Members of NASA’s Crew-4 arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday April 28 to begin their four-and-a-half month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory. The new crew members are settling in nicely, as these photos attest.
NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, travelled 435 km above Earth, where they will spend their time performing a number of scientific experiments in the microgravity environment.
The astronauts were put to work almost immediately after arriving at the space station. ESA’s Cristoforetti was tasked with orbital plumbing duties in the two ISS bathrooms, both located in the Tranquility Module, to address a malfunctioning toilet. The newly arrived astronaut worked alongside NASA’s Kayla Barron, who launched to the ISS in November 2021 as part of the Crew-3 mission.
When not on plumbing duties, Cristoforetti was making history on social media by recording the first ever TikTok in space. In the minute-and-a-half video, Cristoforetti gave viewers a tour of the ISS and introduced them to two stuffed animals, Zippy and Etta, which were used as zero-g indicators on the ride to the ISS. Before ending the video, Cristoforetti cheekily pointed at the camera and said, “Follow me to boldly go where no TikToker has gone before.”
Meanwhile, Watkins took some downtime to enjoy the spectacular views while suspended in a weightless state. This is Watkins’ first time on the ISS. The NASA astronaut made history by becoming the first Black woman to embark on a long-term mission in space and the first to live and work on board the ISS.
It’s time for science
Crew-4 astronauts Watkins and Cristoforetti joined Crew-3 astronaut Barron inside the Japan-built Kibo laboratory module on the ISS. Kibo is where much of the science happens, allowing the four astronauts to perform a variety of experiments at the same time, from medicine and biology through to material production. The lab also has an airlock that’s used to expose experiments to the harsh space environment.
Flight engineers Lindgren, Barron, and Cristoforetti are pictured checking out the systems in the Kibo laboratory, with a wandering Watkins floating overhead. Crew-4 packed a science payload that includes experiments to develop artificial retinas, grow plants without soil in microgravity, and improve astronaut health.
Cristoforetti and Barron joined forces to deal with a few maintenance issues in the station’s Tranquility module. Crew-4 overlapped with Crew-3 for more than a week before the latter made its way back to Earth on May 7, wrapping up a six-month mission on the ISS. Cristoforetti is no stranger to the ISS, having already spent a total of 200 days on the space station as part of Expedition 42 and 43.
Getting familiar with the ISS
Watkins took some time to familiarise herself with the space station. Watkins is one of several NASA astronaut candidates who might fly to the Moon as part of the Artemis 3 mission, which is aiming to land people on the lunar surface no earlier than 2025.