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Spacewalking astronauts complete a space station battery upgrade years in the making – Space.com

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Two NASA astronauts completed the second in a pair of spacewalks today (Feb. 1), installing a European science platform and finishing up a long series of battery replacements outside the International Space Station

Today’s spacewalk, which began at 7:56 a.m. EST (1256 GMT), was the 234th spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), in support of space station assembly, maintenance and upgrades, according to NASA. The 233rd spacewalk took place just a few days prior, on Jan. 27.

This spacewalk was conducted by NASA astronaut Victor Glover and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins. This marked Glover’s second spacewalk and Hopkin’s fourth spacewalk.

“Enjoying the view,” Hopkins said about the view of the Earth from space during the spacewalk.

Related: The International Space Station: inside and out (infographic) 

NASA astronaut Victor Glover rides on Canadarm2 to complete work during a spacewalk on Feb. 1, 2021.  (Image credit: NASA)

Glover and Hopkins had a variety of tasks to tackle when they stepped out into space. After completing their main objectives — which included configuring a battery and adapter plate and installing three separate cameras — just about four hours into what was planned to be a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, the astronauts were able to complete some “get-ahead” activities.

“We went out the door a little bit late today but we’ve made up all that time,” Hopkins said during the spacewalk.

The pair was assisted by personnel including NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi on board the space station and NASA astronaut Bob Hines, who relayed next steps to the spacewalkers from the ground. 

Throughout the duration of the mission, Glover used the “call sign,” or nickname, of “Ike, Hopkins used the name “Hopper” and Hines went by “Farmer.”

First, after leaving the space station airlock, Glover and Hopkins installed the final lithium-ion battery and adapter plate on the port 4 (P4) truss. The adapter plate completed the circuit for the battery system. This was the last in a series of battery-installment EVA activities that began in January 2017 to replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. Hopkins installed a scoop, a handling aid, on the lithium-ion battery to help with the installation.

“Final adapter plate installed on the @Space_Station. Today’s spacewalk will wrap up battery replacement work to change out batteries for 8 power channels used to route electricity on the station. Upgrades have been carried out in a series of spacewalks over the past 4 years,” NASA tweeted about the accomplishment.

“1 hr into today’s spacewalk and we have confirmation that the final Li-ion battery installed has a good configuration. @AstroVicGlover and @Astro_Illini are continuing to work on their tasks on the station,” NASA confirmed in another tweet

The astronauts then drilled one bolt to secure the Direct Current Switching Unit (DCSU), which helps to route power through the station’s battery system. 

Following the completion of this main task, Hopkins worked to remove the H-fixture, a grapple fixture bracket on the same truss as the battery that were once used for ground processing of solar arrays and are not needed any longer. Hopkins loosened and removed four bolts using a tool on a retractable tether. These fixtures are necessary for future power upgrades, NASA commentator Leah Cheshier noted during the agency’s broadcast.

NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins completed the second in a series of two spacewalks today Feb. 1, 2021.  (Image credit: NASA)

Glover next began replacing a magenta-hued camera on the starboard truss; the camera’s color wheel had broken. To do this, Glover had to ride the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, over to the area. The arm, which provides added stability during the maneuver, was robotically controlled by Rubins from the space station. 

To get onto the arm to “ride” it to the site, Glover had to attach and configure an articulating, portable foot restraint that would connect his feet to the arm. Before the maneuver, Hopkins did a quick helmet absorption pad (HAP) check to make sure nothing was leaking inside the suit.

Once secure on the arm, and with help from Rubins inside the orbiting laboratory, Glover “flew” over to the camera’s site, with the blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean swirling hazily below. Glover successfully replaced the broken camera on the starboard truss, the first of three cameras to be installed during the spacewalk. To do this, Glover used a pistol grip tool (PGT), which astronauts use to remove and install bolts during spacewalks. 

Next, as the crew flew into orbital nighttime, Hopkins and Glover moved to work on two other camera systems on the space station. The pair worked to install a new HD camera on the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and then Hopkins worked to replace pieces of the camera system on the remote manipulator system on the Japanese robotic arm. 

Glover then moved to exit the foot restraint on Canadarm2, jokingly saying, “I’d fly with ‘Air Rubins’ anytime,” as astronaut Rubins commanded the arm as he rode it. 

At this point, just about four hours into the spacewalk, the astronauts had completed all major tasks set out for the event and moved on to “get ahead” tasks, or extra objectives that would otherwise be done during a later spacewalk. 

During this final stretch of the spacewalk, Hopkins removed an additional H-fixture and took photos of the space station’s exterior to document its current state. Glover prepared the foot restraint configuration (that he earlier used for the robotic arm ride) for a future spacewalk. Glover also removed and replaced an airlock magnet, a metal plate that helps to keep the thermal cover on the space station’s Quest Joint Airlock closed.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (right) and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi (left) watch and wait for NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover to return from a spacewalk on Feb. 1, 2021.  (Image credit: NASA)

Five hours and 20 minutes after they began, at 1:16 p.m. EST (1816 GMT), the astronauts began repressurizing the airlock and the spacewalk was officially over. 

