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Station Crew Keeps Eye on Science and Research

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:40 pm via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew tackled a variety of experiments looking into the effects of space travel on the human body, set up hardware for a study with potential benefits for the energy industry and conducted training sessions for the three newest crew members.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins spent much of his morning preparing hardware for an experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox to help researchers learn more about diffusion processes that are of particular interest to the petroleum industry.  The experiment known as the Selectable Optics Diagnostic Instrument – Diffusion and Soret Coefficient, or SODI-DSC, takes a look at diffusion in six different liquids over time in the absence of gravity-induced convection.  Data from this experiment will enable scientists to develop better models to reduce the number of exploratory wells that must be drilled at a site to characterize an energy reservoir as well as predict the complex behavior of crude oils.

The test samples for SODI-DSC will be arriving at the station aboard the ISS Progress 53 cargo ship, scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late November.

Afterward in the Columbus laboratory, Hopkins participated in a session with the Reversible Figures experiment, which tracks how the adaptation of an astronaut’s neurovestibular system to weightlessness may alter 3-D visual perception. Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata conducted a session with this European Space Agency-sponsored experiment as well.

Wakata also underwent a variety of exams as he continues his participation in 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.  Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio assisted Wakata with the exams, first collecting optical coherence tomography imagery of the Japanese astronaut’s eyes. Later Mastracchio used a fundoscope to examine the interior of the eyes.

As the newest crew members on the station, Mastracchio, Wakata and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin teamed up for a review of the emergency breathing masks located aboard the complex. Later, Commander Oleg Kotov led the trio through a familiarization session on the station’s emergency hardware.  Mastracchio, Tyurin and Wakata arrived to the station on Nov. 7 aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft about six hours after their launch from Baikonur.

Hopkins and Mastracchio rounded out their day with a pair of interviews with news media back on Earth to provide an update on their mission aboard the orbiting complex.  Hopkins, who was a defensive back and team captain on the Fighting Illini football team while a student at the University of Illinois, spoke with ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Bram Weinstein.  Mastracchio fielded questions from WTIC-TV’s Al Terzi in Bristol in the astronaut’s home state of Connecticut.

In the Russian segment of the station, Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy collected dosimeter readings for the Matryoshka experiment. Named after the traditional Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station. Next he joined Kotov for a medical study of their cardiac bioelectric activity at rest. Ryazanskiy rounded out his workday in space with the Seiner ocean-observation experiment.

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