Research, spacewalks, and maintenance: Expedition 67’s final month aboard the ISS

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The seven members of the Expedition 67 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had yet another action-packed month in August 2022. From spacewalks to research to cargo vehicle departures, the crew aboard the orbiting laboratory and mission teams back on Earth stayed busy.

Expeditions are long-duration, research-based astronaut missions aboard the ISS. Each Expedition lasts around six months, typically beginning and ending with Russian crew rotations. Expedition 67 began in March upon the departure of the Soyuz MS-19 crew and is planned to continue until the Soyuz MS-21 crew departs the station in September. The seven international crew members of Expedition 67 come from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Roscosmos.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov arrived at the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft in March, with Artemyev assuming command of the ISS and Expedition 67 in May when Thomas Marshburn returned to Earth with the SpaceX Crew-3 mission. NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti arrived at the ISS in April aboard Crew Dragon Freedom as part of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

The crew kicked off August by performing health tests, preparing experiments, and transferring cargo. On August 1, Watkins and Hines worked to adjust the plant growth chamber aboard the ISS, which monitors vegetables grown in microgravity aboard the ISS. Meanwhile, Lindgren retrieved cargo items and took images with them for outreach purposes.

Cristoforetti collected air samples for the ANITA-2 (Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air-2) device and was later joined by Lindgren to prepare the Rodent Research-22 experiment. Cristoforetti and the other NASA astronauts also completed remotely-guided eye exams. The three Roscosmos astronauts exercised using the advanced resistive exercise device (ARED), VELO ergometer bike, and Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS) devices.

The Expedition 67 crew. (Credit: NASA)

The experiment preparations and science sample collections continued on August 2, with Hines setting up and photographing the Genes in Space-9 experiment and Watkins collecting samples of carbon dioxide from the Thermal Amine Scrubber.

Cristoforetti also joined in on the science fun as she prepared the Biofilms-2 experiment, which characterizes the mass, thickness, structure, and associated gene expression of biofilms that are formed in space by analyzing fungal species that are grown on different materials. Lindgren changed the media inside the Life Sciences Glovebox for specific samples. ISS commander Artemyev tested a 3D printer while Korsakov and Matveev took microbial samples from various areas aboard the ISS.

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On August 3, Lindgren worked to set up the free-flying Astrobee robots for a student robot competition. Hines continued his work with the Genes in Space-9 study by preparing and photographing sample returns from the experiment, which aims to evaluate how cell-free technology could be used in microgravity environments. Watkins also continued to purge and take samples of carbon dioxide from the ISS using the Thermal Amine Scrubber.

Cristoforetti spent the day talking with students before transferring cargo from the SpaceX CRS-25 Cargo Dragon vehicle with Watkins. Roscosmos’ Artemyev and Matveev located, photographed, and stored equipment and tools. Meanwhile, Korsakov performed regular station maintenance.

August 4 saw the Expedition 67 crew perform installations and inspections, as well as complete training exercises. Watkins prepared a drain for an installed recycling tank for the station’s Environmental Control and Life Support System and made configurations for the Plant Habitat Facility. Hines worked with the Cerebral Autoregulation investigation, which assesses how the human brain regulates blood flow in microgravity environments.

Lindgren performed a photo survey of fasteners on the ISS’s airlock close-out panel and later worked to reconnect parts and inspect a leak for the Solid Combustion Experiment Module.

Cristoforetti focused on the Ring Sheared Drop investigation, installing a sample into the hardware being used for the experiment. Artemyev and Matveev staged spacewalk equipment and tools while Korsakov photographed microbial samples.

At the end of the day on August 4, the entire Expedition 67 crew gathered together to train on how to respond to an emergency aboard the ISS. The crew used a simulator to practice communication skills, execute procedures, and make smart decisions in the event of an emergency.

Bob Hines works on the Genes in Space-9 experiment. (Credit: NASA)

The crew wrapped up their first week of August on August 5, with Hines scrubbing cooling loops and reconfiguring loop scrub hardware for EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuits. Lindgren and Cristoforetti removed and stored sample carries for various experiments. Lindgren later joined Watkins and continued packing the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon in preparation for its undocking. The three Roscosmos cosmonauts mainly performed and completed basic maintenance on the Russian segment of the ISS.

