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Expedition 39 Gets Station in Shape for Three Additional Crewmates

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Mar 19, 2014 6:41 am via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 39 crew members focused on experiments and maintenance work Tuesday as they await next week’s launch of three additional crewmates.

Commander Koichi Wakata began his workday installing redesigned Rehydration Station components in the Destiny laboratory’s potable water dispenser.  The station crews use these components to fill drink bags and rehydrate their meals.  Much of the food sent up to the station on resupply ships is dehydrated to reduce weight and improve shelf life.

Afterward the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut participated in the Reversible Figures experiment, which tracks how the adaptation of an astronaut’s neurovestibular system to weightlessness may alter 3-D visual perception. For this session, Wakata donned a special visor  to view a selection of ambiguous images – optical illusions that may change depending on perspective – and recorded his reactions while floating freely in the Columbus laboratory.  In addition to understanding how astronauts adjust to living in space, results from this study are relevant also to clinical research into vestibular-defective patients here on Earth.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA spent much of his morning testing a leaky catalytic reactor that he removed from the station’s Water Recovery System two weeks ago. Since the component is being kept on the station as a degraded spare, the ground team wants to see if the leaks are in a location that can be repaired. Also, understanding the defects of this unit will assist the teams that are building the next spare. Mastracchio reconfigured the catalytic reactor, repressurized it with water and documented the locations of the leaks for future repair. Part of the station’s Environment Control and Life Support System, the Water Recovery System recycles condensation and urine into drinkable water.

Mastracchio later repaired a severed ground wire on one of the station’s food warmers and secured a loose power switch.

Wakata and Mastracchio spent a little time in the Quest airlock working with spacewalking tools and equipment as they prepare one of the station’s four U.S. spacesuits for its return to Earth. New parts and a new spacesuit will be coming up to the station aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, and the spacesuit with a defective sublimator will return to Earth aboard Dragon at the end of its mission. The departing spacesuit is not the one worn by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano during a July spacewalk that was terminated early when the helmet began to fill with water. That spacesuit was repaired on orbit by the station crew and returned to service. The SpaceX-3 commercial resupply services flight is targeted for launch no earlier than March 30.

Wakata rounded out his day in the station’s cupola setting up an HDTV camera to capture nighttime views of Japan.

On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin performed an audit of the hardware used for the Relaxation experiment, which is studying chemical luminescent reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Tyurin also worked in the Zvezda service module to perform routine maintenance on the life-support system and replace component’s in the Russian segment’s toilet.

Meanwhile, the three flight engineers who will return the station to its full six-person crew complement are at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan completing their final preparations for launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft. NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev are scheduled to launch from Baikonur at 5:17 p.m. March 25 (3:17 a.m. March 26, Kazakh time) to begin the 6-hour trek to the station.

The upcoming launch was celebrated with the continuation of a tradition that has buoyed the spirits of Houston’s Mission Control Center flight teams since the STS-26 shuttle mission in 1988. A bouquet of roses from the Shelton and Murphy families near Dallas, Texas, arrived like clockwork in the flight control center as an ongoing show of support for the upcoming mission. The bouquets always include a rose of a similar color for each astronaut, plus a single white rose in memory of those astronauts whose lives have been lost in NASA’s exploration of space.

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