Science research activities into how the human nervous system operates continue to go smoothly as STS-90 crew members flying aboard Shuttle Columbia proceed through the first week of their two-week-plus stay in Earth orbit.
Commander Rick Searfoss along with Pilot Scott Altman, Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan, Kay Hire and Dave Williams and Payload Specialists Jay Buckey and Jim Pawelczyk were awakened at 7:19 a.m. Central time with the song "Doctor, My Eyes" by Jackson Browne to begin Flight Day 4 activities.
Monday activities for the STS-90 payload crew - Linnehan, Williams, Buckey and Pawelczyk will include work with the Escher Staircase Behavior Testing of Adult Rats experiment. This will be the first of two behavior testing sessions with adult rats being used for this experiment. The rats will have a "hyper drive" unit placed on their head which has recording electrodes made of microscopic wires that are positioned in the brain to record activity in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is that portion of the brain used to develop spatial maps to help us navigate from one place to the other. With the "hyper drive" units in place, the rats will then be put through a maze or on a track. While the rat is maneuvering on the maze or track, the cell activity of the hippocampus will be measured and recorded.
All four members of the payload crew will continue their work with the virtual reality headgear called the Virtual Environment Generator (VEG). The VEG evaluates visual and inner ear cues help the astronauts determine body orientation changes in the absence of gravity. This experiment could have important applications for people on Earth who suffer from balance and orientation difficulties.
Searfoss, Altman and Hire who make up the Shuttle support crew, continue to monitor and maintain various Shuttle systems. Searfoss and Altman will also take turns operating the Portable In-Flight Landing Operations Trainer, a laptop computer and joy stick system that allows them to perform simulated approaches to the KSC landing site to help maintain their Shuttle piloting skills.
Following yesterdays in-flight maintenance procedure by Altman and Hire, the Vestibular Function Experiment Unit (VFEU) that serves as home to four oyster toadfish continues to operate in good condition. Hire will spend part of today recording VFEU operations and imparting some accelerations to the fish pack units to keep the fish active and help with data sensor collection.
Late this afternoon, at 4:44 p.m. CDT, CNN anchor John Holliman will conduct an interview with Linnehan to discuss the interdependency of oceanic research and space-based research. Also participating in the event will be Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.
Columbia remains in a 154 x 137 n.m. elliptical orbit, circling the Earth once every 90 minutes.
The crew will go to sleep at 10:59 p.m. CDT this evening and receive a wake up call from Mission Control on Tuesday morning at 6:59 a.m.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued about 6 p.m. CDT Monday.
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