After taking the weekend to rest, the Expedition 67 crew got back to work on Monday, August 8. Hines and Cristoforetti cleaned hardware and samples for the Rodent Research-22 experiment, which aims to explore the ways skin heals in space. Hines later installed seed cartridges and root modules in the XROOTS space agriculture study. Lindgren opened the airlock in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module and installed small-satellite deployer hardware on an external science platform, which will release small satellites once deployed outside of Kibo.

Watkins connected cables in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), a research rack, and assisted Lindgren with installing a barrier on the Quest Airlock’s vent relief and isolation valve. Cosmonauts Artemyev and Matveev serviced a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits while Korsakov performed maintenance and inspections in the Nauka and Zvezda modules.

August 9 would see Lindgren and Hines work with a slew of experiments studying the benefits of humans living both on and off Earth, with Lindgren investigating how our immune systems age in microgravity and Hines working to swap carbon dioxide bottles and filters inside the ISS’s Plant Habitat facility. Watkins and Cristoforetti worked together to swap cargo inside the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon. After transferring cargo, Watkins processed samples for the Rodent Research-22 study while Cristoforetti tested a vest designed to transmit health data wirelessly. Commander Artemyev and Matveev continued maintenance on the Russian Orlan spacesuits. Korsakov, meanwhile, continued to work on ventilation in Nauka and Zvezda and later imaged microbe samples.

On August 10, Watkins investigated how the human immune system ages in space by looking at tissue stem cells through a microscope in the ISS’s Destiny module and would later move to the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon to continue readying the spacecraft for its departure and return to Earth later in the month. Lindgren installed a full small satellite deployer instrument onto an external science platform inside the Kibo module’s airlock, where it was later moved into space for deployments.

Cristoforetti studied the dynamics of several materials in microgravity — specifically foams, droplets, and granular materials — and what implications they present for future planetary travel. Hines transferred U.S. EVA equipment to the station’s Russian segment and later serviced hardware for the Ring Sheared Drop experiment. Artemyev and Matveev installed the U.S. EVA equipment onto the Russian Orlan suits while Korsakov concentrated on network cable connections in Nauka and Zvezda.

Jessica Watkins prepares cell samples for viewing under a microscope. (Credit: NASA)

Preparations for an upcoming spacewalk continued on August 11 as Artemyev and Matveev continued to service the Russian Orlan spacesuits and prepare necessary tools and the Poisk module airlock for their journey outside the ISS. Korsakov, who will assist his fellow cosmonauts during the spacewalk from inside the ISS, configured the European robotic arm (ERA) — the new robotic arm that will be used to move payloads and equipment outside the Russian segment of the ISS. Meanwhile, Lindgren prepared hardware in the Life Science Glovebox for the Rodent Research-22 study, Hines inspected seeds and fluids in the XROOTS experiment, Watkins worked on orbital plumbing in the Unity module, and Cristoforetti serviced research gear and swapped components on a microscope. Additionally, Hines and Watkins drew blood samples while Cristoforetti continued departure preparations for the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon.

As the second week of August drew to a close, the Expedition 67 crew continued tending to experiments and preparing for spacewalks and spacecraft departures. Friday would see the four Crew-4 astronauts gather together to practice surgical techniques to heal wounds in microgravity. Following this, the four astronauts worked to gather and transfer frozen science samples from science freezers to the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon spacecraft. What’s more, Watkins and Cristoforetti collected blood samples to store in a freezer, Lindgren investigated the usefulness of the Butterfly IQ Ultrasound device, and Hines completed orbital plumbing tasks and spacewalk gear inspections. Roscosmos’ Artemyev and Matveev tried on their spacesuits, checked for leaks, tested equipment, and practiced movements. Korsakov assisted his Russian crewmates during their EVA preparations and dry run.

Following a weekend break, mission managers met and gave the “go” for Artemyev and Matveev to exit the ISS to configure the ERA, which will operate outside the Russian segment of the ISS. On August 15, Russian cosmonauts Artemyev, Matveev, and Korsakov continued to prepare for the spacewalk, with Korsakov managing to fit in some ventilation maintenance work in Nauka and research on exercise techniques that will help astronauts maintain physical fitness in microgravity.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. segment of the ISS, Watkins and Cristoforetti continued to pack the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon with station gear and experiments planned to return to Earth with the spacecraft. Lindgren and Hines worked with experiments that focus on improving human health in space and on Earth, with Lindgren preparing tissue stem cell samples in the Life Science Glovebox and Hines working with the Rodent Research-22 study.

