In this present study, scientists declared that after the successful return of 4,100 pounds of science and cargo aboard the SpaceX Dragon this past weekend, the crew living and working on the International Space Station returned to scientific operations as they began the second week of January. As crewmembers continued to prepare for an upcoming spacewalk, they also explored research in the fields of human research, education and plant biology.

Cardiac and Vessel Structure and Function with Long-Duration Space Flight and Recovery (Vascular Echo) examines changes in blood vessels and the heart, both in space and on Earth. The results may provide insight into potential countermeasures to help maintain crewmember health, and quality of life for those on Earth.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Norishige Kanai completed scans of his neck, thigh, portal vein, and heart, followed by blood pressure measurements. The Non-invasive Assessment of Intracranial Pressure for Spaceflight and Related Visual Impairment (IPVI) investigation studies changes to crewmembers’ eyes and optic nerves by analyzing arterial blood pressure and blood flow to the brain before and after spaceflight.

This investigation uses non-invasive methods to measure intracranial pressure, rather than commonly-used, more invasive methods. This week, a crewmember took front and side photographs to check for any facial swelling, followed by a conference with ground experts. The NanoRacks-DreamUp Xtronaut Crystal Growth (DreamXCG) investigation teaches students about the effects of microgravity on crystal formations using near-identical flight kits flown and operated aboard the space station.

With access to crew videos and data, students are able compare crystal formations in space to those in their classrooms. The investigation aims to promote STEM fields to the next generation of students. This week, the crew used dissolved sugar crystals in two pouches and transferred sugar water into the pouches with seeded dowels.

Plants cultivated in microgravity look mostly normal, but space-grown plants have a number of distinct features compared to plants grown in comparable habitats on Earth, most notably in the way their roots grow. The Characterizing Arabidopsis Root Attractions-2 (CARA-2 or Petri Plants-2) investigation studies the molecular signals that can cause these changes, including the genetic underpinnings of how a plant senses the direction of gravity.

Results may improve efforts to grow plants in microgravity on future space missions, enabling crews to use plants for food and oxygen, and give a deeper understanding of how plants may survive on Earth in extreme conditions.

Using the light meter in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), the crew took light intensity measurements before NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei transported the plates to photograph, showing that the plants have germinated as expected.