6. December 2021
Summary of the first three weeks for German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer on the International Space Station

Cos­mic Kiss … the 'sci­ence marathon' in mi­cro­grav­i­ty is un­der­way

Thermo-Mini and DOSIS 3D Mini – one astronaut, two experiments
Ther­mo-Mi­ni and DO­SIS 3D Mi­ni – one as­tro­naut, two ex­per­i­ments
Image 1/6, Credit: ESA/NASA

Thermo-Mini and DOSIS 3D Mini – one astronaut, two experiments

Dur­ing the Ther­mo-Mi­ni ex­per­i­ment, Matthias Mau­r­er wears a tiny tem­per­a­ture sen­sor in a head­band to study the change in body tem­per­a­ture and cir­ca­di­an rhythms dur­ing long-term stays in space. His core body tem­per­a­ture is mea­sured dur­ing his nor­mal work – for ex­am­ple, when at­tach­ing the ra­di­a­tion sen­sors for the Ger­man ex­per­i­ment DO­SIS 3D Mi­ni. Here, Matthias Mau­r­er has al­ready at­tached all the sen­sors in the Eu­ro­pean Colum­bus mod­ule as well as in the con­nect­ing nodes Node 1 and Node 3 and in the Cupo­la ob­ser­va­tion mod­ule. The small mea­sur­ing de­vices will be used to anal­yse ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure in­side the ISS.
MetabolicSpace – training during an experiment
Metabol­ic­Space – train­ing dur­ing an ex­per­i­ment
Image 2/6, Credit: ESA/NASA

MetabolicSpace – training during an experiment

While Matthias Mau­r­er trains on the CE­VIS sports de­vice, he wears a mask for res­pi­ra­to­ry gas anal­y­sis with the Ger­man ex­per­i­ment Metabol­ic­Space. The new wire­less de­vice mea­sures cer­tain pa­ram­e­ters in the as­tro­nauts’ ex­haled breath. This makes it pos­si­ble to mon­i­tor the train­ing with­out hin­der­ing the as­tro­naut. At the same time, im­por­tant da­ta on per­for­mance and metabolism can be ob­tained.
Touching Surfaces – tracking down microbial contamination on the ISS
Touch­ing Sur­faces – track­ing down mi­cro­bial con­tam­i­na­tion on the ISS
Image 3/6, Credit: ESA/NASA

Touching Surfaces – tracking down microbial contamination on the ISS

For the Touch­ing Sur­faces ex­per­i­ment, Matthias Mau­r­er ex­am­ined and test­ed new types of sur­faces for their an­timi­cro­bial ef­fec­tive­ness un­der space con­di­tions. Long-term stays of as­tro­nauts in a space sta­tion lead to the de­vel­op­ment of mi­croflo­ra from the mi­croor­gan­isms car­ried on board, which can im­pact the health of the crew.
ARISS call – radio contact with school students
ARISS call – ra­dio con­tact with school stu­dents
Image 4/6, Credit: ESA/NASA

ARISS call – radio contact with school students

Dur­ing his ‘Cos­mic Kiss’ mis­sion, Matthias Mau­r­er will make ra­dio con­tact with var­i­ous schools and an­swer up to 20 ques­tions from stu­dents with a thirst for knowl­edge. The first of these ARISS calls will take place on 10 De­cem­ber 2021 with the DLR_School_Lab in Braun­schweig – one of a to­tal of 15 DLR school labs.
Assisting during an EVA
As­sist­ing dur­ing an EVA
Image 5/6, Credit: ESA/NASA

Assisting during an EVA

On 2 De­cem­ber 2021, US as­tro­nauts Thomas Marsh­burn and Kay­la Bar­ron left the Space Sta­tion for six and a half hours to re­place a de­fec­tive ra­dio an­ten­na. The crew worked very quick­ly and ef­fi­cient­ly. Halfway through the space­walk, the as­tro­nauts were al­ready more than an hour ahead of sched­ule. Dur­ing this ac­tiv­i­ty, Mau­r­er pro­vid­ed sup­port from in­side the ISS for his two fel­low crewmem­bers, us­ing the Canadarm2 robot­ic arm.
New module arriving
New mod­ule ar­riv­ing
Image 6/6, Credit: ESA/NASA/Roskosmos

New module arriving

A new Rus­sian mod­ule on ap­proach to the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion ISS. To­geth­er with the ‘Nau­ka’ mod­ule, which is al­so new, ‘Prichal’ forms an­oth­er dock­ing node and pro­vides five new dock­ing ports for Soyuz and Progress space­craft. Ex­trave­hic­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties are al­so pos­si­ble from the new node. The ‘Prichal’ node au­tonomous­ly docked with the Space Sta­tion on 26 Novem­ber 2021 hav­ing been de­liv­ered by a Progress trans­porter.
  • German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer's 'Cosmic Kiss' mission on board the International Space Station began on 12 November 2021.
  • Since then, he has started eight of 36 German experiments and prepared others, assisted with an extravehicular activity and participated in activities to encourage young scientists.
  • DLR is involved in the mission in numerous ways.
  • Focus: Spaceflight, international cooperation, research in microgravity

Cosmic Kiss – on schedule so far

German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and his NASA colleagues Kayla Barron, Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn have been living and working on the International Space Station ISS since 12 November 2021. During his first three weeks, the Saarland native has already experienced a lot. "After a somewhat bumpy start with adverse circumstances such as multiple launch delays and safety precautions resulting from the close approach of debris to the ISS, the 'Cosmic Kiss' mission is fortunately right on schedule. Maurer has worked at a fast pace and made up for lost time. This is extremely important because the astronauts' working time, referred to as 'crew time', is a particularly valuable resource on the ISS. It is needed for research, to encourage young scientists and conduct maintenance work. Maurer has already accomplished all this in the first three weeks," emphasises Volker Schmid, 'Cosmic Kiss' Mission Manager for the German Space Agency at DLR.

