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Science Continues on Orbital Lab While Trio Prepares for Departure

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:03 am via: NASA
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One set of Expedition 40 crew members is working advanced microgravity science while another set is wrapping up its stay in space.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman started his morning on a pair of fluid physics experiments. He first photographed samples of colloids, or microscopic particles suspended in liquids, for a version of the Binary Colloid Alloy Test experiment subtitled Low Gravity Phase Kinetics-Critical Point (BCAT-KP-1). Results may contribute to more advanced consumer products with unique properties and longer shelf lives.

Wiseman then set up the bowling ball-sized satellites known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites) inside the Kibo laboratory to study how liquids behave inside containers in microgravity. The experiment, named SPHERES-Slosh, maneuvers the tiny satellites similar to an actual spacecraft with an externally mounted tank and observes the interaction between the sloshing fluid and the tank/vehicle dynamics.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst from the European Space Agency spent his afternoon installing a microscope for the Cell Mechanosensing-2 experiment. The Japanese experiment, which takes place in the Kibo lab’s Kobairo rack, seeks to identify gravity sensors in cells that may change the expression of key proteins and genes and allowing muscles to atrophy in microgravity.

Flight Engineer Max Suraev assisted his fellow cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev as they donned Lower Body Negative Pressure suits during their exercise sessions. The anti-gravity suits alleviate the effects of returning to gravity by preventing blood from pooling in a crew member’s lower extremities during descent.

Suraev then moved some Russian science hardware before moving on to a radiation exposure experiment. Wiseman handed over dosimeters from the U.S. segment to Suraev so he could collect data for the Matryoshka study, which looks into how the station’s radiation environment affects a mannequin composed of materials that simulate human tissue.

Skvortsov and Artemyev had time set aside for light science and maintenance work while they worked toward their departure. Artemyev sampled the air inside the Zvezda service module for ammonia and monitored its sanitary and epidemiological status. Skvortsov worked with Suraev collecting and preparing Matryoshka detectors for return to Earth.

Commander Steve Swanson collected a urine sample and stored it in a science freezer first thing in the morning. He then stowed a medical kit and cleaned port-side crew quarters before working inside the Combustion Integrated Rack for hardware maintenance.

Swanson handed over command of the International Space Station to Suraev Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. EDT in a traditional Change of Command Ceremony. He and his Expedition 39/40 crewmates, Skvortsov and Artemyev, are due to undock from the Poisk mini-research module Wednesday at 7:01 p.m. officially ending their mission. They will land in Kazakhstan about 3-1/2 hours later.

Watch NASA Television for live undocking activities on Wednesday. Coverage begins at 3:15 p.m. with crew farewells and hatch closure scheduled for 3:35 p.m. NASA TV will return at 6:45 p.m. for undocking coverage. Finally, landing coverage begins at 9:15 p.m. with the deorbit burn scheduled at 9:30 p.m. and landing at 10:23 p.m.

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