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Eye Exams, Emergency Drill and Science for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Jun 26, 2014 8:15 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew kicked off another day of research and maintenance aboard the International Space Station Thursday and also got a chance to cheer on their home countries’ teams competing at the World Cup games in Brazil.

Following the crew’s usual daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Commander Steve Swanson served as the subject for more investigations into the impacts of long-duration spaceflight on eye health. With guidance from the team on the ground, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst examined Swanson’s eyes using optical coherence tomography equipment. Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration missions aboard the station, and researchers are tracking down the root causes of this change to develop countermeasures to mitigate this health risk.

Afterward Swanson and Gerst worked together in the Tranquility node to restore the flow of the Internal Thermal Control System’s coolant to the Midbay Common Cabin Air Assembly’s heat exchanger in the proper direction.

Once that was completed, Gerst set up Kubik-3, a small, temperature-controlled incubator or cooler designed for self-contained, automatic microgravity experiments such as those using seeds, cells and small animals.

Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman meanwhile spent much of his time working with a combustion experiment known as the Burning and Suppression of Solids, or BASS, inside the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. Materials burn differently in the absence of gravity, and some actually become more flammable in space than on Earth.  Results from BASS will lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection and strategies for putting out accidental fires aboard spacecraft. The research also provides scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.

Later in the day, Swanson joined Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev to review emergency Soyuz descent procedures.  The trio studied their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency evacuation aboard the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft that brought them to the station in late March.

Artemyev also conducted the Uragan Earth-observation experiment, which seeks to document and predict the development of natural and man-made disasters on Earth, as well as the Bar experiment, which studies methods for detecting a leak from one of the station’s modules.

The third cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Max Suraev, removed and replaced a GIVUS gyrometer in the Zvezda service module.  He and Skvortsov also inspected the Russian segment of the station using an eddy-current testing device to detect any flaws in the surfaces.

Gerst installed the Soret Facet experiment into Solution Crystallization Observation Facility in the Japanese Kibo module.  This experiment will use the station’s microgravity environment to get a better understanding of a thermal diffusion phenomenon known as the Soret effect.  Results from this experiment could lead to improvements in semiconductors and medicine.

Wiseman rounded out his day with a photo survey of the business end of the station’s 57-foot robotic arm.  Robotics officers at Houston’s Mission Control positioned the Canadarm2’s Latching End Effector in front a hatch window in the Harmony node to allow Wiseman to photograph it in four different configurations.  Afterward, the ground team commanded the arm to perform a double “walk off” to move it from the Mobile Base System to the grapple fixture on Harmony where it will reside for the capture of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo vehicle in July and the U.S. spacewalk operations in August.

Swanson and Gerst meanwhile tagged up one last time for another eye exam, with Gerst using a fundoscope to collect detailed imagery of the commander’s eyes.

During the day, the crew also got a chance to catch up on the action at the 2014 World Cup games in Brazil as the U.S. team took on Germany.  Wiseman called down to Mission Control during lunch and requested that the game be linked up the station so the crew could follow along.

With Germany winning Thursday’s match, U.S. astronauts Swanson and Wiseman are considering how seriously they want to consider a friendly challenge made with their German crewmate Gerst.  In an interview earlier this week, Gerst explained, “If the U.S. wins, these guys are going to draw a little U.S. flag on my head, but I think if Germany wins these guys should have to shave their heads. Either way I’m looking forward to the game. It’s going to be fun.”

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