Crew Packs Dragon for Departure; Studies Robotics and Life Science

NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough are pictured inside the Kibo laboratory module answering questions from U.S. journalists on Earth.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon is due to wrap up its month-long resupply mission to the International Space Station on Thursday morning. Amidst today’s cargo transfers, the Expedition 65 crew pursued a host of microgravity research on the orbital lab including robotics and biology.

Cargo Dragon’s automated undocking from the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter is set for Thursday at 9:05 a.m. EDT. The station’s astronauts will continue loading Dragon with hardware and science experiments until about two hours before its departure. Just over half-a-day later the U.S. cargo craft will parachute to a nighttime splashdown off the coast of Florida. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacecraft’s undocking at 8:45 a.m. on the NASA app and the agency’s website. NASA TV will not broadcast the Cargo Dragon’s return to Earth.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough took turns on Wednesday carefully packing and safely attaching cargo inside the U.S. space freighter. Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) joined ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet installing science freezers containing research samples inside the Cargo Dragon for analysis back on Earth.

Hoshide, a three-time station veteran, began his day setting up the Astrobee robotic helpers inside the Kibo laboratory module. The toaster-sized robotic free-flyers then performed maneuvers using programs written by Japanese and American students competing in a robotics challenge. The event is designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to improve space-based and Earth-bound technologies.

Pesquet and NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei partnered up for a space exercise study inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module on Wednesday morning. The duo each spent about an hour on Destiny’s exercise cycle wearing sensors and breathing equipment to measure how working out affects pulmonary function in weightlessness.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy started his morning servicing a variety of Russian life support gear and electronics hardware before an hourlong cardiac study. Pyotr Dubrov, a first time space-flyer from Roscosmos, joined Novitskiy for the cardiac study that measured their heart function during a rest period with electrocardiogram sensors. Dubrov then spent the day removing camera gear from the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft and downloading imagery captured during Tuesday’s relocation maneuver.