Ongoing Experiments, Maintenance, and Crew Departure Preparations Highlight Busy Week on ISS

NASA astronaut Terry Virts (left) tweeted this photo from the International Space Station earlier this week. Via @AstroTerry on Twitter, "Celebrating flight day 100 with @AstroSamantha and @AntonAstrey"

NASA astronaut Terry Virts (left) tweeted this photo from the International Space Station earlier this week. Via @AstroTerry on Twitter, “Celebrating flight day 100 with @AstroSamantha and @AntonAstrey”


SPACE STATION WEEKLY UPDATE March 2 – March 8, 2015
 
— It was a full work week for the astronauts living on the International Space Station (ISS), as tasks were completed for many ongoing experiments. Training was completed for upcoming departure from the ISS by three of the residents currently onboard, while two soon-to-be crew members back on Earth completed exams that will qualify them for their upcoming launch later this month from Russia.

An initial sample collection was completed this week after various crew members gathered samples after photographing their location in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) for the Microbiological population monitoring in the International Space Station-Kibo (Microbe-IV) study. Microbe IV is an investigation being led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In order to keep crews healthy, it is vital that illness-inducing microbe populations are kept in check. Bacteria and fungus will be captured and sampled by a variety of passive devices aboard the station. Once this is complete, the devices will be frozen and sent back to researchers and students on Earth so that the microbes can be counted and classified.
From NASA astronaut Terry Virts on the ISS earlier this week, "Sunset over the frozen Great Lakes and southern Canada." Photo Credit: NASA / @AstroTerry via Twitter

From NASA astronaut Terry Virts on the ISS earlier this week, “Sunset over the frozen Great Lakes and southern Canada.” Photo Credit: NASA / @AstroTerry via Twitter

In order to preserve the health of astronauts on future missions with a long stay, research on the relationship that humans and microbes in space habitation environments have will play a key role. For this investigation, the emphasis will be on indoor environmental quality control streamlined toward studying environmental microbiology in space (astromicrobiological studies) in order to limit the hazards that may exist for future astronauts and their habitat. Data gathered about the microbial communities on the station will be shared with NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and JAXA. Results from the study could lead to the development of new sets of microbe control standards in the pharmaceutical and food processing industries.

Examination equipment for the Gene, Immune, and Cellular Responses to Single and Combined Space Flight Conditions – B (Triplelux-B) investigation was taken out of storage and set up for use by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. According to NASA, this study, “Compares the mechanisms of vertebrate and invertebrate cells at a cellular level which causes impairment of immune functions in microgravity through induction of gene activation, phagocytosis (ingestion of foreign material, and DNA repair in vertebrate and invertebrate immune cells.”

Using hemocytes (cellular component of invertebrate blood that play a vital role in the operation of invertebrate immune systems) from the Mytilus edulis, the blue mussel, and macrophages (white blood cells that eat foreign material) from rodents, the study will make a comparison on their functioning in microgravity.

Many effects on astronauts of their space environment show at the cellular level, and knowing how their underlying mechanisms work is critical in reducing risks to astronauts on future long-duration space missions. Two specific features of cellular function will be studied: the first being how the relationship between space radiation and microgravity impacts cellular function. The second is the occurrence of impaired immune function in spaceflight conditions. Data from this experiment may lead the creation of countermeasures for people suffering from a weakened immune systems on Earth.

Work was done for the Experimental Assessment of Dynamic Surface Deformation Effects in Transition to Oscillatory Thermo capillary Flow in Liquid Bridge if High Prandtl Number Fluid (Dynamic Surf) investigation. The beginning of a group of scientific runs were conducted by JAXA researchers back on the ground, which will total 30 by the time of its conclusion around the end of March. Dynamic Surf is part of a larger set of experiments that look at a particular kind of heat transfer known as “Marangoni convection,” which is created when a difference in temperature between a liquid and a gas is present. They will heat a silicone-oil mixture to see how it changes, in hopes of learning how heat transfers in microgravity. Once silicone oil is suspended between two little, solid disks, one disk will be heated while the other is cooled to slowly create an increasing difference in temperature over the liquid. It will become more and more turbulent as the convective force called the Marangoni flow takes place.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, left, and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos are in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow as part of traditional pre-launch ceremonies, Friday, March 6, 2015. Photo and Caption Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, left, and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos are in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow as part of traditional pre-launch ceremonies, Friday, March 6, 2015. Photo and Caption Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

The information scientists gather from this will be pertinent to industrial processes and fluid physics and could aid in the creation of more effective designs for space systems that are fluid based. It could also lead to better research for the growth of high-quality crystals like those used on semiconductors and optics and in a variety of micro-fluid applications (for example, DNA examination) on the ISS and back on the ground.

NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Barry “Butch” Wilmore did some housekeeping on their spacesuits this week following their completed trio of spacewalks, scrubbing the cooling loops inside and sampling water taken from them. They also discussed their experiences with spacewalk experts on Earth.

In advance of the Expedition 42 crew’s trip home this coming week, the ISS’s orbit was boosted. Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova, along with Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, spent Tuesday preparing the Soyuz capsule for their ride back to Earth coming up Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Serova and Samokutyaev worked on the descent procedures and examined emergency communications gear, and all three crew members packed the capsule with the gear they will be taking home.

Back on Earth in Star City, Russia, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, some members of the upcoming Expedition 43—NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka—made further preparations for their upcoming launch to the ISS by taking their final qualification exams in the Soyuz trainer. Kelly, Padalka, and Kornienko will launch out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft on March 27 and head for the ISS where they will live and work aboard the station. Kelly and Kornienko will stay for an entire year, until their departure in March 2016.

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