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Medical Research and Spacesuit Checkouts Aboard Station Thursday

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:11 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew performed medical and botanical research Thursday aboard the International Space Station and conducted a checkout of the first U.S. spacesuit to be delivered to the station since the retirement of the space shuttle.

Following the crew’s daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Commander Steve Swanson worked with the Resist Tubule experiment, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study of the mechanism for gravity resistance in plants.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst is pictured in the Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1 hatch of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst is pictured in the Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1 hatch of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

Swanson removed a seedling sample chamber from the Cell Biology Experiment Facility Incubator Unit, which includes a centrifuge for controlled gravity levels, and prepared the sample for a close-up look with the Clean Bench’s microscope. Results from this experiment will help researchers learn more about the evolution of plants and enable efficient plant production both on Earth and in space.

Swanson later fielded questions from Pedro Echevarria for C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” During the in-flight interview, the commander discussed the science research being conducted aboard the station and the working relationship with his international colleagues.

Swanson rounded out his day packing up the Veggie greenhouse following the harvest of a space-grown crop of red romaine lettuce earlier this week. Those plants and their growth mediums are being preserved in cold stowage until they can be returned to Earth aboard the SpaceX-4 cargo ship this summer to be analyzed for food safety and nutritional content. Additional “plant pillows” for growing flowering zinnias and more lettuce are already aboard the station.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman focused on a series of experiments designed to help researchers understand and mitigate the health risks associated with long-duration spaceflight. Wiseman performed an ultrasound scan on his thigh and calf for the Sprint investigation, which measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-term exposure to a weightless environment.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst checks out a U.S. spacesuit in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst checks out a U.S. spacesuit in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV

Afterward, Wiseman removed sensors and an armband monitor that tracked his activity for 36 hours for the Circadian Rhythms study. Results from this investigation will provide insights into the adaptations of the human autonomic nervous system in space and will help optimize crew schedules and workplace illumination.

Wiseman also logged his meals for the Pro K study as nutritionists monitor how dietary changes may affect spaceflight-related bone loss.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst spent much of his day in the Quest airlock as he checked out a spacesuit delivered to the station by the SpaceX-3 commercial resupply mission in April. Since this is the first U.S. spacesuit that has traveled to the station on anything other than a space shuttle, Houston’s Mission Control team worked with Gerst to perform an extra-thorough checkout of the suit to certify it for readiness.

On the Russian side of the orbiting complex, the cosmonauts took a break from several days of preparations for a June 19 spacewalk to focus on research and routine maintenance tasks.

Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev teamed up for the Russian BAR experiment to study methods of detecting a leak from one of the station’s modules.

Afterward, Artemyev monitored dosimeter readings from the Matryoshka experiment. Named after the traditional Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station. Artemyev also downloaded data from the Seismoprognoz earthquake-monitoring experiment.

Flight Engineer Max Suraev spent much of the day cleaning fan screens in the Poisk and Rassvet modules. He also joined up with Artemyev to review the procedures for handling the water tank associated with the Elektron oxygen-generating system.

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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