SPACE STATION WEEKLY UPDATE Nov. 10 – Nov. 16, 2014 — As a new crew prepares on the ground for their upcoming ride to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstahn, Expedition 42 crew members Barry Wilmore, Elena Serova, and Alexander Samokutyaev stayed busy on station continuing their ongoing work and research. Following the landing of their colleagues Maxim Suraev, Reid Wiseman, and Alexander Gerst on Sunday, Nov. 10, the trio spent last Monday off-duty to rest before a busy week filled with scientific work, cargo transfers, station maintenance, and space debris avoidance.
Astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore studied plants residing in the Destiny lab module. The plants are part of the Seedling Growth Experiment, which studies the effects of gravity and different sources of light on the cell growth and proliferation of the small flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Arabidopsis thaliana is considered to be an excellent model plant for experiments involving its use in spaceflight since it is small in size and has basic growth requirements.
Throughout the experiment, images captured will be sent back to Earth, along with harvested plant samples, so that scientific analysis may be performed. The results of the investigation will lead to a better understanding of vital information on how the plants can contribute oxygen and be used as a food source for crews during long-duration space travel in the future. It is hoped that it will also help make improvements to agricultural biotechnology on Earth, helping to create more agricultural production.
Cosmonauts Elena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev were hard at work in the Russian segment of the station, unloading cargo from the Progress 57 resupply ship, which is currently docked to the ISS Pirs module after arriving on Oct. 29, 2014. The craft provided approximately three tons of supplies to the ISS crew including 1,940 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water, and 2,822 pounds in spare parts and supplies. The cosmonauts also spent time reconfiguring networks aboard the ISS in the Russian segment.
The three crew members also performed ongoing microgravity research for the improvement of Earth and space life. Blood and urine samples were obtained by Wilmore for storage in a freezer on board.
Serova studied vibrations the station puts out during orbit for the Identification of the Sources of Dynamic Loads on ISS (Identifikatsia (Identification)) study, which investigates the dynamic loads onto the structure of the ISS when a variety of dynamic operations are performed, such as docking, reboost, execution of physical exercised by operators, and extravehicular activity. She also took measurements of its internal radiation environment for the Matryeshka-R BUBBLE (Matryeshka-R BUBBLE) experiment, which studies the radiation environment dynamics along the ISS flight path and in ISS compartments, along with dose accumulation in antroph-amorphous phantom, located inside and outside the ISS.
Serova and Samokutyaev also conducted hearing tests on themselves.
Also this week, a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) was successfully carried out by the “Georges Lemaitre” Automated Transfer Vehicle when it fired its engines for 3 minutes and 25 seconds on Nov. 12 to move the space station out of the path of a piece of debris from the depleted Chinese satellite Yaogan 12. Coordinated by Russian and European flight controllers, the station’s altitude was raised by 9/10 of a mile at apogee and 2/10 of a mile at perigree, leaving the station on an orbit of 262.3 x 252.0 statute miles.
The PDAM was a replacement for a reboost of the station that had originally been planned for that evening. This would have been a requirement whether or not the debris had been an issue, since it was required to make sure the ISS is at proper altitude for the upcoming Expedition 42/43 crew’s rendezvous.
The members on board were informed of the debris that would have passed within 7/10 of a mile of the station and the RDAM that kept them from avoiding it altogether, but they were never in any danger.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti, the next crew members for Expedition 42, are resting in the crew quarters of the Cosmonaut Hotel located in Baikonur. They will be on their way to the ISS for a stay that will conclude in May 2015, after launching aboard the Soyuz TMA-15m spacecraft on Nov. 23, 2014.