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Station Crew Opens Cygnus Hatch, Begins Unloading Science Cargo

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:09 pm via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 40 crew opened the hatch to Orbital Sciences’ newly arrived Cygnus cargo craft Thursday morning to begin unloading more than a ton and a half of science experiments, crew supplies, station hardware and even a bit of fresh food.

Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst began the workday aboard the orbiting complex removing the controller panel assembly for the Common Berthing Mechanism at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node where the Cygnus cargo craft was attached on Wednesday. Commander Steve Swanson with the assistance of Gerst used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus at 6:36 a.m. EDT Wednesday to set it up for its attachment to Harmony.

Once the control panel assembly was stowed away, Swanson joined Gerst to outfit the vestibule leading to Cygnus’ hatch and to equalize the cabin pressure between the station and the cargo craft. Swanson opened the hatch to Cygnus at 5:02 a.m. and inspected the interior of the vehicle to clear the way for Wiseman to begin unloading nearly 3,300 pounds of supplies.

One of the first items to be unloaded from Cygnus, a NanoRacks module, was set up by Gerst to begin some early science investigations. NanoRacks provides a low-cost avenue for microgravity research through the use of standardized “plug and play” modules that fit neatly into a set of research racks aboard the space station.

The crew also unpacked a special treat aboard Cygnus – fresh fruit. Cargo vehicles like Cygnus often bring fresh produce to the station to give crews a welcome break from the usual dehydrated and thermo-stabilized fare in space. Wiseman shared the experience with his Twitter followers as he posted, “Just sunk my thumb into the skin of a fresh orange and the smell completely overwhelmed my senses. Didn’t know how much I missed real fruit.”

Wiseman also swapped out a lens on the EarthKAM camera mounted in one of the station’s windows. Short for Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students, EarthKAM allows students to program a digital camera aboard the station to photograph a variety of geographical targets for study in the classroom. The project was initiated by Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, in 1995 and originally called KidSat.

During a workout session on the station’s weightlifting machine — the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED – Gerst wore a pair of shoes equipped with sensors to measure the loads for the Force Shoes study. This experiment is an engineering evaluation to see if these shoes can provide ARED load data that has been unavailable since 2011.

Gerst also disconnected air ducts from a rack in the Kibo module as he gets set to remove a failed pump from that rack on Friday.

Swanson spent most of his afternoon performing more upgrades on Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot aboard the station. During the second of four days of mobility upgrades on Robonaut’s torso, Swanson removed a processor board and with the help of Wiseman removed Robonaut from its stanchion post to install a waist adapter. Two additional workdays at a later date will see the installation of Robonaut’s legs, which were delivered to the station during the SpaceX-3 cargo mission in April. Robonaut was designed to test out the capability of a robot to perform tasks deemed too dangerous or mundane for astronauts.

Swanson took a brief break from his work to discuss the mission with Jennifer Broome of KDVR-TV in Denver. Swanson grew up in the nearby city of Steamboat Springs, Colo..

On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov continued preparing a Progress cargo ship for its departure on Monday. Progress 55, which arrived at the orbiting complex in April, will undock from the Pirs docking compartment at 5:44 p.m. Monday and move to a safe distance away from the station for 10 days of engineering tests before it is deorbited on July 31 to burn up in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

The departure of Progress 55 will clear Pirs for the next Russian space freighter. On July 23, the Progress 56 resupply ship will launch at 5:44 p.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (3:44 a.m. local time on July 24), with about 5,700 pounds of food, fuel and supplies for the station’s Expedition 40 crew. Progress 56 will make a four-orbit, six-hour trip to the space station and dock at 11:30 p.m.

Flight Engineer Max Suraev joined Skvortsov later in the afternoon to install a docking mechanism for Progress 55. Suraev also performed a monthly inspection of the structural elements and cables inside the Zvezda service module.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev conducted an audit of the lights in the Russian segment of the station. He rounded out his workday with the Relaxation experiment, which, contrary to its name, is not an opportunity to kick back and relax. It’s actually an investigation of the chemiluminescent reactions from rocket engine exhaust products.

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