Cosmic Kiss – well underway in the 'science marathon'

During his 'Cosmic Kiss' mission, Maurer is expected to complete a 'science marathon' of approximately 100 international experiments – 36 of them from Germany. He has already worked on eight German experiments during his first three weeks. For example, he tested a new miniaturised thermal sensor as part of the Thermo-Mini experiment to study changes in body temperature and circadian rhythms during long-term stays in space. Scientists can thus better understand 'space fever', a potential threat to the health of astronauts – especially during exercise and extravehicular activities. Among other things, the MetabolicSpace experiment will use respiratory gas analyses to monitor Maurer's performance and further test the technology. The portable system does not restrict his mobility, which allows him to train freely and unobstructed. The astronaut with a doctorate in materials science has already successfully completed his first two runs on the ISS.

Investigations into the condition of muscles and bones are an important component of research into physical fitness. In the Myotones experiment, Maurer and Thomas Marshburn non-invasively measured and evaluated the tone, elasticity and stiffness of their skeletal muscles with the help of a small hand-held device. The results contribute to the development of countermeasures to address muscle and bone atrophy. With a lens normally used for routine clinical diagnostics and a computer tablet, Maurer took images of his retina as part of the Retinal Diagnostics experiment to detect retinal changes and movements and investigate what is known as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS).

In addition, the German ESA astronaut has installed all the sensors for the DOSIS 3D Mini experiment in the European Columbus module as well as in the connecting modules Node 1 and Node 3, and in the Cupola observation module. The small measuring devices will be used to analyse radiation exposure inside the ISS. For the Touching Surfaces experiment, Maurer examined and tested new types of surfaces for their antimicrobial effectiveness under space conditions. Long-term stays of astronauts in a space station lead to the development of microflora from the microorganisms carried on board, which can impact the health of the crew.

Modern customised materials – for example for new and lighter versions of complex machine parts, such as aircraft turbine blades and engine casings – are being developed in a very special furnace in space. For this research, Maurer has already carried out 19 melting cycles and two calibration cycles in the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML). Last but not least, Maurer has begun preparations for the Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) project. Starting on 6 December 2021, he will test a new suit that could help astronauts train more effectively in the future. Schmid summarises the mission's research progress: "Matthias Maurer has set an intense pace overall regarding the experiments and has clearly covered quite a distance on his science marathon despite the additional obstacles. The whole team work together very well, and everything is right on schedule. We are looking forward to the coming months of the mission."

Cosmic Kiss – time for the scientists of the future

A special kind of exchange was supposed to take place on 2 December 2021. Maurer was originally scheduled to make radio contact with the Wolfgang Kubelka Realschule (WKR) in Schondorf and the Berufliche Schule Direktorat 1 in Nuremberg and answer up to 20 questions from students with a thirst for knowledge. However, a change in the schedule meant that this ARISS call had to be postponed. Instead, on 10 December 2021, the DLR_School_Lab in Braunschweig – one from a total of 15 DLR school labs – will be the first to participate in an ARISS call. "We are really looking forward to this exchange. This is the third time that I have done this, and it is always great to experience the enthusiasm of the pupils when they get to ask the astronaut their question over the radio link," says Frank Fischer, Head of the DLR_School_Lab in Braunschweig.

Maurer has also already completed his first two in-flight calls. During his first call on 19 November 2021, he spoke live to the representatives at the ESA 'Intermediate Ministerial Meeting' (IMM21) – a small ESA Ministerial Council conference – in Porto. During his second call, he answered questions from students and teachers at the Bochum Planetarium. The event was organised by the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO), which is based at the Ruhr University Bochum, and was broadcast via livestream to all interested schools and planetariums in Germany.

Cosmic Kiss – an extravehicular activity and a new docking module

The first Extravehicular Activity (EVA) during the Cosmic Kiss mission was scheduled to take place on 30 November 2021. US astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron were set to leave the ISS for six and a half hours to replace a defective radio antenna. Due to a safety alert caused by approaching space debris, the activity had to be cancelled and rescheduled for 2 December 2021. The crew worked very quickly and efficiently. Halfway through the spacewalk, the astronauts were already more than an hour ahead of schedule. During this activity, Maurer provided support from inside the ISS for his two fellow crewmembers, using the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

In addition, a new Russian module has been attached to the ISS. "The 'Prichal' node autonomously docked with the Space Station on 26 November 2021 having been delivered by a Progress transporter. Together with the 'Nauka' module, which is also new, 'Prichal' forms another docking node and provides five new docking ports. Extravehicular activities are also possible from the new node. This means the ISS has become a bit more flexible again," explains Schmid.

Cosmic Kiss – what now?

On 6 and 7 December 2021, CIMON, the globally unique smart astronaut assistance system developed in Germany, is due to be unpacked and tested again after a long break. This is not a scientific operation yet, but a functional test. The free-flying robot had previously worked with Luca Parmitano at the beginning of February 2020. CIMON will receive an important software update during the mission before it works with Matthias Maurer.

  • Martin Fleischmann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
    Strat­e­gy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 228 447-120
    Fax: +49 228 447-386
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
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