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Station Crew Preps for Spacesuit Troubleshooting, Cargo Ship Departure

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:48 pm via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 36 crew spent Friday immersed in robotics and research, and prepared for this weekend’s troubleshooting of a faulty spacesuit that resulted in an abbreviated spacewalk in July.

Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano began their day with an array of medical tests and checkups, including ultrasound exams of their eyes. Later the two flight engineers participated in blood pressure measurements and cardiac scans for the Ocular Health study.  Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and researchers are seeking to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to mitigate the risk.

  The H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 with its Exposed Pallet installed inside the unpressurized section and Canadarm2 are featured in this image from the International Space Station.  Image Credit:  NASA TV

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 with its Exposed Pallet installed inside the unpressurized section and Canadarm2 are featured in this image from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy interacted with an experiment known as the eValuatIon And monitoring of microBiofiLms insidE the ISS, or VIABLE, as he touched and breathed on sample bags. The VIABLE study involves the evaluation of microbial biofilm development on space materials.

Afterward, Cassidy and Nyberg reviewed procedures for this weekend’s troubleshooting of the spacesuit Parmitano wore during a July 16 spacewalk that was cut short when his helmet began to fill with water.  The crew will replace a water relief valve inside the suit, power up the empty suit as if it were going out on a spacewalk and see if the water leak persists. They will also replace a gas trap in the suit. Cassidy and Parmitano were able to recreate the leak during suit testing Tuesday, giving NASA managers key insight for developing the plan for this weekend.

The suspect parts will be returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft when Cassidy, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin undock from the station on Sept. 10.

To prepare for their departure, Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy performed leak checks on the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear during the journey home after five and a half months aboard the orbiting complex.

With its mission to deliver more than three tons of supplies and spare parts completed, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 (HTV-4) is being prepared for its Sept. 4 departure from the complex.  In concert with the robotics team at Mission Control Houston, Cassidy and Parmitano helped guide the station’s 57-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2, as it returned HTV-4’s Exposed Pallet and an attached Department of Defense payload back into the unpressurized section of the Japanese cargo ship. Earlier on Friday, the Exposed Pallet, which originally housed critical spare parts and the Space Test Payload-4 when it arrived to the station inside HTV-4, was removed from the exposed facility at the front end of the Kibo module by the Japanese experiment module’s robotic arm and Canadarm2.

With the pallet now securely stowed, the robotics team was given a “go” to attach Canadarm2 to a grapple fixture on HTV-4 in preparation for the robotic unberthing of the cargo craft from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node on Wednesday. NASA TV will provide coverage of HTV-4’s departure, including its planned noon EDT release from Canadarm2, beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday as part of the regularly scheduled Space Station Live program.  The unpiloted Japanese space freighter will be commanded to de-orbit on Sept. 7 for a destructive re-entry over the south Pacific Ocean.

The departure of HTV-4 will clear the way for the arrival of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus resupply ship on its first demonstration flight to the station.  Following its launch from the Wallops Flight Facility, Va. on Sept. 17, the U.S. commercial cargo craft will be robotically grappled and berthed to the station on Sept. 22 for a month-long stay at the station.

Nyberg rounded out her workday aboard the station with the start of the Asian Seed experiment, preparing and watering containers of azuki bean seeds. Students in Asia will participate in this educational experiment to learn about the importance of space biology as they compare plant growth in space to those grown on Earth.

On the Russian side of the complex, Misurkin collected data from the Matryoshka experiment. Named after the traditional Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin replaced dust collector filters inside the Zarya module, which was the first section of the space station launched back in November 1998. He also performed routine maintenance on life-support systems inside the Zvezda service module.

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