Immunology Studies and Robotics for Orbital Residents as Crew and Cargo Crafts Count Down to Launch

xpedition 70 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps prepares tubes to collect samples from the crew for the Immunity Assay investigation.
Expedition 70 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps prepares tubes to collect samples from the crew for the Immunity Assay investigation.

A crew and cargo craft are counting down to launch as the seven orbital residents aboard the International Space Station spent Wednesday exploring how space affects the immune system, carrying out robotics activities, and connecting with students on Earth.

Three crew members are gearing up to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, March 21. NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, and Flight Engineer Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus will lift off aboard the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft at 9:21 a.m. EDT and take a short ride to the station, docking only a few hours later at 12:39 p.m., joining the Expedition 70 crew in microgravity. This will be Dyson’s third trip to the orbital complex, where she will spend six months conducting research in low Earth orbit.

Only a few hours after the crew arrives, NASA’s SpaceX 30th commercial resupply mission will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The Dragon cargo craft, scheduled to launch at 4:55 p.m. on Thursday, will carry an array of new science and technology investigations, as well as food and supplies for the crew. Dragon will orbit Earth before autonomously docking to the zenith port of the Harmony module at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, March 23.

In microgravity, the crew split up duties on Wednesday as they prepare for the upcoming station traffic. In the morning, Flight Engineer Matthew Dominick of NASA collected samples for the Immunity Assay investigation. Afterward, Flight Engineer Jeanette Epps of NASA processed the samples for the experiment. Immunity Assay looks at the impact of spaceflight on cellular immune functions in blood samples, tests that could only previously be conducted on Earth. With new tech, processing samples inflight helps researchers gain a better understanding of astronauts’ immune changes during long-duration space missions.

Dominick and Epps later teamed up to reconfigure some of the cameras aboard station that the crew uses to take photos of research, Earth, and more.

In the Japanese Experiment Module, Flight Engineer Michael Barratt of NASA powered on the free-flying Astrobee robots and conducted a Zero Robotics tech demonstration. Zero Robotics allows students on Earth to write software to control Astrobee, inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers.

Afterward, Barratt teamed up with Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara of NASA to conduct an ISS Ham Radio session with a school in Greece. During the session, Barratt and O’Hara answered questions from students about living and working in space.

In the Nauka module, Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub replaced air ventilation filters, then moved on to collect and process water samples from the Roscosmos water processing system. Flight Engineer Alexander Grebenkin practiced his piloting techniques during a Pilot-T session, while Commander Oleg Kononenko prepped for Soyuz’s arrival as he will be on deck to monitor the autonomous docking of the spacecraft.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on X, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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