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Ocular Health, Physics Research for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:31 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 38 crew supported a variety of science and research experiments as the International Space Station soared 260 miles above the Earth Wednesday.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins spent part of his day replacing both igniter tips of the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) as he prepared that facility for another round of experiments. Installed inside the Combustion Integrated Rack, the MDCA contains hardware and software to conduct unique droplet combustion experiments in space. Understanding how liquid fuel droplets ignite, spread and extinguish under microgravity conditions will help scientists develop more efficient energy production and propulsion systems, reduce combustion-generated pollution and mitigate fire hazards associated with liquid combustibles on Earth and in space.  

Hopkins also assisted Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata with a medical examination for the Ocular Health investigation. 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 medical team on the ground, Hopkins used a hand-held tonometer to measure the intraocular pressure of Wakata’s eyes.

Hopkins rounded out his day replacing a lens for the EarthKAM camera mounted in the Window Observational Research Facility inside the Destiny laboratory.  Throughout the week, students will be commanding the EarthKAM digital camera to photograph a variety of geographical targets for study in their classrooms.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio removed and stowed hardware for the InSPACE-3 experiment, which recently completed its latest round of tests.  Short for Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions-3, InSPACE-3 examines colloidal fluids classified as smart materials, which transition to a solid-like state in the presence of a magnetic field. New manufacturing models based on the idea of having these nanoparticles act as self-assembling building blocks could be used to improve or develop active mechanical systems such as new brake systems, seat suspensions, stress transducers, robotics, rovers, airplane landing gears and vibration damping systems.

Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy stowed tools that he and Commander Oleg Kotov used during a 5-hour, 50-minute spacewalk on Saturday to take the Olympic torch outside for a photo opportunity and configure an optical camera pointing platform.  The Olympic torch returned to Earth along with Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano when their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan at 9:49 p.m. EST Sunday (8:49 a.m. Monday, Kazakh time).

Kotov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin conducted a test of the TORU system with the ISS Progress 52 cargo ship attached to the Pirs docking compartment.  Unpiloted Progress vehicles are designed to dock automatically via the Kurs automated rendezvous system, but the crew can use the TORU panel to manually control the process if difficulties arise. The next Russian cargo ship, ISS Progress 53, is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late November.

Tyurin later participated in the Virtual experiment, a Russian investigation of the body’s sensory adaptations during long-duration spaceflight.

As the newest crew members, Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin also had an hour set aside to become reacquainted with living and working in space.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Wednesday hailed the success of the agency’s public-private partnership to resupply the station and announced the next phase of contracting with U.S. companies to transport astronauts. The United States now has two space transportation systems — SpaceX’s Falcon rocket and Dragon spacecraft and Orbital’s Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft — capable of delivering science experiments and supplies to the space station.

NASA and its Commercial Crew Program partners also are working to develop the next generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use new commercial capabilities to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the space station within the next four years.

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