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Vision Checks for Station Crew; SpaceX Robotics Transfers on Hold

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri May 2, 2014 7:00 pm via: NASA
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Inside the International Space Station the six-member Expedition 39 crew is conducting vision exams among their routine science, maintenance and exercise tasks. Outside the orbital laboratory, SpaceX robotics cargo transfers are temporarily halted due to measurement concerns.

The station astronauts are participating in a couple of vision experiments as doctors seek to understand how microgravity affects eyesight as well as the shape of the eye. The Ocular Health study is investigating the risk and defining the changes in a crew member’s visual, vascular and central nervous systems. The Optical Coherence Tomography Technology Demonstration images the retina, retinal nerve fibers and other eye structures and layers.

Meanwhile, three crew members are preparing for their May 13 return to Earth inside a Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft. Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin, Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio are collecting their blood and urine samples as part of standard health checks a crew undergoes before, during and after a long-term space mission.

The trio is also packing cargo and personal items for stowage inside the Soyuz. Once they undock Expedition 40 begins with NASA astronaut Steve Swanson assuming command of the international lab. Staying behind with him are cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev.

Wakata also participated Friday in a “Music in Space” event with Texas students and musicians performing at the Johnson Space Center. The Digital Learning Network event was meant to improve understanding of the space station and provide interactive instruction.

Waiting to join Expedition 40 to continue six person operations are Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European astronaut Alexander Gerst. They are in Star City, Russia, preparing for final qualification exams before their May 28 launch aboard a Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft.

In the Russian segment of the station, veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin was transferring cargo from the ISS Progress 55 resupply ship. He also joined fellow cosmonauts Skvortsov and Artemyev as they worked on a suite of ongoing Russian experiments.

A pair of the experiments include observing conditions of the Earth, its oceans and the results of natural and man-made disasters. For the Seiner study, scientists use crew photography and video to analyze the oceans for productive fisheries. The Uragan, or Hurricane, investigation uses a photospectral system to document Earth catastrophes helping forecasters on the ground predict future disasters.

An experiment attached inside the SpaceX Dragon’s trunk will stay inside commercial cargo craft a little longer as robotics controllers go over very precise measurements necessary to remove the new laser study. The Canadarm2 with the Dextre in its grasp will stay in a stable position before removing the OPALS hardware to ensure a proper alignment for the fine robotics work.

OPALS is the second of two external experiments delivered by the Dragon. The investigation will study the feasibility of using lasers to beam data to scientists on the ground.

The first experiment has already been installed and is already sending live streaming video of Earth observations for viewing online. The High Definition Earth Viewing study consists of four video cameras pointing in different directions on the outside of the station that provide real time video transmissions

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