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Eye Exams, Spacewalk Preps for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:46 am via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew spent Thursday preparing for next week’s Russian spacewalk and conducting biomedical research with an eye toward mitigating the health risks of long-duration spaceflight.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins began his day logging his breakfast as he continues following a prescribed diet for the Energy experiment. In an effort to contribute to crew health and performance as well as to ensure that crew members are getting the proper amount of food and exercise, researchers are measuring how much energy astronauts use during their space missions and tracking changes in their energy balance.

Later Hopkins participated in another round of examinations for the Ocular Health study. Vision changes have been observed in up to 50 percent of astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and researchers want to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to minimize this risk. With assistance from the Ocular Health team on the ground, Flight Engineer Rich Mastracchio used optical coherence tomography equipment to collect detailed imagery of Hopkins’ eyes, followed by an examination of the interior of the eyes using a fundoscope.

Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata spent much of his morning participating in the Body Measures experiment, which collects anthropometric data to help researchers understand the magnitude and variability of the changes to body measurements during spaceflight. Predicting these changes will maximize crew performance, prevent injury and reduce time spent altering or adjusting spacesuits and workstations. The investigation also could help scientists understand the effects of prolonged bed rest, which produces physiological changes similar to those experienced in microgravity. Mastracchio assisted Wakata throughout the experiment session, setting up the calibration tape, collecting data and taking photographs.

Wakata, Hopkins and Mastracchio teamed up for a conference call with specialists at Houston’s Mission Control to discuss the plan for packing up hardware and science samples for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Afterward, Wakata went to work packing up some of those items.  The SpaceX Dragon, which is set to launch to launch Feb. 22 for its third commercial resupply mission, is the only cargo vehicle in the station’s fleet capable of returning items to Earth.

Hopkins and Mastracchio took a break from their work aboard the station to talk with Rep. Lamar Smith and students at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio. The two NASA astronauts fielded questions from the students regarding living and working aboard the orbital laboratory.

On the Russian side of the complex, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy continued preparations for a spacewalk they will conduct on Monday. The two cosmonauts checked out spacewalking tool and accessories for the Russian Orlan spacesuits they will wear during the planned six-hour excursion to reinstall a pair of high-fidelity cameras as part of a commercial endeavor between a Canadian firm and the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Kotov and Ryazanskiy previously attempted to install the cameras during a marathon 8-hour, 7-minute spacewalk on Dec. 27 – the longest Russian spacewalk ever conducted – but had to return them to the airlock when Russian flight controllers did not receive the expected telemetry.

Live NASA Television coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 8:30 a.m. EST Monday, with hatch opening scheduled for 9:10 a.m.

The third cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, cleaned air ducts in the Pirs docking compartment and performed routine maintenance on the life support system in the Zvezda service module.

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