

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Chandra Operations Resume After Cause of Safe Mode Identified

NASA – Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Oct. 15, 2018

The cause of Chandra’s safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode. The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that in turn led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode.

Image above: Illustration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory in Earth orbit. Image Credit: NASA.

The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve. Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week.

At approximately 9:55 a.m. EDT on Oct. 10, 2018, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun. Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behavior for such an event. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe. The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation, and we will post more information when it becomes available.

Image above: Artist’s concept of Chandra X-ray Observatory. Image Credits: NASA/CXC/SAO.

Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of 5 years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years. It is now well into its extended mission and is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come.

Related article:

Chandra Enters Safe Mode; Investigation Underway:

Chandra X-Ray Observatory:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Brian Dunbar.

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