“Just want to say thank you to the entire … Farmer and vincent and everybody else, well done … i think we had a very very very good day … Thanks to everyone,” Hopkins said as the spacewalk ended.

Following today’s spacewalk, the Expedition 64 astronauts will conduct two additional spacewalks in the near future, according to NASA. Next, Glover and Rubins will prepare the space station’s power system for the installation of new solar arrays and, in the spacewalk after that, Rubins and Noguchi will continue to upgrade space station components, according to NASA. The exact dates for those spacewalks have not yet been set. 

Today’s spacewalk coincides with the first day of Black History Month. Glover, who completed today’s spacewalk with Hopkins, is the first Black astronaut to take part in a long-duration mission on the station, staying for over six months as part of Expedition 64 and Expedition 65. Glover, who launched to the space station on Nov. 15, 2020, as part of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, is only the 15th Black astronaut to ever reach space.

“It is something to be celebrated once we accomplish it, and, you know, I am honored to be in this position and to be a part of this great and experienced crew,” Glover said during a 2020 news conference before he launched to the space station. “And I look forward to getting up there and doing my best to make sure that, you know, we are worthy of all the work that’s been put into setting us up for this mission.”

This spacewalk also coincides with the anniversary of the loss of STS-107, the Space Shuttle Columbia mission that, on Feb. 1, 2003, ended in tragedy the shuttle broke up while returning to Earth, killing all seven astronauts on board: Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, William McCool and Ilan Ramon. The crew had successfully made it to space, where they spent 16 days and performed about 80 experiments before attempting to return to Earth. 

An investigation determined that during launch, a large piece of foam fell from the shuttle’s external tank and hit the spacecraft’s wing. That damage caused the shuttle’s reentry failure. This tragic event moved NASA to take a hard look at their safety protocols and internal workplace culture to prioritize future astronaut safety. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Astronauts may need to jump in space to fight bone loss – Space.com

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When astronauts spend extended periods of time in space, many surprising and sometimes harmful changes can occur in their bodies. Unfortunately, there aren’t always ways to avoid or mitigate these effects. 

One such health concern is a loss in bone density and bone strength due to the effects of microgravity and, to a lesser extent, radiation exposure. A NASA-funded study in 2009 found that astronauts’ bone strength decreased by at least 14% on average during a six-month stay in space. Other studies have found much higher rates of bone loss.

But a new study suggests that astronauts and mission planners could employ an effective weapon in the fight against bone-density loss: jumping and other forms of high-impact exercise.

Related: Landmark NASA twins study reveals space travel’s effects on the human body

Out of the 17 astronauts who participated in the new study (opens in new tab), which was published online Thursday (June 30) in the journal Scientific Reports, only eight regained full bone mass density one year after returning from flight. Bone density loss was found to be much higher in astronauts who flew on missions longer than six months.

But the researchers also found that astronauts who engaged in resistance-based training while in space were able to recover bone mineral density after they returned. The authors thus propose adding  “jumping resistance-based exercise that provides high-impact dynamic loads on the legs” to astronauts’ existing exercise routines to prevent bone loss and promote bone growth while on spaceflight missions.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Expedition 40 flight engineer, gets a workout on the advanced Resistive Exercise Device (aRED) in the Tranquility node of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

“Jumping provides short bouts of high-impact, dynamic loads that promote osteogenesis [bone growth],” the researchers wrote, while adding that “neither running, cycling, squats, nor heel raise volume were associated with bone recovery.” Adding jumping exercise routines to astronauts’ existing exercise regimens may prevent bone loss and actually reduce the amount of exercise time needed each day, the authors suggest.

Of course, any new jumping regimen would require specialized equipment, and space is always limited aboard any spaceflight. “Successful implementation of high-load jump-training on-orbit will require an exercise device that mitigates forces transferred to the vehicle, along with an exercise regimen that accounts for astronaut deconditioning,” the researchers wrote in the new study. The authors acknowledge that since living quarters are typically cramped aboard spaceflights, “exercise equipment will need to be optimized for a smaller footprint.”

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Obviously, a study size of 17 astronauts isn’t exactly conclusive, and the authors note that much more data is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn regarding the effects of resistance training on astronaut bone loss.  

Astronauts already engage in regular exercise while in space to combat the effects of microgravity, and scientists have already tried feeding astronauts genetically modified vegetables to help stimulate bone growth and fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help mitigate bone breakdown. With bone loss still plaguing astronauts on long flights, there is still a need for more methods to mitigate it. 

Email Brett at BTingley@Space.com or follow Brett on Twitter at @bretttingley. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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'Permanent bone loss': Calgary study finds astronauts suffer on return to Earth – Cochrane Today

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CALGARY — The experience may be out-of-this-world but research indicates those who travel to outer space suffer from increased bone loss. 

A study released Thursday from the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary followed 17 astronauts before and after their spaceflights. 

