SpaceX Crew Nears Launch as Research on Station Continues

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This week’s launch of the International Space Station’s next crew is being counted down at the Kennedy Space Center.

The seven-person Expedition 68 crew is hard at work back on board the orbiting lab undertaking cutting-edge space research to better living for people on and off the Earth.

Before their Wednesday launch on the Dragon Endurance at 12 EDT, four SpaceX Crew-5 crew members arrived in Florida on Saturday. Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, both astronauts with NASA, will pilot and command Endurance, respectively. Along for the voyage will be Mission Specialists Anna Kikina of Roscosmos and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 29 hours after launch, the commercial crew quartet will dock to the forward port of the Harmony module to start their station mission.

Another four station crew members will focus on wrapping up their mission and returning to Earth just over a week after the Dragon Endurance docked to the orbiting lab. Aboard the International Space Station since April 27, NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, along with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, will assist their Crew-5 replacements in settling in.

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The astronauts who are returning to Earth will next disembark from the SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew vehicle and jump to a splashdown off the Florida coast.

Lindgren and Hines started Monday by concentrating on how being in space is impacting their muscles. The pair scanned and measured the biochemical characteristics of their back, neck, and leg muscles using an ultrasound equipment as well as a myotones gadget. In the Columbus laboratory module, Watkins cared for plants growing for the XROOTS space agricultural project while also taking pictures of them.

Glass fibre samples were exchanged for Intelligent Glass Optics space manufacturing research samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox by NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio. Inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, which facilitates high-temperature thermophysical study in space, Station Commander Cristoforetti maintained samples.

On Monday, Sergey Prokopyev, a two-time station visitor, and Dmitri Petelin, a first-time space traveller, had their hands full keeping up with lab maintenance while continuing their station acquainting duties. Prokopyev set up Earth observation equipment after inspecting windows inside the Zvezda service module. Petelin performed tasks involving the plumbing in orbit before inventorying and replenishing the station docking equipment.

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