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Station Astronauts Prep Nanosatellites, Talk With Students

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:59 pm via: NASA
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Spinal scans, combustion experiments and preparations for the next batch of miniature satellites to be deployed from the International Space Station were the focus of the Expedition 38 crew’s activities Thursday.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins of NASA began his day setting up ultrasound for the Spinal Ultrasound study. Medical researchers have observed that astronauts grow up to three percent taller while living in microgravity and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation seeks to understand the mechanism and impact of this change while advancing medical imaging technology by testing a smaller and more portable ultrasound device aboard the station.  With remote guidance from the team on the ground, Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency performed a spinal scan on Hopkins.

Hopkins and Wakata also participated in another round of periodic health examinations as the ground team watches over the health of the astronauts during their six months in space.

Afterward, Wakata worked in the Japanese Kibo laboratory to prepare the second batch of NanoRacks CubeSats for their deployment beginning next Tuesday. Wakata opened the inner hatch to the airlock and replaced the empty deployers on the Multipurpose Experiment Platform with loaded deployers. The platform and its deployers will be passed outside through the airlock to the Exposed Facility where Kibo’s robotic arm can grapple the platform and position the nanosatellites for launch. NanoRacks provides customers with CubeSat deployment services through a Space Act Agreement with NASA.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio focused his attention on another round of data collection for a combustion experiment known as the Burning and Suppression of Solids, or BASS. Materials burn differently in the absence of gravity-driven convection, with some materials actually becoming more flammable than on Earth. BASS takes a look at how a variety of materials burn and extinguish in microgravity, which will 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.

Hopkins, Mastracchio and Wakata wrapped up their day speaking with college and high school students gathered at California State University in Los Angeles as part of NASA’s Destination Station awareness campaign. The three astronauts discussed life and work aboard the orbiting complex during the 20-minute live event.  Destination Station promotes research opportunities, educates communities about activities performed on the International Space Station, and communicates the real and potential impacts of the station on our everyday lives.

On the Russian side of the complex, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy participated in orthostatic stability evaluations as each donned a special outfit that simulates the effects of gravity by drawing fluids to the lower half of the body. In addition to conditioning cosmonauts for the return home, this device provides Russian researchers with data to predict how the cosmonauts will react to the full force of Earth’s gravity at the end of their mission.

The commander also performed the Seiner ocean-observation study, documenting color bloom patterns in the oceans’ waters for the fishing industry.

Ryazanskiy meanwhile downloaded data from an earthquake-monitoring experiment known as Seismoprognoz. He and Kotov installed the hardware for Seismoprognoz on the exterior of the station during a spacewalk on Dec. 27. Ryazanskiy also worked with the Cascade biotechnology experiment, which investigates cell cultivation in microgravity.

Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin inspected the windows in the Russian segment and also cleaned screens in the Zarya module. He rounded out the day performing routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module.

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