Station Crew Catching Up on Research

Science was the order of the day Tuesday aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 24 crew catches up on research and experiments put on hold during the weeks recovering from the failure of an ammonia pump module in the complex’s thermal control system on July 31.

Flight Engineer Doug Wheelock began his workday early collecting blood and urine samples for the Human Research Facility and storing them in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS for study later by scientists back on Earth. Wheelock also logged his diet as part of the Pro K study, in which nutritionists monitor how dietary changes affect the bone loss that occurs during spaceflight.

After the crew’s daily planning conference with teams in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Japan, Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson conducted a session with an experiment that studies changes in the astronauts’ aerobic capacity during long-duration spaceflight. NASA is interested in tracking these changes because a reduction in maximum oxygen uptake directly impacts a crew member’s ability to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks or emergency operations.

Flight Engineer Shannon Walker set up another sample for the Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment. Results from this study may help engineers design better smoke detectors for future spacecraft.

Later Wheelock assisted Walker with an ongoing investigation of the atrophy of the heart muscle that appears to develop during long-term spaceflight. Results from this investigation will help ensure crew health on future long-duration exploration missions and assist in the development of any needed countermeasures to mitigate the effects of spaceflight on the cardiovascular system.

Meanwhile in the Russian segment of the station, Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin spent part of his day performing routine maintenance on life support systems.

With the undocking of the ISS Progress 38 cargo craft set for Aug. 31, Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko conducted a test of TORU, the Russian telerobotically operated rendezvous system. The crew can use TORU to monitor the Progress as it undocks and moves away from the station or take control of the process if difficulties arise. Progress 38 will ultimately be deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on September 6.

Progress 38’s departure will free the aft docking port of the Zvezda service module for the arrival of ISS Progress 39, scheduled for liftoff Sept. 8 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

All systems aboard the station continue to function well following a series of spacewalks by Wheelock and Caldwell Dyson to remove and replace a failed pump module.

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