Space Stations

Station Crew Conducts Biomedical Research, Closes Hatch to Cargo Craft

By Keith Cowing
April 7, 2014
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Station Crew Conducts Biomedical Research, Closes Hatch to Cargo Craft
Progress 54 Departs ISS

Expedition 39 wrapped up its first full workweek aboard the International Space Station as a six-person crew Friday with biomedical research and preparations for the departure of Russian cargo spacecraft.
Flight Engineer Steve Swanson, who arrived aboard the station March 27 along with fellow Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft crewmates Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, began the day providing saliva samples and storing them in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI. Researchers with the Salivary Markers study will take a look at these samples to understand how the immune system responds to living in space. This data will be extremely important as NASA works toward sending humans on longer journeys to an asteroid or on to Mars.

Afterward, Swanson spent much of the morning participating in the Body Measures experiment, which collects anthropometric data to help researchers understand the magnitude and variability of the changes to body measurements during spaceflight. Predicting these changes will maximize crew performance, prevent injury and reduce time spent altering or adjusting spacesuits and workstations. The investigation also could help scientists understand the effects of prolonged bed rest, which produces physiological changes similar to those experienced in microgravity. Commander Koichi Wakata assisted Swanson throughout the experiment session, setting up the calibration tape, collecting data and taking photographs.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio meanwhile configured the nitrogen distribution system for a ground-commanded leak check to prepare for the installation of a new Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System, or NORS. Nitrogen and oxygen are needed for replenishment of the station’s cabin breathing air as well as for operation of the Quest airlock and the station’s pressurized ammonia cooling system. The NORS recharge tank, which will be sent to the station aboard a resupply vehicle, provides a new way of supplying the complex with those gases.

After a break for lunch, Wakata set up a new test sample for the Advanced Colloids Experiment, or ACE, housed in the Light Microscopy Module inside the Fluids Integrated Rack. This microscopic imaging investigation uses the unique microgravity environment of the space station to study the properties of colloidal particles without the effects of Earth’s gravity. ACE represents the first step along the path to understanding at the particle level how order arises out of disorder and how nature organizes when not affected by gravity. Results from this experiment have applications ranging from improving the shelf-life of commercial products to developing new drugs.

The commander rounded out his day with the Hybrid Training experiment. This Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study takes a look the health benefits of applying electric stimulation to a muscle opposing the voluntary contraction of an active muscle. In addition to providing a backup to the traditional exercise devices aboard the station, Hybrid Training may be useful in keeping astronauts fit as they travel beyond low Earth orbit aboard smaller spacecraft.

Mastracchio spent his afternoon troubleshooting a remote power controller issue with the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the Destiny lab. Swanson meanwhile refilled four Payload Water Reservoirs from the Water Recovery System and returned them to the Quest airlock.

On the Russian side of the station, Skvortsov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin closed and checked the hatch to the ISS Progress 54 cargo craft in preparation which undocked Monday at 9:58 a.m. EDT. Now filled with trash, the space freighter will undergo 11 days of engineering tests before it is commanded to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on April 18. Progress 54 delivered 2.8 tons of cargo to the station when it docked to the Pirs docking compartment on Feb. 5.

The departure of Progress 54 clears the way for ISS Progress 55, which is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 9 at 11:26 a.m. (9:26 p.m., Kazakh time) and dock with Pirs at 5:16 p.m. the same day to deliver almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies.

Tyurin also participated in the Virtual study, which looks at changes to a cosmonaut’s sensory interactions and adaptations during long-duration space missions.
Artemyev spent time with the Interactions experiment, which studies the impacts of personal, cultural and national differences among crew members.

As the Expedition 39 crew’s newest flight engineers, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev also had time set aside on their own throughout the day for crew orientation to become accustomed to living and working aboard the station.

Friday afternoon, flight controllers conducted a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) Thursday to raise the altitude of the International Space Station by a half-mile and provide an extra margin of clearance from the orbital path of a spent payload deployment mechanism from an old European Ariane 5 rocket.

NASA and Russian flight controllers tracked the Sylda Adapter for the past few days before jointly deciding to perform the maneuver, which used the ISS Progress 53 thrusters at the aft end of the Zvezda service module for a 3-minute, 40-second firing at 4:42 p.m. that provided a reboost for the orbital laboratory. The Ariane 5 payload deployment mechanism was forecast to pass less than 2/10 of a mile of the station at 7:02 p.m. had no action been taken. The Expedition 39 crew was informed of the maneuver, was never in any danger and did not have to take shelter in their respective Soyuz return vehicles. The maneuver will have no impact on the upcoming launch of Progress 55 or the April 14 launch of the SpaceX/Dragon commercial cargo vehicle from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. to the station.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.