Scientific research continued aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia today as the STS-107 mission headed into the homestretch with a variety of experiments in multiple disciplines.
The Red team of astronauts, working by day, and the Blue team, working by night, maintained a round-the-clock presence in the SPACEHAB Double Research Module, tending to dozens of experiments as scientists reported excellent results. Temperatures in SPACEHAB were maintained at a comfortable 73 degrees, despite the loss of two dehumidifiers earlier in the mission. All of the animals involved in life science experiments were reported to be in good shape along with SPACEHAB hardware.
Red team crewmembers Rick Husband, who is Columbia’s Commander, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon conducted more experiments involving the study of flames in space in a special Combustion Module in the SPACEHAB.
More investigations were conducted into the effect of dust storms on the atmosphere with multispectral cameras in Columbia’s cargo bay. The MEIDEX experiment focused on plumes of dust in the Mediterranean region and in the Middle East as well as sprites in the targeted areas of interest. Science controllers reported the first successful digital downlink of imagery from the experiment as well as the observance of significant amounts of dust in the observed regions.
A suite of student experiments called STARS yielded the hatching of a fish in an aquatic facility and the successful emergence of a silk moth from its cocoon. STARS contains a half dozen student developed experiments ranging from the study of Australian spiders to the analysis of spaceflight’s effects on carpenter bees from Liechtenstein.
The Biopack experiment involving the study of weightlessness on biological samples continued to produce what was described as excellent data for its team of researchers despite the loss of freezer and incubator capability for the storage of samples.
Blue team crewmembers Willie McCool, who is Columbia’s Pilot, Payload Commander Mike Anderson and Mission Specialist Dave Brown were awakened for their night shift shortly after 2:30 p.m. Central time. They planned to conduct final combustion studies with the SOFBALL experiment tonight after which the Combustion Module will be reconfigured for the Water Mist experiment, studying fire suppression techniques in spaceflight.
The Blue team will spend some time refreshing water for 13 rodents in the Animal Enclosure Module in SPACEHAB. Data is being acquired on the effect of microgravity on the rodents’ neurovestibular system. Now that SPACEHAB temperatures have cooled again, sound mufflers were reinstalled on the animal enclosure compartments.
More data will also be received tonight from the SOLSE experiment, which uses imaging devices in the shuttle’s cargo bay to study the Earth’s ozone layer. Earlier today, the crew downlinked digital video of the Middle East with breathtaking views of Israel, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. The video also contained scenes of life and work on orbit involving the seven astronauts. Columbia’s systems continue to function perfectly as the shuttle orbits at an altitude of about 180 statute miles.
Flying slightly higher, the Expedition 6 crew aboard the International Space Station is now in its 10th week in space. Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit spent a quiet Sunday, enjoying the views of Earth from orbit while conducting a minor maintenance procedure involving a hatch window in the Unity module. Station systems are also functioning normally.
The space travelers aboard Columbia and the ISS will have a chance to talk to one another Monday in a brief ship-to-ship hookup scheduled at 11:34 a.m. Central time. At the time of the ship-to-ship call, Columbia will be orbiting over northern Brazil, while the ISS sails over southern Russia.
The next STS-107 status report will be issued Monday afternoon, or earlier, if events warrant.
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