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Robotics, Research and Resupply Round Out Week for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:50 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew wrapped up a productive week of cargo vehicle traffic and science aboard the International Space Station with more medical studies, physics and robotics on Friday. Meanwhile, preparations continue for the launch of another station resupply vehicle next week.

Station Commander Steve Swanson kicked off the day with the Skin B study as he scanned the skin on his forearm with several dermatology tools. Skin B investigates the accelerated aging of skin that seems to occur during spaceflight. Results from this study will improve the understanding of the mechanisms of skin aging as well as provide insight into the aging process of similar body tissues.

One of the more spectacular scenes of the Aurora Borealis was photographed by one of the Expedition 40 crew members aboard the International Space Station from an altitude of approximately 223 nautical miles Image Credit: NASA

One of the more spectacular scenes of the Aurora Borealis was photographed by one of the Expedition 40 crew members aboard the International Space Station from an altitude of approximately 223 nautical miles Image Credit: NASA

Afterward, Swanson assisted Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman with the Cardio Ox experiment, which is investigating the risks of cardiovascular disease related to long-duration spaceflight. With guidance from the ground team, Swanson performed an ultrasound scan on Wiseman and measured his blood pressure. 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.

Wiseman then prepared a new test sample for an experiment known as the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-C1, or BCAT-C1, and photographed the hardware from multiple angles. Results from this ongoing investigation of colloids – mixtures of small particles distributed throughout a liquid – will help materials scientists to develop new consumer products with unique properties and longer shelf lives.

Inside the station’s Kibo laboratory, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst continued configuring the Aquatic Habitat for the Zebrafish Muscle study. The Aquatic Habitat, consisting of two aquariums with a closed loop water circulation system, is capable of accommodating small freshwater fish, such as medaka or zebrafish, which serve as ideal models for vertebrates. A small school of zebrafish will soon be making a trip up to space to help scientists learn more about the basic mechanisms behind muscle loss.

Swanson later joined Gerst in the Kibo lab for more tests with a trio of soccer-ball-sized robots known as the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. The free-flying robots were equipped with stereoscopic goggles called the Visual Estimation and Relative Tracking for Inspection of Generic Objects, or VERTIGO, to enable the SPHERES to perform relative navigation based on a 3D model of a target object.

Wiseman meanwhile worked out the station’s weightlifting machine — the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED – while he wore a pair of shoes equipped with sensors to measure the force loads. The Force Shoes study, which uses a commercially available off-the-shelf product developed by Xsens, is an engineering evaluation to see if these shoes can provide more precise insight into the loads the crew experiences on ARED.

Wiseman wrapped up his workday with a checkout of the Multi-Gas Monitor by testing the ammonia and temperature sensors.

On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov continued unloading some of the 2.8 tons of cargo that arrived Wednesday evening aboard the ISS Progress 56 resupply spacecraft. Progress 56 docked to the Pirs docking compartment at 11:31 p.m. EDT Wednesday less than six hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Pirs was vacated Monday by ISS Progress 55, which is now undergoing a series of engineering tests prior to being sent to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on July 31.

Flight Engineer Max Suraev performed a session of the Calcium experiment, which examines the causes of the loss of bone density that occurs in weightless environment. For this study, Russian researchers are looking at the solubility of calcium phosphates and human bone samples in water in space.

The third Russian cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, began the day with a Crew Medical Officer proficiency training session. He later conducted an audit of the spacewalk tethers aboard the station.

Artemyev then downloaded micro-accelerometer from the Identification experiment, which measures the loads on the station during dynamic events such as dockings or reboosts. He also monitored readings from the Matryoshka radiation-detection study.

Artemyev rounded out his workday recharging a battery for the Cascade cell-cultivation experiment.

Over the weekend, the station’s six crew members will take care of weekly housekeeping chores as they wipe down surfaces and vacuum dust. They also will continue their daily 2.5-hour workouts to stay fit and to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs in microgravity.

Meanwhile, everything is proceeding on track for Tuesday’s launch of the European Space Agency’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Arianespace launch site in Kourou, French Guiana on the northern coast of South America. Dubbed the “Georges Lemaître” in honor of the Belgian physicist and astronomer, ATV-5 will launch at 7:47 p.m. Tuesday (8:47 p.m. Kourou time) to begin a two-week trek to the station to deliver seven tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 40 crew. ATV-5 is slated to dock to the aft end of the Zvezda service module on August 12 at 9:34 a.m.

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