Lindgren processes samples in the Life Science Glovebox. (Credit: NASA)

August 16 would see mission managers give the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon the “go” to depart the ISS later in the week. Lindgren and Watkins kicked the day off by working with experiments in the Life Science Glovebox in the Japanese Kibo module, with Hines and Cristoforetti taking their place later in the day. What’s more, all four Expedition 67 astronauts would take turns investigating how microgravity environments and spaceflight conditions (weightlessness, radiation, etc.) affect the genetic expressions that drive the human body’s healing process. The experiment, the Rodent Research-22 study, was later packed up and placed inside the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon the following day to return to Earth. As the astronauts were tending to experiments, the Russian cosmonauts continued to prepare for their upcoming spacewalk, the seventh of the year, by finalizing task lists and spacesuit checks.

Commander Artemyev and Matveev officially exited the ISS at 13:53 UTC the following day on August 17, beginning the planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to continue the configuration of the ERA robotic arm. The goals of the EVA were to install cameras on the ERA, relocate an external control panel for the arm, remove launch restraints, and test a mechanism that will be used to facilitate the grasping of objects.

However, approximately four hours into the spacewalk, Roscosmos Mission Control in Moscow, Russia instructed Artemyev and Matveev to return to the Poisk airlock due to Artemyev’s spacesuit showing abnormal battery reading — ending the spacewalk early. Before being instructed to return to the ISS early, the cosmonauts were able to install the two cameras onto the ERA. Fortunately, the Russian duo was never in any danger during the excursion, and the ERA was placed into a safe configuration by Korsakov inside the ISS.

Furthermore, the departure of the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon spacecraft, at the time scheduled for August 18, was delayed by a day due to unfavorable weather conditions at splashdown sites off the coast of the United States. With the delay in the departure of Cargo Dragon, the four Expedition 67 astronauts continued to pack the vehicle with research samples and other science experiments until the hatch was closed Friday morning. Additionally, on August 18, the three Russian cosmonauts continued working through post-EVA tasks, such as removing components and tools from the Russian Orlan spacesuit.

Artemyev and Matveev work outside the ISS in April. (Credit: NASA)

At 15:00 UTC on August 19, flight controllers sent commands to the ISS and the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon to release the spacecraft from the forward-facing docking port of the station’s Harmony module. Cargo Dragon was released from the ISS at 15:05 UTC, packed with more than 4,000 pounds of science samples, station equipment, and other materials. The following day, Saturday, August 20, the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral, Florida at 18:53 UTC.

After taking a well-deserved break from spacewalks and spacecraft departures, the Expedition 67 crew jumped back into doing their daily tasks on August 22. The four Expedition 67 astronauts (Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti) spent the majority of the day practicing surgical techniques for how to heal wounds in microgravity — providing advanced skin healing therapies that can be used both in space and on Earth.

Afterward, Lindgren and Cristoforetti worked to set up an AstroPi science computer in the Harmony module, which will allow European students to take imagery of the Earth. Watkins also helped Lindgren and Cristoforetti by recording videos of the AstroPi activities. Hines performed a routine checkup on the XROOTS botany experiment by checking on the plants being grown and checking fluid levels in the hardware.

Cosmonauts Artemyev and Matveev continued with their post-EVA duties before researching how weightlessness affects blood circulation throughout the body. Korsakov participated in the cardiac research as well, and would later join forces with Artemyev to study how to pilot spacecraft and robots on future space missions.

Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti would get together again the following day, Tuesday, August 23, in the Japanese Kibo module to continue their study into surgical techniques that can be used to heal wounds in space. Following the completion of the medical research on Tuesday, Lindgren reviewed procedures for a night photography session using the newly-installed AstroPi computer in the Harmony module, which aims to inspire and guide European students toward science, technology, engineering, and math careers.

Commander Artemyev worked on several experiments on Tuesday, investigating space exercise methods, photography using ultrasound sensors, and the human digestive system in space. Matveev performed maintenance on power systems in the Russian Zarya module and checked radiation detectors. Korsakov analyzed urine samples and collected air samples from the Russian Zvezda, Poisk, and Nauka modules.

The surgical techniques studied continued on August 24, with Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforettie learning how to perform biopsies, suture splints, and wound dressings, all inside of the Life Science Glovebox in the ISS’s Kibo module. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that occur during tissue regeneration in a microgravity environment can offer advanced therapies and insights into how advanced skin aging in space affects an astronaut’s healing capabilities.

