In anticipation of New Year's Day 2018, the astronauts of Expedition 54 have spent the last workdays of the year orbiting the Earth and finishing up research work on life sciences.
Norishige Kanai of JAXA and Scott Tingle of NASA closed the year working on studies that would allow humans to stay longer on space missions outside of the low-Earth orbit. They began wrapping up their research upon the departure of Progress 67, an unpiloted Russian spacecraft that delivered over three tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the International Space Station on June 14.
The resupply ship left the station on Dec. 28 after finishing a six-and-a-half-month stay. It was loaded with trash by Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos. Once its hatches were closed, the 67P automatically detached itself from the dock and reentered the Earth's atmosphere where it safely burnt up.
NASA Research Helping Humans Stay Healthy And Self-Sustainable In Space
NASA reports that on the last work week of 2017, Kanai was completing a study on physical exertion in outer space. He used the station's exercise bike to measure his own breathing and other parameters. His findings are expected to help mission doctors in ensuring that astronauts are strong enough to perform physically demanding activities like spacewalks.
Meanwhile, Tingle was capping off sample collection for the Advanced Plants Experiment-05. He harvested plants grown on the ISS and stored the samples in a specialized freezer for analysis. By observing changes in the plant's molecules and genes, this study is anticipated to show how plants are affected by microgravity.
The Japanese and American astronauts, as well as their crewmates, will go on light duty during the last weekend of 2017. During such period, they are also given the opportunity to communicate with their families on Earth. The crew will then take a day off and share a special meal on Jan. 1, 2018.
ISS Astronauts Talk About New Year Traditions In New NASA Video
On Dec. 29, NASA uploaded a video that features the ISS astronauts sharing their favorite New Year's Day traditions. Currently, there are four of them aboard, namely Kanai, Tingle, Joe Acaba, and Mark Vande Hei.
"In Japan, in the morning on New Year's Day, people go out and watch the first sunlight. I have a memory with my father of walking in a very, very cold early morning in Tokyo to watch the first sunrise," says Kanai in the footage.
The astronauts, together with their two Russian crewmates, are to experience New Year's Eve across 16 times as the ISS completes one revolution around the Earth every 90 minutes.