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The science experiments that the Crew-6 astronauts will be performing on the ISS

On Monday, NASA and SpaceX will launch four new crew members to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Crew-6 mission.

During their six-month stay on the ISS, NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, plus UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, will work on tasks like upgrading the ISS systems and performing maintenance. But they will also perform scientific research in the microgravity environment of the station, working on a wide variety of experiments.

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One of the most dramatic-sounding experiments the crew will work on is the ISS External Microorganisms project, which aims to collect samples of bacteria and fungi from surfaces on the outside of the station. The big worry isn’t that some space bacteria will mutate and harm humans, but rather that astronauts could inadvertently contaminate other environments like Mars if we ever travel there.

The experiment checks for the presence of microbes around areas like the station’s life support system vents to see if microbes can survive on these surfaces and how far they can spread, with the samples being returned to Earth for DNA sequencing. This should help us understand the potential dangers of human contamination of environments, especially when looking for signs of life beyond Earth.

Another experiment will look further into the uses of tissue chips, which contain human cells and mimic human organs such as the heart. These can be used to test out new treatments like drugs and to see how organs respond to the space environment without having to perform experiments on real people. Two heart-related experiments will test out drugs for protecting the heart during spaceflight, which could also be useful for developing new treatments for cardiac disease on Earth. A further health-related experiment called Immunity Assay will test out the effects of spaceflight on cellular immune functions, using a new type of test tube developed for microgravity.

And for another dramatic test, the crew will continue working with the station’s Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SoFIE) hardware which is used to test how things burn in space, depending on factors like airflow and pressure. This is useful for developing safer space technologies and could also help develop firefighting equipment on Earth as well.

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NASA and SpaceX Crew-6 mission ready for launch tonight
From left, NASA astronauts Warren “Woody” Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a dress rehearsal for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission launch on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station, with preparations underway and launch scheduled for late tonight PT. The Crew-6 mission is set to launch at 1:45 a.m. ET on Monday, February 27 (10:45 p.m. PT on Sunday, February 26) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a SpaceX Cargo Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket.

In a press conference following a readiness review on Saturday, February 25, NASA officials said that the crew and hardware had been given the go-ahead. "We had a good launch readiness review and we're on track for the 27 launch," said Dana Weigel, deputy manager of the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This morning I had a chance to talk to the crew. They're doing great. Spirits are high and they are ready to go."

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Watch NASA’s trailer for SpaceX’s Crew-6 astronaut launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-4 astronauts launching from the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA and SpaceX are making their final preparations for the first crewed launch from U.S. soil to the International Space Station (ISS) since October 2022.

Traveling aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft early on Monday will be NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

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NASA, SpaceX delay Crew-6 launch to space station
SpaceX's Crew-6 astronauts.

Following a flight readiness review on Tuesday, NASA and SpaceX have decided to delay the Crew-6 launch to the International Space Station by about 24 hours.

The additional time will enable launch personnel to sort out some relatively minor issues with the launch vehicle, officials said.

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