What’s more, NASA’s three Expedition 67 astronauts — Lindgren, Hines, and Watkins — practiced robotically capturing a spacecraft via a simulation for the Behavioral Core Measures study, which aims to understand how astronauts will perform in stressful situations, such as capturing a spacecraft from orbit. Roscosmos cosmonauts Artemyev and Matveev investigated how microgravity affects the digestive system of humans by taking ultrasound scans of their digestive systems. Korsakov spent Wednesday tinkering with the ERA arm, which is attached to the Russian Nauka module.

Cristoforetti swaps research samples inside the Soft Matter Dynamics experiment. (Credit: NASA)

Furthermore, the ISS received an orbital “boost” on Wednesday night from the Russian Progress 81 cargo spacecraft, which is docked at the Zvezda module’s aft port. This orbital “boost” was conducted in preparation for upcoming crew and cargo spacecraft that are expected to visit the ISS in September.

On August 25, Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti continued their medical research on how skin heals in microgravity in the Life Science Glovebox in the Japanese Kibo module. Meanwhile, station commander Artemyev and flight engineer Matveev continued to research how zero-gravity environments, like space, affect the human digestive system by performing ultrasound scans of their digestive system. Their Russian colleague, Korsakov, participated in an ear, nose, and throat study, later moving to learn how to communicate with international crews and ground controllers better.

The week drew to a close on August 26, and much of the same research and everyday tasks the Expedition 67 crew had worked on all week were done on Friday. Flight engineers Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti continued their medical research on how wounds heal in microgravity environments. As it had been done all week, the medical research was performed in the Life Science Glovebox in the station’s Japanese Kibo module. Cosmonauts Artemyev, Matveev, and Korsakov began reviewing procedures for another spacewalk that would continue their work on configuring and setting up the new ERA robotic arm on the Russian segment of the station.

The Expedition 67 crew kicked off the final week of the month on August 29 with research and spacewalk preps. Lindgren and Hines started the day by collecting muscle measurements in the station’s European Columbus module to understand how weightlessness affects muscle tone, body stiffness, and body elasticity, allowing doctors to develop more effective space fitness strategies. After completing their measurements in Columbus, Lindgren collected and stored urine samples while Hines moved over to the Kibo module and joined Watkins and Cristoforetti in continuing to research how wounds heal in space. Artemyev and Matveev continued to prepare their Orlan spacesuits and equipment for a spacewalk while Korsakov performed maintenance in Nauka.

Bob Hines replaces a carbon dioxide bottle inside the Plant Habitat Facility. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s three flight engineers, Lindgren, Hines, and Watkins, took turns scanning one another’s veins in their necks, shoulders, and legs in the Columbus module on Tuesday, August 30. After collecting the ultrasound imagery, Lindgren gathered his blood samples and spun them in a centrifuge for the Phospho-aging study, which aims to understand accelerated bone loss and muscle atrophy caused by space.

Cristoforetti drew her blood samples before swapping samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace high-temperature research facility. Additionally, Cristoforetti and Watkins serviced a U.S. spacesuit in the Quest airlock before cleaning cooling loops. Hines charged and updated computer devices around the station on Friday while Artemyev and Matveev inspected and activated their Orlan EVA spacesuits. Korsakov maintained electronic systems and other life support hardware in the Russian segment of the ISS.

The final day of August saw the crew continue to conduct research and preparations for future station events. Lindgren and Watkins, with assistance from Hines and Cristoforetti, continued researching how wounds heal in microgravity environments in the Japanese Kibo module. When not assisting Lindgren or Watkins, Hines worked in the European Columbus module on the XROOTS botany study by mixing nutrient solutions and recirculating fluids to the plants and vegetables in the experiment. Cristoforetti performed station maintenance by completing light plumbing tasks and checking fire extinguishers around the ISS. Cosmonauts Artemyev and Matveev continued to prepare and study for their spacewalk while Korsakov maintained laptop computers and other systems in the Russian segment of the ISS.

Assuming all goes to plan, August should have been the final month of the Expedition 67 mission. Both Crew-4 and Soyuz MS-21 crews are expected to depart the station following the arrival of the Crew-5 and Soyuz MS-22 crews in mid-September.

(Lead image: the International Space Station in November 2021. Credit: ESA/NASA/Thomas Pesquet)

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