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Station Crew Wraps Up Week With More Science, Less Hair

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Jun 27, 2014 8:59 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the International Space Station wrapped up the workweek in space Friday with a range of health studies and physics experiments.  And it was a “close shave” for two U.S. crew members as they made good on a bet with their German crewmate following the defeat of the U.S. soccer team by Germany at the World Cup games in Brazil on Thursday.

Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman, both NASA astronauts, began the day with freshly-shorn heads courtesy of Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency.  The two had agreed with Gerst that if the U.S. team won Thursday’s World Cup game against Germany, they would draw a U.S. flag on Gerst’s bald head; but if Germany won they were required to shave their heads. With Germany winning with a final score of 1-0, Gerst treated his U.S. crewmates to an extra-close trim using the station’s electric hair trimmer, using an attached vacuum to gather up the cut hair.

Wiseman remarked in a tweet Friday morning, “It was nice to wake up this morning and not worry about my hair. There isn’t any.”

Following the crew’s daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Swanson wrapped up several days of ocular exams. NASA recently identified that some astronauts experience changes in their vision, which might be related to effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system.  With assistance from Wiseman and the team on the ground, Swanson performed an ultrasound scan of his eyes, collected electrocardiogram data and measured his blood pressure. Results from this ongoing study will help NASA understand and prevent these changes in astronauts, which in turn may help doctors diagnose and treat related vision changes here on Earth.

Swanson also participated in the 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.

Wiseman, meanwhile, focused much of his time on a combustion experiment known as the Burning and Suppression of Solids, or BASS, inside the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. Without gravity, materials burn quite differently, with a spherical flame instead of the conical shape seen on Earth. BASS is studying the hypothesis that some materials may actually become more flammable in space. Results from BASS will help guide spacecraft materials selection and improve strategies for putting out accidental fires aboard spacecraft. The research also provides scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.

Wiseman rounded out his day conducting a photo inspection of the second Latching End Effector (LEE) of the Canadarm2 robotic arm through a window in the station’s cupola.  The 57-foot robotic arm has latches on both ends, which allows it to be moved end-over-end to various locations on the station’s exterior in a process known as a “walkoff.”

After Wiseman completed the LEE survey, the robotics team at Houston’s mission control repositioned the arm for some upcoming hands-on robotics training by the crew. They are preparing for the capture of Orbital Science’s Cygnus cargo ship, set to launch no earlier than July 10 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Inside the station’s Harmony node, Gerst performed an interior corner flow test for the Capillary Flow Experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment. For Friday’s session, researchers were looking specifically at the flow of a bubbly liquid. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft.

Afterward Gerst continued the set up Kubik-3, a small, temperature-controlled incubator or cooler designed for self-contained, automatic microgravity experiments such as those using seeds, cells and small animals.

Gerst also joined Swanson for a review of some in-flight maintenance work that they will perform on the Tranquility node’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly next week.  Swanson later gathered up the equipment they will use to conduct that work.

On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Max Suraev continued an inspection of interior surfaces using an eddy-current testing device to detect any flaws. Skvortsov also teamed up with Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev to perform the Bar experiment, which studies tools and procedures for detecting a leak from one of the station’s modules.

Suraev also participated in the Virtual study, which looks at changes to a cosmonaut’s sensory interactions and adaptations during long-duration space missions.

Over the weekend, the station’s residents will have some free time to relax, speak with family members back on Earth and take care of weekly housekeeping chores. They will also keep up with their daily 2.5-hour exercise regimen to stay fit and prevent the loss of bone density and muscle mass that occurs during long-duration spaceflight.

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