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Medical Research, Soyuz Relocation Preps for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:03 pm via: NASA
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The Expedition 37 crew of the International Space Station tackled a full agenda of medical research Wednesday while continuing preparations for a spacewalk, packing for the return home of three crew members and preparing for Friday’s Soyuz relocation to make way for the arrival of three new crewmates.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano checked out some of the systems on their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft as they prepare for its relocation from the Rassvet module to the aft port of the Zvezda service module on Friday. Along with Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, they will undock their spacecraft at 4:34 a.m. EDT Friday for the planned 24-minute hop. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the relocation.

Coincidentally, Yurchikhin was at the helm for the last Soyuz relocation in June 2010 when he piloted the Expedition 24 crew’s Soyuz TMA-19 vehicle from Zvezda to the then newly installed Rassvet.

The Expedition 37 crew is relocating the Soyuz to make way for the launch and arrival of a trio of new station crew members — NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency – who will dock their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft to Rassvet on Nov. 7 about six hours after their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The three new flight engineers are currently in Baikonur completing their final preparations and training for launch.

Mastracchio, Wakata and Tyurin will deliver an Olympic torch to the station for the longest leg of its relay to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, who will carry the torch outside the station during a symbolic spacewalk on Nov. 9, worked in the Russian segment of the station Wednesday to resize and test their Russian Orlan spacesuits. The torch will return to Earth along with Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano on Nov. 10 when they board their Soyuz for the journey home after more than five months in space.

Yurchikhin spent much of his morning packing items and equipment for return aboard that Soyuz. He also participated in the Lower Body Negative Pressure test as he donned a special outfit that simulates the effects of gravity by drawing fluids to the lower half of the body. In addition to conditioning cosmonauts for the return home, this device provides Russian researchers with data to predict how the cosmonauts will react to the full force of Earth’s gravity at the end of their mission.

Throughout the day, Parmitano, Nyberg and Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins participated in a battery of medical checkups and experiments as researchers keep track of the crew’s health and develop countermeasures to minimize or prevent the harmful effects of long-duration spaceflight.

Hopkins and Nyberg followed a carefully prescribed diet for the Pro K experiment as nutritionists evaluate the effectiveness of dietary changes to lessen the bone loss experienced by astronauts in space. They also tested urine samples and stored blood draws inside the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, to preserve them for additional analysis back on Earth.

To insure their cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health and performance remains satisfactory, Parmitano and Hopkins each donned blood pressure cuffs and electrocardiograph monitors as they performed graded exercises on a stationary bicycle.

Hopkins also performed an ultrasound on Parmitano for the Spinal Ultrasound investigation. Medical researchers have observed that astronauts grow up to three percent taller during their long duration missions aboard the station and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation seeks to understand the mechanism and impact of this change while advancing medical imaging technology by testing a smaller and more portable ultrasound device aboard the station.

Nyberg, Hopkins and Parmitano later weighed themselves with the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device, or SLAMMD. As a traditional scale will not work in the weightless environment of the station, SLAMMD generates a known force against an astronaut attached to an extension arm and calculates the body mass using Newton’s Second Law. The device is accurate to 0.5 pounds over a range from 90 pounds to 240 pounds.

Nyberg also retrieved and stored samples inside MELFI for the Resist Tubule experiment. This experiment, which takes a look at the mechanisms of gravity resistance in plants, will help researchers learn more about the evolution of plants and enable efficient plant production not only here on Earth but in space as well. During a long-duration mission to an asteroid or Mars, plants can provide future astronauts with regenerative sources of food and supplemental methods of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Nyberg rounded out her day cleaning the exhaust ducts, fans and airflow sensors in the starboard crew quarters, which are basically small compartments that serve as sleep stations and personal space for each of the astronauts.

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