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Station Trio Prepares for Departure as Long Term Science Continues

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Mon Sep 8, 2014 10:01 pm via: NASA
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The Expedition 39/40 trio is winding down its stay at the International Space Station. Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov, Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev will complete their mission Wednesday at 7:01 p.m. EST when they undock in their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft from the Poisk docking compartment.

In between departure preparations on Monday, the homebound crew members and their Expedition 40/41 counterparts worked science and maintenance throughout the International Space Station.

Swanson wrapped up his work with the Sprint study that observes how low-volume, high-intensity exercise may minimize muscle and bone loss and increase cardiovascular function. Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman photographed the commander’s legs with thigh and calf guides attached. Swanson then scanned his legs using an Ultrasound with remote guidance from ground controllers. Benefits from Sprint may include more time for crew productivity and healthier crews for surviving even longer space missions.

Swanson also joined Wiseman and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst in the Destiny laboratory for an interview with KOA Radio in Denver, Colo. Wiseman then floated over to the Harmony node and conducted a show-and-tell with the Wall Street Journal. The astronauts talked about station exercise gear, environmental health systems and sharing imagery of the Earth on social media.

After lunch time, the trio joined back up as Swanson handed over his spacewalk duties for an upcoming spacewalk. He and Wiseman were originally scheduled to exit the space station for a pair of spacewalks in August. However, mission managers opted to postpone the extravehicular activity until after the SpaceX-4 mission launches on Sept. 19 and the Dragon commercial craft delivers new spacesuit gear. Gerst and Wiseman are now likely to conduct one of two spacewalks planned for October.

Wiseman and Gerst then partnered up at the end of the day for an onboard training session to prepare for the arrival of Dragon on Sept. 20. The duo are preparing for their roles as Canadarm2 operators inside the cupola during Dragon’s approach, rendezvous and capture.

Earlier, the two astronauts collected urine samples for analysis for the long term Energy experiment. The Energy study looks at nutrition as a countermeasure to microgravity and seeks to derive an equation to determine an astronaut’s energy requirements to live and work in space during long-term missions.

Cosmonauts Skvortsov and Artemyev worked throughout the day packing gear inside the Soyuz for the ride home Wednesday night. The duo then traded turns exercising inside their Lower Body Negative Pressure suits to prepare their bodies for the return to gravity. The suits help crew members’ circulatory systems adjust to gravity by preventing blood from pooling in the lower extremities during the extreme pressures of descent through Earth’s atmosphere.

Skvortsov and Artemyev also worked on various maintenance tasks, including charging batteries, filling an oxygen generator tank and sampling for microbes in the station’s Russian segment.

Their fellow cosmonaut Max Suraev will take the helm of the space station Tuesday when Swanson hands over control during a Change of Command Ceremony at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. Suraev will lead Expedition 41 and stay in orbit until November with Wiseman and Gerst.

Meanwhile, Suraev stayed busy with a suite of experiments studying the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity on a crew member. His first experiment work was for the Matryoshka study, which looks into how the station’s radiation environment affects a mannequin composed of materials that simulate human tissue. He then moved on to a calcium study that observes mineral loss in crew members’ bones. Finally, he switched over to the Interaction study, which studies how crew members of various cultural and international backgrounds work together during different phases of a space mission.

Waiting back on Earth to replace the homebound Expedition 39/40 trio are Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev and Flight Engineers Barry Wilmore and Elena Serova. They represent the Expedition 41/42 trio and are scheduled to liftoff Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft.

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