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Robonaut Gets New Legs as Trio Prepares for Homecoming

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:54 pm via: NASA
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Expedition 40 participated in health checks, Robonaut upgrades and Soyuz emergency drills Wednesday. The International Space Station also boosted its orbit setting the stage for a crew departure and arrival in September.

Commander Steve Swanson joined Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst for health checks during the morning. The trio checked each other’s blood pressure and temperature as part of their clinical exams.

Swanson then moved on to more Robonaut mobility upgrade activities throughout the day. The commander reviewed his upgrade tasks and set up cameras so ground controllers could view his installation work on the humanoid robot.

Robonaut 2 is receiving new legs that will enable it to move inside and outside the space station. More upper body upgrades are scheduled for the end of 2014 before Robonaut will be ready to conduct its first spacewalk. Robonaut was designed to enhance crew productivity and safety while also aiding people on Earth with physical disabilities.

Wiseman and Swanson got together in the afternoon for a call with students from Elliot Ranch Elementary School in Elk Grove, Calif. The NASA astronaut duo answered basic questions about living and working in space.

Before the student call Wiseman joined his Soyuz crewmates cosmonaut Max Suraev and German astronaut Alexander Gerst for an emergency drill. They practiced their responsibilities in the unlikely event of an emergency such as a pressure leak which would require the crew to undock from the station and return home in its Soyuz lifeboat.

Gerst, a European Space Agency astronaut, spent a few minutes after his health exam on the VIABLE microbiology experiment. He was inside the Zarya cargo module checking experimental materials in a locker panel. The study seeks to maintain crew member health and prevent damage and contamination to space station hardware.

Gerst then moved on to LAN cable maintenance in the Columbus lab module. After that work, he went inside the cupola and photographed its windows with the shutters closed to determine if any hardware might interfere with upcoming IMAX work.

Returning cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev called down to specialists Wednesday morning to discuss search and rescue operations when they land in Kazakhstan. The duo, who conducted Soyuz departure preparations throughout the morning, will be joined by Swanson when they leave the station and undock from the Poisk docking compartment in their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft Sept. 10 ending Expedition 40.

Europe’s “Georges Lemaître” Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) fired its engines early in the morning slightly raising the station’s orbit while docked to the Zvezda service module. The reboost readies the Soyuz carrying the Expedition 40 trio home in two weeks. The orbital laboratory will also be in the proper phasing for the arrival of the Expedition 41 trio in its Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft on Sept. 25.

The new Expedition 41 trio is composed of two veteran space-flyers, NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, Soyuz Commander Alexander Samoukutyaev and new cosmonaut Elena Serova. They will take a near six-hour, or four-orbit, ride to the space station’s Poisk module. They are scheduled to return to Earth March 2015.

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