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Combustion Research, Biology Experiments on Station Wednesday

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:23 pm via: NASA
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The six astronauts and cosmonauts of the International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew supported experiments across a broad range of disciplines Wednesday as they work to expand the frontiers of knowledge.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio began his day installing new gloves in Biolab’s glovebox. BioLab is used to perform space biology experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates. Results from experiments performed inside this facility could benefit biomedical research in such areas as immunology, pharmacology, bone demineralization and biotechnology.

Afterward, Mastracchio fired up an experiment known as the Burning and Suppression of Solids, or BASS, to conduct another round of combustion studies inside the Destiny laboratory’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. Results from BASS, which takes a look at how a variety of materials burn and extinguish in microgravity, may lead to lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection and 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.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins meanwhile participated in the Reversible Figures experiment, which tracks how the adaptation of an astronaut’s neurovestibular system to weightlessness may alter 3-D visual perception.

After a break for lunch, Hopkins focused on working with the Capillary Flow Experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft. These systems are crucial as NASA develops technologies that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

Hopkins and Mastracchio rounded out the day fielding questions from Michelle Franzen of ABC News. The two NASA astronauts discussed life and work aboard the orbiting complex. Hopkins and Mastracchio also talked about their participation in social media, including their frequent and dramatic photos of Earth from space which they post to their respective Twitter accounts, @AstroIllini and @AstroRM.

Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata spent much of his morning in the Kibo laboratory working in concert with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency flight controllers as they prepare to launch another batch of mini-satellites. While the flight controllers remotely operated the Japanese Experiment Module’s robotic arm, Wakata helped return the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform to the airlock. A new set of NanoRacks CubeSats will be installed in the mechanism’s launcher devices for the start of a second round of Cubesat deployments beginning next Tuesday.

While working inside the Kibo lab, Wakata also rehydrated and observed insect larvae for the Space Midge experiment . Larvae of the sleeping chironomid, a kind of midge native to semiarid regions of Africa, are able to withstand nearly complete desiccation. Researchers are studying this midge to examine the impact of desiccation tolerance in a space environment as well as gene expression in response to microgravity.

Wakata later 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.

Wakata also participated in a session with the Reversible Figures experiment and talked with students in Sergeantsville, N.J. via the station’s ham radio.

On the Russian side of the complex, Commander Oleg Kotov replaced temperature sensors in the Zvezda service module and performed routine daily maintenance on the life-support system.

Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy participated in the Motocard study, which examines how long-duration spaceflight affects a cosmonaut’s gait and ability to walk or run.  Results from Motocard will help specialists design better training systems for future station residents.

Afterward, Ryazanskiy conducted another session of the Relaxation experiment, which studies chemical luminescent reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The third Russian cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, reconditioned a drill battery to restore it to full capacity. Tyurin also participated in the Interactions experiment, which studies the impacts of personal, cultural and national differences among crew members.

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft, which departed the station early Tuesday, completed its first operational flight after descending as planned into Earth’s atmosphere for a destructive re-entry. Orbital flight controllers at the Cygnus control center in Dulles, Va. commanded the first of two deorbit maneuvers for Cygnus at 8:11 a.m. EST.  A second deorbit burn of Cygnus’ engines  at 12:45 p.m. enabled the vehicle to drop out of orbit for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean at 1:20 p.m.

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