Virtual Reality, Spacesuits, Departure Preps Keeping Crew Busy

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur poses with an AstroBee robotic free-flying assistant inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur poses with an AstroBee robotic free-flying assistant inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

Exercising wearing virtual reality goggles, replacing spacesuit components, and getting ready for this weekend’s crew departure were the main objectives for the Expedition 65 crew today. The residents aboard the International Space Station also juggled ongoing research and maintenance tasks amidst Russian filmmaking activities.

Daily exercise in microgravity is vital to maintain bone and muscle health in the weightless environment of the orbiting lab. Scientists are studying whether virtual reality may add an extra dimension of pleasure and satisfaction for a crew member during an exercise session in space. Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) put on a virtual reality headset and strapped himself on to an exercise bike Wednesday morning for the Immersive Exercise study. The virtual reality sequence, including audio, is synchronized with the pedaling speed to increase the immersive sensation.

Pesquet then spent the afternoon with NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough working on a U.S. spacesuit. The duo swapped components to resize the spacesuit and checked out the suit’s communications gear.

Kimbrough earlier swapped out fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack before cleaning up the seven-windowed cupola. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur spent her day deploying camcorders inside the Harmony module where the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon vehicles are docked.

In the Unity module, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei set up networking hardware and software then moved on to cargo work inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter. Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cleaned smoke alarms in the Kibo laboratory module then worked on botany and life science activities.

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy is preparing for his return to Earth this weekend inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. Joining him for this morning’s Soyuz descent training session were Russian spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko. Novitskiy will lead the duo aboard the Soyuz to a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan on Sunday at 12:36 a.m. EDT (10:36 a.m. Kazakh time).

Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov spent Wednesday morning studying future spacecraft piloting and robotic techniques. First time space-flyer Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos photographed Shkaplerov during the session. The duo, including Novitskiy, then spent the afternoon on filmmaking activities with their two Russian space station guests.

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