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Robotics and Research Aboard Station Tuesday

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:40 am via: NASA
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With Expedition 26 recently expanded to its full crew complement of six, the International Space Station’s residents checked out robotics systems to prepare for the arrival of a Japanese cargo craft and conducted scientific research Tuesday.

The station’s newest flight engineers, Cady Coleman, Dmitry Kondratyev and Paolo Nespoli, each had time set aside to study the layout of their orbital home for the next five months and learn to move about in its large habitable space. Additionally, Commander Scott Kelly, who along with Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexander Kaleri welcomed the trio aboard when their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft docked Friday, gave Coleman and Nespoli a tour of the systems of the U.S. side of the orbiting complex.

In preparation for the arrival of the second Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) set to launch Jan. 20 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, Kelly and Coleman teamed up for a checkout of the Kibo module’s robotic arm. The crew will use the robotic arm to grapple and attach the HTV-2 to the Earth-facing docking port of the station’s Harmony module on Jan. 27.

Meanwhile, flight controllers commanded Canadarm2 to grapple the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator, or Dextre, and used the Mobile Transporter to position them for Dextre’s “final exam” set for Wednesday and Thursday. This test will serve as a dry run for Dextre’s first official task when it unloads the External Pallet from the HTV-2 in early February.

After a midday meal, Kelly continued his support of the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-5 science payload. In this experiment, also known as BCAT-5, station crew members photograph samples of polymer and colloidal particles as they change from liquids to gases, to model that phase change. The results will help scientists develop fundamental physics concepts previously cloaked by the effects of gravity.

With assistance from Coleman, Nespoli participated in Neurospat, a European Space Agency experiment which tests prefrontal brain functions and spatial cognition to determine the effect of gravitational context on brain processing.

Kelly, Coleman and Nespoli took a break from their work to send down their best wishes for the holiday season.

In the Russian segment of the station Skripochka participated in Pilot-M, a Russian biomedical experiment designed to test the response of cosmonauts to the effects of stress factors in flight. This experiment employs a device to track eye movements while the subject pilots a flight simulator on a laptop computer.

Kondratyev spent part of his day transferring cargo from the Soyuz TMA-20 as well as photographing the docking cone of the Rassvet mini-research module where the Soyuz is currently parked. Fellow cosmonaut Kaleri loaded trash and other unneeded items into the ISS Progress 40 cargo ship for disposal when it undocks Jan. 24 and is later deorbited to burn in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Wednesday, the station’s altitude will be raised through a reboost using the ISS Progress 39’s thrusters from the aft end of the Zvezda service module. The burn is scheduled for 11:28 a.m. EST and will last 21 minutes and 11 seconds. The reboost puts the orbital outpost in the correct position for the launch of HTV-2, the undocking of Progress 40 and the docking of the ISS Progress 41 cargo ship on Jan.31.

During his stay aboard the station, Kelly will post some of his photographs of Earth on Twitter for an online geography trivia game.

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