Status Report

ISS Weekly Science Status Report 19 Sep 2001

By SpaceRef Editor
September 19, 2001
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During the first two weeks of September, the Space Station crew assisted with
the ìshakerî tests of an experimental device to protect delicate microgravity
research from vibrations.

Astronaut Frank Culbertson installed the shaker device on EXPRESS Rack 2 early
this month. The payload rack contains the Active Rack Isolation System,
a device designed to dampen out the effects of spacecraft docking, crew exercise,
and similar disturbances. The shaker is a box that has an internal mass that
moves up and down and side to side at precise speeds and frequencies while scientists
on the ground monitor ARIS’ efforts to damp the vibrations. The crew assisted
by moving the shaker to different locations on the rack and inside the Destiny
lab module.

Remote operations continued with untended experiments aboard the Station, managed
by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Al., and assisted by teams at telescience centers around the country. Scientists
at a telescience center at the University of Alabama in Birmingham are monitoring
biological crystals growing inside the Dynamically Controlled Protein
Crystal Growth (DCPCG)
experiment. This new Expedition Three payload allows
scientists on the ground for the first time to see images of the crystals as
they grow in space and control the rate of crystal formation using nitrogen
gas to regulate the evaporation rate of solution surrounding the crystals.
By growing larger, better-structured crystals, scientists hope to learn more
about how these biochemicals do their jobs in humans, animals and plants. The
crystals will be returned on a Space Shuttle mission in December so that scientists
can study their three-dimensional structure.

Additional untended experiments monitored by science teams on the ground during
the past two weeks included the Microgravity Acceleration Measurement System
, Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility (APCF), the Cellular
Biotechnology Operations Support System (CBOSS)
, and the Materials
on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)
. MAMS was recording in
high rate mode when a Russian spacecraft docked on Sunday, Sept. 16, with a
new airlock module for the station. Characterizing the station’s environment
is important to scientists trying to understand the results of their experiments
and plan future experiments. The CBOSS Biotechnology Refrigerator continued
to preserve cell specimens processed early in Expedition 3. Astronauts may
reposition the samples in the refrigerator next week to help keep them as cold
as possible.

On Monday, September 10, all three crew members continued to serve as test
subjects for human life sciences experiments. Each participated in
the Hoffman Reflex experiment, designed to measure the spinal
cord’s ability to respond to stimuli. This extra session was added
at the request of the Principal Investigator based on review of the
data from Expedition 2, to better understand the time course of changes
in the first few weeks of space flight. Crew members sit in a seat-like
device while electrodes attached to their calves stimulate their muscles.
The experiment measures spinal cord excitability – its ability to respond
to stimuli. Researchers believe that spinal cord excitability decreases
during prolonged space flight. If this proves true, they hypothesize
that in-flight exercise would be less effective and the space crews
will have to work harder and longer to achieve any benefit. Researchers
may be able to reverse the decrease in spinal cord excitability.

During the past two weeks, the crew continued to participate in the Interactions
study of crew and crew-ground team relationships during longterm space missions.
This research requires them to use a laptop computer to fill out a questionnaire
about various aspects of their interactions with each other and ground controllers.
The Interactions experiment will identify and characterize important interpersonal
and cultural factors that may impact the performance of the crew and ground
support personnel during International Space Station missions. The study will
examine – as it did in similar experiments on the Russian space station Mir
— issues involving tension, cohesion and leadership roles in the crew in orbit
and in the ground support crews.

The Experiment on the Physics of Colloids in Space has completed several
runs in the past two weeks. During an 80-hour run last week one of the Single
Photon Counting Modules appeared to fail. The ground team later confirmed the
problem. One module is still functioning, which is sufficient to accomplish
all of the planned science experiments at a cost of some time and operational
changes. A colloid is a system of fine particles suspended in a fluid.
Paint, milk and ink are some common examples. Though these products are routinely
produced and used, scientists still have much to learn about the underlying
properties of colloidal systems. Understanding their properties may allow scientists
to manipulate the physical structures and properties of colloids – a process
called "colloidal engineering" – for the manufacture of new materials
and products.

EXPRESS Rack 2 has been turned off since last Thursday, September 13,
along with three experiments inside. Those are the Active Rack Isolation
System International Space Station Characterization Experiment (ARIS-ICE)
the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) and the Experiment
on Physics of Colloids in Space (EXPPCS)
. Controllers here are completing
the process of loading new software into the rack that they hope will resolve
a reboot problem with the rack computer.

EXPRESS racks provide station experiments with power, computing, cooling, fluids
and other utilities. Software loading was expected to be completed this week,
followed by resumed operation with the three experiments.

Photography targets uplinked in the past two weeks to the Space Station for
the Crew Earth Observations research program include Typhoon Danas on
the Japanese coast, ice caps and snow in the High Central Andean Glaciers and
other locations, the Parana River basin in South America, dust and smog in the
Mediterranean basin, cresting Nile River floods in Africa, the effects of rains
in the Ethiopian plateau, dust, smoke and smog in South Africa.

Earlier in the week, Culbertson sent down video taken of the smoke plume rising
from the World Trade Center area following the events of September 11.

The crew also has used the Dreamtime high definition video equipment
to video a variety of Earth targets. The deployment of a high definition television
(HDTV) camcorder on the International Space Station is part of a public-private
NASA partnership with Dreamtime Holdings Inc., Moffet Field, Calif., to upgrade
NASA’s equipment to next generation HDTV technology. Crew members will use the
equipment to acquire a variety of high quality video of the Space Shuttle and
the Space Station. This includes crew activities, Earth observation, and experiment

Activities scheduled for this week included plans to downlink test results
from the Pulmonary Function in Flight experiment, as well as ground commanding
with the station’s automated experiments.

Looking ahead, EarthKAM operations that were performed during Expedition
2 in May are scheduled to resume in October. This is a program that allows
students to select photography targets for a still image camera onboard the
Station that then transmits the images to Earth for students to use in a variety
of classroom studies.

SpaceRef staff editor.