A NASA resupply spacecraft named in honour of late astronaut Kalpana Chawla reached the International Space station (ISS) on Monday, carrying nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations. At 5.32 a.m. EDT (3 p.m. India time), Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA used the robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos monitored Cygnus systems during its approach.
The ground controllers then commanded the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Kalpana Chawla, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module, NASA announced.
Chawla, who made history at NASA as the first female astronaut of Indian descent and dedicated her life to understanding flight dynamics, lost her life during the STS-107 mission when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere in 2003.
Cygnus will remain at the orbiting laboratory for three months.
It carried a new space toilet that aims to improve on current space toilet operations and help NASA prepare for future missions, including those to the Moon and Mars.
The Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) demonstrates a compact toilet and the Urine Transfer System that further automates waste management and storage.
The smaller footprint of the UWMS supports a possible increase in the number of crew members aboard the space station, as well as planning for future exploration missions.
A new crop of vegetables also reached the space station.
While previous experiments have grown different types of lettuces and greens aboard the orbiting laboratory, the “Plant Habitat-02” investigation adds radishes to the mix, cultivating seeds to see how different light and soil conditions affect the growth.
“The findings could help optimise growth of the plants in space, as well as provide an assessment of their nutrition and taste”.
Another investigation ‘Ammonia Electrooxidation’ onboard the spacecraft examines a process for ammonia oxidation in microgravity.
An electrochemical ammonia removal system could serve as an innovative water recovery system on long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars and provide vital drinkable water in remote and arid areas on Earth.
The International Space Station Experience (ISS Experience) is also creating an immersive virtual reality series documenting life and research aboard the space station.
A new camera will be mounted to capture a spacewalk from start to finish as well as footage of Earth and the exterior of the space station, NASA said.