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Health Studies, Spacewalk Preps and Heater Repairs on Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:26 pm via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 40 crew tackled a range of experiments Wednesday aimed at understanding and controlling the health risks of long-duration spaceflight, crucially important for current station crews as well as astronauts on future missions beyond low Earth orbit. The crew also replaced a faulty unit that caused a smoke event Tuesday and continued preparations for next week’s spacewalk.

Station Commander Steve Swanson began the workday replacing components of the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus to configure it for the next round of data collection for the Flame Extinguishment Experiment-2, or FLEX-2. The upcoming session will test fuel surrogates — mixtures of pure fuels that simulate the behavior of more complex fuels such as gasoline or jet fuel. Results from the FLEX-2 Fuel Surrogate test points will lead to greater efficiency of liquid-fuel engines and minimize pollution.

Flight Engineers Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman meanwhile conducted the Cardio Ox study, which is investigating the risks of cardiovascular disease related to long-duration spaceflight. With guidance from the ground team, Wiseman performed an ultrasound scan on Gerst and assisted with collecting blood pressure measurements. Results from this experiment will help researchers determine if biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory stress are elevated during and after spaceflight, and how those markers correlate with the long-term health changes in astronauts.

Gerst also participated in the European Space Agency’s Skin B experiment, which investigates skin aging mechanisms that are slow on Earth but highly accelerated during spaceflight. Results from this study will improve understanding of skin aging as well as provide insight into the aging process of similar body tissues.

After a break for lunch, Gerst was the subject of more investigations into the health impacts of long-duration spaceflight. As the Ocular Health team on Earth guided the crew, Swanson collected detailed imagery of Gerst’s eyes using optical coherence tomography equipment. Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration missions aboard the station, and researchers are tracking down the root causes of this change to develop countermeasures to mitigate this health risk.

Afterward, Gerst spent the afternoon sizing a new spacesuit that Swanson will use on a future spacewalk. This spacesuit is undergoing certification for upcoming spacewalks out of the station’s Quest airlock.

Meanwhile, Wiseman changed out a recycle tank in the station’s Water Recovery System, which recycles condensation and urine into drinkable water. Wiseman rounded out the day inserting 12 Ice Bricks into a Minus Eighty-degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, which actually can support a range of temperatures down to -99 C. The Ice Bricks consist of various fluids that are encapsulated in a high-density polyethylene capsule and are color coded for specific temperatures.

On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov spent most of the day resizing their Russian Orlan spacesuits and preparing equipment for the 6 1/2-hour spacewalk they will conduct on June 19. The two spacewalking cosmonauts are slated to mount a new integrated command and telemetry system on the Zvezda service module and replace a payload rack on the Russian segment with a payload boom previously installed in a temporary location. The June 19 spacewalk will begin at 9:50 a.m. and will air live on NASA Television.

Flight Engineer Max Suraev joined Skvortsov and Suraev to review the procedures for depressurizing and repressurizing the Pirs docking compartment airlock from which the spacewalkers will exit next week to access the exterior of the station.

Artemyev also installed a spare Russian water heating and dispensing unit in the Zvezda service module following a smoke incident Tuesday with the unit previously at that location

On Tuesday at 2:37 p.m., the Russian cosmonauts reported smoke coming from the heater side of the water heating and dispensing unit. Smoke detectors on the station did not trip, and the crew was directed to press the manual fire alarm button to prevent the ventilation system from spreading the smoke to other modules. Atmospheric readings were taken throughout the station, but all readings were below limits required for the crew to don masks. The crew disconnected telemetry and power cables going to the unit.

Within 30 minutes, the crew reported the water heating unit was cooling down and that the smoke was dissipating. Russian flight controllers had the crew activate air scrubbers to clean any harmful contaminates out of the air. Once the unit cooled down, the crew removed it from its location near the dining table in Zvezda, placed it in a rubber lined bag and stowed the bag in the ISS Progress 55 cargo ship. According to Russian flight controllers, the preliminary cause of the smoke event may be attributed to the electric heater used to heat the water that is dispensed. A similar incident occurred in 2009.

After Artemyev installed the spare water heater/dispenser and performed a successful leak check, the unit was activated shortly before 7:30 a.m. and was operating normally. The crew also performed a detailed inspection of the old unit and did not see anything unusual.

As the newest crew members, Suraev, Gerst and Wiseman also had an hour set aside on their own to learn the ropes of their new orbital home. The trio arrived on May 28 aboard the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft to begin a 5 ½-month stay on the station.

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