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Station Crew Wraps Up Week With Combustion Research

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri May 17, 2013 7:18 pm via: NASA
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The trio of Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station wrapped up the workweek Friday with combustion and biological research, while three additional crew members continue preparations to join their crewmates in space in less than two weeks.

Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy started his day with the Seedling Growth experiment as he harvested thale cress plants that began growing on Saturday when the cassettes containing the seedlings were hydrated by ground command. Cassidy quickly placed the young sprouts in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, to preserve them for further study back on Earth. During a long-duration mission to an asteroid or Mars, plants could provide future astronauts with regenerative sources of food and supplemental methods of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, so researchers are studying the growth of thale cress seedlings to understand how to effectively use plants for economical life support systems.

Afterward, Cassidy fired up an experiment known as Burning And Suppression of Solids, or BASS, which studies how a variety of solid materials burn and extinguish in microgravity. Results from BASS may lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection, strategies for extinguishing accidental fires aboard spacecraft and improved computational models used in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.

The BASS experiment is performed inside the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox, which allows the crew to conduct a wide variety of experiments involving liquids, combustion or hazardous materials.

While Cassidy performed “hands on” science, background testing of the Amine Swingbed continued. This technology demonstration is testing a smaller, more efficient carbon dioxide removal system than the ones current aboard station. Size and efficiency are key factors as NASA begins building the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

Inside the station’s Zvezda service module, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin installed and tested a control panel for the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-4, or ATV-4. Also known as the “Albert Einstein,” ATV-4 will deliver several tons of supplies to the station’s crew when it docks to the aft end of Zvezda on June 15. Launch of the ATV-4 atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana is slated for June 5.

Vinogradov also inspected and photographed panels inside the Zarya module, which was the first component of the space station launched in November 1998. The commander also performed routine maintenance on the life-support systems in Zvezda.

Meanwhile at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the three crew members who will return the station to its full six-person complement are conducting final preparations for launch. NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin suited up in their Sokol launch and entry suits and climbed aboard their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft in the Site 254 Integration Facility for a suited “fit check” dress rehearsal. The trio familiarized themselves with cockpit displays and other vehicle systems as they gear up for launch May 28 on an expedited four-orbit, six-hour trip from the launch pad to the station.

To place the station in the best orbit for the arrival of Nyberg, Parmitano and Yurchikhin, the thrusters of the ISS Progress 51 cargo ship docked to the rear of Zvezda were fired for 15 minutes, 4 seconds beginning at 10:21 p.m. EDT Thursday. The reboost raised the apogee of the station’s orbit by 2.4 statute miles and its perigee by 1.1 statute miles, leaving the complex in an orbit of 261.7 x 254.8 statute miles.

Over the weekend, the station’s onboard crew will have an opportunity to relax and speak with family members back on Earth. The station’s residents will also take care of weekly housekeeping activities and continue their daily 2 ½-hour exercise regimen to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-duration spaceflight. Meanwhile, the three upcoming Expedition 36 flight engineers at Baikonur will conduct the traditional flag-raising ceremony Saturday outside their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters, hoisting the colors of the U.S., Russia, Italy and the host country of Kazakhstan.

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