Headlines > News > Station Crew Conducts Medical Research, Packs for Return Home

Station Crew Conducts Medical Research, Packs for Return Home

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Sep 4, 2014 8:54 pm via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 40 crew supported a full slate of biomedical research Thursday while preparations for the next week’s departure of three crew members entered the homestretch.

Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA) got an early start on station science as they both provided saliva samples for the Human Research Facility shortly after the crew’s usual 2 a.m. EDT wakeup. They stored the samples in the Minus Eighty-degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, for later analysis back on Earth.

After the crew’s daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Swanson went to work for his data collection session with the Sprint VO2Max experiment. The commander donned medical monitors and worked out on the station’s exercise bike to provide data for the Sprint investigators, who are tracking the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during spaceflight. The VO2Max portion of this study takes a look at the changes in the astronauts’ aerobic capacity.

Swanson’s fellow NASA astronaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman, placed acoustic dosimeters in the Destiny laboratory and the Zarya module to help the ground team track the noise levels the crew is exposed to throughout the day. Wiseman then tested samples from the station’s Water Processor Assembly to check for signs of contamination.

Wiseman later gathered up items for return to Earth aboard the next SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. The SpaceX-4 commercial resupply services mission is scheduled to launch to the station no earlier than Sept. 19.

Gerst stowed the hardware he used Wednesday to measure his oxygen uptake for the ENERGY experiment. This ESA study is measuring how much energy astronauts use during their space missions and tracking changes in their energy balance as part of an effort to contribute to crew health and performance as well as to ensure that crew members are getting the proper amount of food and exercise. Gerst will continue to follow a prescribed diet and collect urine samples over a 10-day period to provide data for ENERGY.

On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev spent much of their morning packing and stowing items inside the Soyuz-TMA-12M spacecraft as the two cosmonauts get set to depart the station along with Swanson next week. The trio will undock their Soyuz from the Poisk module on the space-facing side of the station on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 7:02 p.m. for a parachute-assisted landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan less than 3 ½-hours later.

Artemyev also activated the Membrana experiment hardware, which is testing the capability of using the weightless environment of the station to produce porous materials with uniform characteristics.

The third cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Max Suraev, focused on maintenance tasks as he checked cable connections, cleaned filter screens and checked the life-support system hardware in the Zvezda service module.

After a break for lunch, Swanson went to the Kibo laboratory to conduct a mapping test for the Smart SPHERES experiment. A smartphone was attached to one of the soccer-ball-sized, free-flying robots known as the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, and flown around Kibo, the Harmony node and the Destiny laboratory to map the surfaces with the phone’s camera. NASA is developing the Smart SPHERES to perform work on the space station that requires mobile sensing, such as environmental surveys. The upgraded robots also can be used to monitor inventory and conduct experiments.

Wiseman meanwhile set up hardware in the Columbus laboratory to allow the astronauts to weigh themselves.  Since they cannot simply stand on a scale in weightlessness, the astronauts use Newton’s Second Law of Motion (Force = mass X acceleration) to determine their mass: the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device, or SLAMMD, generates a known force against a crew member mounted on an extension arm, accurately measures the resulting acceleration when the astronaut-and-arm move, and can then solve for the missing component of the equation, the crew member’s mass.  Wiseman, Swanson and Gerst all weighed themselves with SLAMMD before Wiseman disassembled and stowed the hardware.

Swanson installed the MAGVECTOR experiment hardware inside the Columbus lab’s European Drawer Rack. MAGVECTOR will investigate how the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an extremely sensitive electrical conductor as the station orbits the Earth.

Gerst, who spent part of the afternoon setting up the Kubik incubator/cooler, took a break from his work to talk to his hometown of Künzelsau, Germany, during a televised ESA event.

The German astronaut then collected detailed imagery of Wiseman’s eyes using a fundoscope to help flight surgeons keep close tabs on the crew’s eyesight. NASA recently identified that some astronauts experience changes in their vision during long-duration spaceflight. Identifying the causes of these changes and developing countermeasures to maintain ocular health are crucial as NASA works toward sending astronauts on longer voyages beyond low-Earth orbit.

Suraev spent the afternoon photo-documenting the interior of Zvezda while Skvortsov and Artemyev continued preparing the Soyuz for the journey back to Earth.

Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson are slated to conduct a Soyuz descent drill Friday to review the procedures for the landing. Their departure Wednesday will mark the end of the Expedition 40 and the beginning of Expedition 41 under the command of Suraev, who will remain aboard the station along with Wiseman and Gerst until November.

Meanwhile, the three additional Expedition 41 flight engineers are now one step closer to launch. NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova finished their second day of qualification exams Thursday at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. They are scheduled to launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

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