Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia are completing their final runs on experiments in the Spacehab Research Double Module and beginning preparations for Saturday’s landing.
Most of the 80 experiments already have completed their data collection, and today was the last day for the remaining investigations, in particular the Water Mist Fire Suppression Experiment (MIST), the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) and the Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS).
MIST, which got a late start due to problems setting up the test chamber, is nearing its 30th run as it studies the effectiveness of fog-like water droplet concentrations in putting out flames. The experiment is sponsored by the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden as part of continuing program to design replacements for environmentally hazardous chemicals such as Halons.
MEIDEX will be recording its final data takes of lightning “sprites” and “elves,” after successfully imaging a major dust concentration in support of its primary objective to study how fine dust particles, or aerosols, affect the Earth’s environment. MEIDEX was sponsored by the Israeli Space Agency and Tel-Aviv University in association with Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon’s first space flight for an Israeli.
Crewmembers also began wrapping up and storing the final blood, urine and saliva samples they are providing for studies of human physiology associated with the ARMS cardiovascular experiments and the Physiology and Biochemistry Team experiments. The samples will be kept at appropriate temperatures in refrigeration systems in the Spacehab module for return to Earth and further study.
And the Biotube experiment, which was activated Wednesday, looked at flax seeds as they grew in the presence of strong magnetic field. Scientists on the ground used video downlinks to monitor the length of root growth to ensure appropriate fixation times.
Commander Rick Husband and Flight Engineer Kalpana Chawla of the day shift took turns simulating landing on the PILOT computer-based training system. Pilot Willie McCool of the night shift will get in his practice session overnight. Landing is scheduled for 8:16 a.m. CST Saturday and preliminary forecasts show excellent conditions at the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. If weather decides not to cooperate, there are plenty of supplies to support the crew until conditions are favorable.
Husband also peeked under the floor of the Spacehab module to look for water that might have leaked out of the balky air-conditioning system earlier in the mission. He reported finding no moisture that could contaminate Spacehab systems if jostled during Saturday’s re-entry and landing, but covered several holes in the water sub-assembly with tape as a precaution.
The next STS-107 status report will be issued Friday, or as events warrant.
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