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Science, Satellites and Supplies for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:27 pm via: NASA
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Science, satellites and supplies took center stage Wednesday aboard the International Space Station, while the six-person Expedition 40 crew continued packing spacewalk gear and preparing for the departure of three crewmates.

Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev began the day with a suited fit check of the Kazbek seat liners inside their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft docked at the Poisk Mini-Research Module-2. After donning their Sokol launch and entry suits, the three crew members checked the fit of the custom-tailored seat liners to make sure the seats will still provide adequate cushioning for the journey back to Earth on Sept. 10. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev have been aboard the station since March 27.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who along with fellow Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Max Suraev arrived aboard the station on May 28, started prepacking U.S. items that will return to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-12M. Gerst, Wiseman and Suraev are just one day past the midpoint of their long-duration stay in space.

After the fit check, Skvortsov and Artemyev participated in a conference call with specialists at the Russian mission control center for a debrief on Monday’s 5-hour, 11-minute spacewalk. During that excursion, Skvortsov and Artemyev manually deployed a Peruvian nanosatellite and installed and retrieved science packages on the station’s exterior.

Swanson moved on to the Sprint experiment, which measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during spaceflight. Station crew members currently work out around 2 ½-hours every day, and the Sprint team is looking into ways to reduce that total exercise time while maintaining crew fitness. With assistance from Wiseman, Swanson conducted an ultrasound scan of his right thigh and calf.

Wiseman then mixed some samples for the Canadian version of the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test, or BCAT-C1, and took some close-up photography for the researchers back on Earth. Results from this investigation of colloids – mixtures of small particles distributed throughout a liquid – will help materials scientists to develop new consumer products with unique properties and longer shelf lives.

Afterward, Wiseman participated in the Body Measures experiment, which collects detailed measurements of the astronauts’ bodies to help researchers understand the magnitude and variability of the changes to body size 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. Swanson assisted Wiseman with the calibration and photography of the experiment session.

Suraev, who will become commander of Expedition 41 when Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev depart the station, reopened the hatches to the ISS Progress 56 resupply ship docked to the Pirs docking compartment. The hatches were closed last week in advance of the Russian spacewalk. Progress 56 delivered nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies on July 23.

Swanson, Wiseman and Gerst teamed up to continue unloading science and supplies from the European Space Agency’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5). Named in honor of the Belgian astronomer who first proposed the Big Bang theory, the “Georges Lemaitre” delivered around 7 tons of cargo to the station when it automatically docked to the aft port of the Zvezda service module on Aug. 12.

After he and Swanson relocated the Maintenance Work Area in the Columbus laboratory, Gerst continued setting up the Aquatic Habitat for the Zebrafish Muscle study. The Aquatic Habitat consists of two aquariums with a closed loop water circulation system. The facility soon will house a small school of space-faring zebrafish to help scientists learn more about the basic mechanisms behind muscle loss.

While Skvortsov and Artemyev continued stowing the tools and equipment they used during Monday’s spacewalk, Suraev hooked up a computer to send commands to the EXPOSE-R experiment package the spacewalkers installed on the hull of Zvezda. EXPOSE-R includes two astrobiology studies that will investigate biomaterials and extremophiles – organisms that are tolerant of environmental extremes. Results from these experiments may contribute to life-detection strategies for future robotic exploration of Mars.

All six crew members participated in a conference with the team at Houston’s mission control to discuss the upgrades to the station’s servers and client computers. Afterward, Gerst swapped out a hard drive in a support computer while Wiseman wired some other computers into the network to enable the ground team to deploy new software.

Two more pairs of NanoRacks CubeSats have been released from the deployer mechanism at the end of the Japanese Kibo module’s robotic arm, with one deployment taking place at 10:26 p.m. EDT Tuesday, followed by another at 5:50 a.m. Wednesday. A fourth pair of these Earth-imaging Dove nanosatellites from Planet Labs is scheduled to be ejected into orbit Wednesday evening.

By next Monday, 16 Dove satellites out of the 28 on tap for this “flock” are expected to be deployed from the station. These CubeSats were among the nearly 3,300 pounds of science and supplies delivered to the station in July by Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo vehicle.

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