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Awaiting Cygnus, Station Crew Keeps Eye on Science

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:39 pm via: NASA
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As they await next week’s arrival of two visiting vehicles – one loaded with 1,300 pounds of cargo and the other delivering three new crewmates – the Expedition 37 crew members of the International Space Station supported numerous research and maintenance tasks aboard their orbital home Thursday.

Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano spent much of their morning completing another round of medical examinations for the Ocular Health study.  Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and researchers want to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to minimize this risk.  With guidance from the team on the ground, the two astronauts took turns performing ultrasound scans of their eyes and donning a blood pressure cuff and electrocardiogram electrodes to provide data for this study.

Parmitano also continued his participation in the Pro K experiment as nutritionists evaluate the effectiveness of dietary changes to lessen the bone loss experienced by astronauts in space.

Nyberg meanwhile moved on to the Window Observational Research Facility, or WORF, located in the Destiny laboratory to help configure the ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System camera. Known as ISERV, this system provides researchers the means to gain experience and expertise in automated data acquisition from the station as they direct the camera to collect imagery of specific areas of the world for disaster analysis and environmental studies. Nyberg assisted the ground team Thursday with efforts to fine-tune the alignment and pointing motion of the camera.

Nyberg rounded out her workday configuring equipment for the robotics workstation inside the station’s cupola to support Sunday’s arrival of the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus cargo craft, which launched at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. When Cygnus nears the station on Sunday, Parmitano, with assistance from Nyberg, will command the station’s 57-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2, to reach out and grapple the vehicle. He will then maneuver the arm to guide Cygnus to its docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node for installation.

As of Thursday morning, Cygnus has completed its Position & Attitude Control, Free Drift, and Active Abort demonstration objectives.  These demonstrations show the ability of the Cygnus spacecraft to navigate on Absolute GPS, to be in Free Drift, and to abort when commanded.  Cygnus remains on track for its rendezvous with the station Sunday, with capture expected around 7:25 a.m.

NASA Television coverage of the rendezvous will start at 4:30 a.m. Sunday and will continue through installation of the Cygnus spacecraft, which is slated to begin around 9 a.m.

On the Russian side of the complex, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin tackled a variety of science experiments and routine maintenance tasks.  He began his day with the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment, gathering information about charged particles in a weightless environment.  He also downloaded data from a micro-accelerometer for the Identification experiment, which examines the station’s dynamic loads during events such as dockings and reboosts.

The commander wrapped up his workday in space with the Uragan Earth-observation experiment.  Named for the Russian word for hurricane, Uragan seeks to document and predict the development of natural and man-made disasters on Earth.

Meanwhile, the three crew members who will return the station to its full six-person complement are now in their final week of launch preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy will launch Sept. 25 (Sept. 26, Kazakh time) aboard their Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft on an expedited 4-orbit, 6-hour trip from the Baikonur launch pad to the station.  The trio will spend five and a half months aboard the station.

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