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Station Crew Powers Up Robonaut, Packs for Return Home

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:38 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 36 crew of the orbiting International Space Station supported a variety of microgravity research experiments Wednesday while preparing for the departure of three crewmates after five and a half months in space.

Inside the Destiny laboratory, Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy powered up Robonaut, the station’s humanoid robot, for a another session of ground-commanded testing.  The robotics team at Houston’s Mission Control Center remotely directed Robonaut to remove and manipulate a sample insulation cover typical of the ones found aboard the station. Working with soft items provides a good test of Robonaut’s dexterity and vision acquisition system.  Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually taking over tasks deemed too dangerous or mundane for astronauts and even venturing outside the complex someday to assist spacewalkers.

Cassidy also installed the FROST freezer inside the Japanese Kibo module. This freezer, which preserves test samples at very cold temperatures and can continue functioning even in the unlikely event of a power loss aboard the station, was delivered to the complex aboard the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) earlier this month.

Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano began their day with another round of tonometry tests to measure the intraocular pressure within their eyes.

Afterward, Parmitano performed some troubleshooting on Biolab’s microscope cassette. Located in the Columbus module, Biolab is used to perform space biology experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates.

Parmitano also removed and stowed slow growth samples from the Binary Colloid Alloy Test experiment, which looks at the formation of crystals in well-mixed samples containing microscopic particles suspended in a liquid.  Results from this experiment help scientists develop fundamental physics concepts that will enable the development of a wide range of next generation technologies such as high speed computers and advanced optical devices.

Nyberg meanwhile collected air and surface samples throughout the complex and tested them for signs of microbial contamination.  She also packed up some of the samples for return to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft for further analysis.  After five and a half months in space, Cassidy, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin will be departing the station Sept. 10 aboard that Soyuz for a parachute-assisted landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan about three hours later.

Nyberg took a break from her work to talk with entertainer Arsenio Hall for an interview that will air on the CW network Sept. 10.

In preparation for his departure, Vinogradov donned the Lower Body Negative Pressure outfit that simulates gravity’s effect on the body by drawing the body’s fluids to the lower half of the body.  In addition to conditioning cosmonauts for the return to Earth, this device provides Russian researchers with data to predict how the cosmonauts will react to the return to Earth’s gravity at the end of their mission.

Throughout the day, Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy each had about an hour to continue packing up for their return home.

Misurkin and Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin focused most of their attention on stowing tools and equipment they used during a pair of back-to-back spacewalks they performed on Aug. 16 and 22.

The station’s residents also had several opportunities throughout the day to photograph the Earth below as part of the ongoing Crew Earth Observations program. The station’s orbit on Wednesday provided the crew with views of the Mississippi delta and the widespread flooding in Pakistan. Earlier this week, Nyberg captured dramatic images of the massive drought-aided Rim Fire in and around California’s Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

Overnight, the robotics team at Houston’s Mission Control Center will remotely remove the Space Test Project-3 payload from the station’s truss and place it on the Exposed Pallet, which will be placed back inside the unpressurized section of HTV-4 on Friday.  On Sept. 4,  the station’s 57-foot Canadarm2 robotic arm will unberth HTV-4 from the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony node.  The unpiloted Japanese space freighter will be commanded to de-orbit on Sept. 7 for a destructive re-entry over the south Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, three new crew members are preparing for a Sept. 25 launch to join their crewmates aboard the station. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy reviewed flight plans and Russian segment training manuals Wednesday as they prepare for next week’s final qualification simulations.

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