The International Space Station, or ISS, has been in its low-Earth orbit for nearly 18 years. In that time, there has been plenty of scientific study done, giving humanity new insights into the long-term effects of space travel and habitation, knowledge that will inevitably come in handy in about 30 years or so once we’ve made our planet completed uninhabitable and mankind is forced to look to the cold recesses of space for living quarters.

The latest mission aboard the ISS, Expedition 48, will continue the long history of outer space sciencing. It will also work to update some older components and equipment have become worn out or outdated.
It’s Like An International Station… In SPACE!

The newest group of astronauts who will call the ISS home include a NASA astronaut, a Japanese astronaut, and a Russian cosmonaut. (For the record, “astronaut” and “cosmonaut” are the same thing, though cosmonaut sounds cooler.) This trio will join the one NASA astronaut-two cosmonaut team that is currently manning the space station. The new ISS team will take to the heavens in a Russian Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft, launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 6.

The ISS can be seen in the reflection on this ‘stronaut’s space helmet.

While awaiting their new colleagues’ arrival, the onboard ISS team has been performing a number of tasks across various scientific disciplines. A Japanese-built robotic arm was used to attach lab samples to the outside of the ISS’ Kilo laboratory module, the diffusion plates of the advanced Light Microscopy Module (microscope) were replaced, and the station’s water was tested quality and microbial growth.

Upon their arrival, the new ISS crewmembers will also perform a number of sciencey tasks. In the station’s Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), the Remote Manipulator System’s Small Fine Arm device will be used to retrieve, detach, and install replacements for more than a dozen modular handrail samples from an ongoing experiment.

In the ISS’s Russian modules, cosmonauts will explore the effects of microgravity on the human digestive system. They will also take extensive photographs of Earth in an attempt to understand how natural changes, and those caused by mankind, affect our planet.

Samples from the space station’s Microchannel Diffusion Glacier will be retrieved and stored onboard to thaw. This ongoing experiment uses microgravity to study how medicine, biology, and computer science can benefit from the use of nanotechnology.