NASA Science Arrives on Cygnus; Private Astronauts Prepare for Return

The Cygnus space freighter, with its two cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm after its capture on Feb. 1, 2024.
The Cygnus space freighter, with its two cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm after its capture on Feb. 1, 2024.

As part of NASA’s commercial resupply services, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft arrived at the International Space Station today packed with science and supplies for the Expedition 70 crew. The seven orbital outpost residents now turn their attention to the departure of four Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) visitors.

Cygnus was captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm controlled by NASA Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara at 4:59 a.m. EST on Thursday. Shortly afterward, mission controllers on the ground took over control of the Canadarm2 and installed Cygnus to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port at 7:14 a.m.

About three hours later, O’Hara and NASA Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli equalized pressure between Cygnus and the space station then opened Cygnus’ hatch to begin six months of cargo operations. They were followed by Commander Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA (Japan Aerospace  Exploration Agency) who began unpacking new research samples and stowing them inside lab freezers for upcoming science investigations.

Mogensen also helped the four Ax-3 astronauts prepare for their departure from the station aboard the SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft for no earlier than Saturday morning. Mission managers from Axiom Space, SpaceX, and NASA are monitoring weather conditions at the splashdown site off the coast of Florida before making a final undocking decision.

Ax-3 astronauts Michael López-Alegría and Walter Villadei packed completed science experiments in lab freezers and prepared them for stowage aboard their Dragon spacecraft Thursday morning. The duo then joined fellow Ax-3 crewmates Alper Gezeravcı and Marcus Wandt for a conference with mission controllers discussing the cargo that will be returning with them aboard Dragon.

All four private astronauts will join the seven-member Expedition 70 crew at 9:50 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2, for a farewell ceremony aboard the space station. The event will be broadcast live on the NASA+ streaming service, NASA TV, the NASA app, YouTube, and the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms, including social media.

The orbiting lab’s three cosmonauts worked throughout Thursday on their complement of science and cargo activities in the station’s Roscosmos segment. Flight Engineers Nikolai Chub and Konstantin Borisov carried out an Earth observation experiment to support educational and commercial opportunities on Earth. Afterward, Chub conducted a fluid physics study while Borisov began a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring session. Borisov later installed an ultraviolet camera to capture nighttime imagery of Earth’s atmosphere. Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko inventoried cargo in the Prichal docking module then stowed cargo inside the Progress 85 resupply ship docked to the rear of the Zvezda service module.

NASA will share more on Axiom Mission 3’s departure as available following the next weather review. The mission is the third private astronaut mission to the space station enabled by NASA.

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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