The TBone study, conducted over a seven-year period starting in 2015, found that prolonged weightlessness accelerated bone loss in the astronauts. 

“You see on average they lose about two decades of bone. We found that weight-bearing bones only partially recovered in most astronauts one year after spaceflight,” said Dr. Leigh Gabel, an assistant professor in the faculty of kinesiology and lead author of the study. 

“After a year of recovery, they tend to regain about half of that. This suggests the permanent bone loss due to spaceflight is about the same as a decade worth of age-related bone loss on Earth.” 

The researchers travelled to Johnson Space Center in Houston to scan the wrists and ankles of the astronauts before they left for space, on their return to Earth, after six months and then one year. 

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, said the loss happens because bones that would normally be weight-bearing on Earth, such as the legs, don’t have to carry weight in a zero-gravity setting. 

“We’ve seen astronauts who had trouble walking due to weakness and lack of balance after returning from spaceflight to others who cheerfully rode their bike on Johnson Space Center campus to meet us for a study visit,” said Dr. Steven Boyd, director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health and professor in the Cumming School of Medicine. 

“There is quite a variety of response among astronauts when they return to Earth.” 

Boyd said new scanning technology has made a world of difference.

“We’re using new technology that can measure the fine details of the bone that are even finer than a human hair in terms of resolution. We can see detail there that wasn’t possible to see before in these astronauts.”

The study found some astronauts who flew on shorter missions — under six months — recovered more bone strength and density in the lower body compared to those who flew for longer durations. 

The study’s next iteration plans to look at the effects of even longer trips to support astronauts who may one day travel beyond the International Space Station. 

“NASA’s really interested in understanding if longer-term spaceflight could lead to even further bone loss, which would not be very good for the astronaut,” said Boyd.

“The next phase is to do a study that would incorporate crew members who spend a year on the International Space Station, which will give us some more insight on whether you lose even more bone after that one year period.”

The University of Calgary’s former chancellor and astronaut, Robert Thirsk, said he knows how difficult it can be to be back on solid ground. 

“Just as the body must adapt to spaceflight at the start of a mission, it must also readapt back to Earth’s gravity field at the end,” he said. 

“Fatigue, light-headedness and imbalance were immediate challenges for me on my return. Bones and muscles take the longest to recover following spaceflight. But within a day of landing, I felt comfortable again as an Earthling.” 

The study was funded by the Canadian Space Agency in partnership with the European Space Agency, NASA and astronauts from North America, Europe, and Asia. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022. 

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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James Webb Space Telescope's powers will be revealed in just weeks and scientists can't wait – Space.com

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BALTIMORE — The James Webb Space Telescope’s first images are coming soon and scientists can’t wait for us to see them.

On Wednesday (June 29), NASA held a media day at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore in advance of the release of the first science-quality images from the James Webb Space Telescope, which will occur during a live event on July 12. NASA scientists and administrators gave updates on the telescope, discussed Webb’s planned science during its first year in operation and hinted at the contents of some of Webb’s first official images.

“In a real sense, we’re sort of the first users of the observatory and using it for what it’s built for,” Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at STScI, said during the news conference. “We recognize that we’re standing on the shoulders of all the scientists and engineers who’ve worked hard for the past six months to make this possible.” 

Live updates: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope mission
RelatedHow the James Webb Space Telescope works in pictures

Although NASA has already released a few images taken while aligning Webb, the images released on July 12 will be from a fully operational observatory, in full color, and they will show what each of the instruments on the telescope can contribute to science. 

These first images will include a deep-field image peering farther into the past than ever before, scientists said during the briefing. NASA will also release Webb’s first spectroscopic data — precise data on the type of light that Webb detects that will allow scientists to learn more about the ingredients of distant cosmic objects. This data will include Webb’s first spectrum of an exoplanet, scientists said. While the images will be visually spectacular, the new information they reveal using Webb’s infrared-observing powers will distinguish them from images taken by other telescopes. 

“The real difference is the new scientific information and then really opening up the longer wavelengths, infrared wavelengths in a way that we’ve really never seen before,” Jonathon Gardner, deputy senior project scientist for Webb, said during the news conference.

Each of the four instruments on Webb, including its main camera, two near-infrared spectrographs and a mid-infrared camera and spectrograph, will contribute to notable research in its first year of operation. They will collect data at nearly every scale and timescale, from our solar system today to the birth of our universe. Though scientists can detect radiation from near the beginning of our universe, no telescope has ever been able to detect light from some of the universe’s first stars and galaxies. Webb will be the first such observatory. 

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“The initial goal for this mission was to see the first stars and galaxies,” Eric Smith, Webb program scientist at NASA, said during the news conference. “Not the first light of the universe, but to watch the universe turn the lights on for the first time.”

Although Webb is already a remarkable feat, its first images represent the start of hopefully decades of science. Webb scientists said they have confirmed that the telescope has enough fuel to carry out science for the next 20 years. Data collected during these years could redefine how we understand our universe.

“This is really only the beginning,” Pontoppidan said. “We’re only scratching the surface.”

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.  

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