Space Agriculture and Eye Checks Promoting Healthy Crews

 The International Space Station flies into an orbital sunrise 261 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwestern Spain.
The International Space Station flies into an orbital sunrise 261 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwestern Spain.

Space botany and eye checks were at the top of the research schedule aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday. Life support system upgrades also continued during the middle of the week for the Expedition 67 crew members.

Understanding how plants and humans are affected by long-term exposure to microgravity is key to prolonging mission success beyond low Earth orbit and to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA and its international partners are learning how crews can sustain themselves independently of ground support for longer periods of time.

Growing vegetables on space missions is critical so astronauts can feed themselves without the support of cargo missions regularly launching from Earth to replenish crews. The XROOTS space agriculture study does not use soil and is exploring growing radishes and mizuna greens on the station using hydroponic and aeroponic methods. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren recirculated fluids for the botany experiment and checked the condition of the growing plants. The study takes place inside the Columbus laboratory module and may inform ways to grow crops on larger scales during missions farther away from Earth.

Lindgren later assisted his fellow astronauts Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins of NASA, including Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), as they wrapped up two days of life support system upgrades. The quartet moved the oxygen generation system (OGS) rack from the Tranquility module to the U.S. Destiny laboratory module, then moved the Life Support Rack (LSR) from the Harmony module to Tranquility. The foursome finished rack power and data cable connections as well as fluid umbilical installations. The LSR is demonstrating capturing carbon dioxide from the cabin air and recovering 50% of its oxygen for crew use. New sensors are also being tested to detect hydrogen and protect the OGS rack.

The orbiting lab’s three cosmonauts from Roscosmos began and ended their day with eye checks. Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov took turns in the morning scanning each other’s eyes using the Ultrasound 2 device, part of the station’s Human Research Facility-1. In the afternoon, Korsakov took charge as Crew Medical Officer and used medical imaging gear to picture Matveev’s retinas. The eye exams help doctors understand how weightlessness affects vision and the shape of the eye. The trio then spent the rest of the day stowing spacewalk tools, working on life support and electrical systems, and analyzing the Zvezda service module’s atmosphere.

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

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