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Science Grows Aboard Station as Crew Awaits New Arrivals

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:26 am via: NASA
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(NASA) – Aboard the orbiting International Space Station, Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev focused on housekeeping and biological experiments Tuesday as they await the arrival of the remainder of the Expedition 22 crew.

Following the crew’s daily planning conference with teams on the ground, Williams conducted a periodic analysis of a sample from the Water Recovery System using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer. Williams also performed preventative maintenance on some of the station’s exercise equipment.

Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams talks with students at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams talks with students at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. Credit: NASA TV

Later, Williams harvested Arabidopsis thaliana plants, commonly known as thale cress, from the Advanced Biological Research System. This investigation seeks to understand spaceflight-induced molecular changes in gene activity. Thale cress makes a good subject for this type of research because its genome was the first set of plant genes to be fully sequenced by scientists.

In the Russian segment of the station, Suraev worked on a similar study as he photographed the PLANTS-2 experiment, which also takes a look at the growth of plants in a weightless environment. Suraev later downlinked the pictures to researchers back on Earth.

Suraev also performed preventative maintenance on the ventilation system in the Zvezda service module.

After lunch, Williams spent much of the remainder of his workday in the Unity node, routing audio and video cables to prepare for the addition of the Tranquility module, set to be delivered by the crew of space shuttle Endeavour in February 2010. Tranquility will provide a new berthing port as well as additional room for crew members and many of the station’s life support and environmental control systems already on board.

Williams took a break from his work to answer questions from students at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. During the televised educational event, Williams answered a variety of questions ranging from the taste of recycled water to the care and feeding of butterflies born aboard the station.

The Expedition 22 crew also had several opportunities for Earth-observation and photography. These included two sites associated with Charles Darwin’s voyage aboard the HMS Beagle in the 19th century: Storm Bay, Tasmania, where the Beagle anchored for 10 days in Feb. 1836; and Iquique, Chile, which Darwin described as “very much in want of everyday necessities, such as water and firewood.” Today, Iquique has one of the largest duty-free commercial port centers of South America.

Meanwhile at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi are making final preparations for their launch Sunday aboard the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft. After docking with the station on Dec. 22, the trio will join Williams and Suraev as the newest Expedition 22 crew members.

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