The seven astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Columbia took the second half of the day off today after investigations using a rotating chair designed to study the close connection between inner ear balance mechanisms and eye movement.
Scheduled time off for crew members is a normal part of longer shuttle missions such as this two-week plus Neurolab flight, designed to help the crew stay well rested, mentally sharp and operating effectively. Several of the crew members integrated their regular exercise for the day into their off-duty time. The entire crew begins an eight-hour sleep shift at 10:39 p.m. CDT.
During the shortened work day, Commander Rick Searfoss made sure that Neurolab’s small menagerie was in good shape, took care of some routine housekeeping chores and re-oriented the shuttle for a nozzle dump of excess supply and waste water. Pilot Scott Altman activated several Getaway Special (GAS) canister experiments in the cargo bay. Mission Specialist Kay Hire shot some videotape of the aquarium unit being carried in the Spacelab and tended to renal and bone marrow tissues being grown in the Bioreactor Demonstration System.
Payload Commander Rick Linnehan, Mission Specialist Dave Williams and Payload Specialists Jay Buckey and Jim Pawelczyk took turns operating and riding in a rotating chair called the Visual and Vestibular Integration System that scientists hope will help them learn more about how the nervous system rewires itself to account for the lack of gravity. The payload crew sent down television pictures of the spinning off-axis rotator and infrared camera pictures of each other’s eye movement during the rides.
Columbia continues to orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 160 and 180 miles with no significant systems problems. A small orbit adjustment burn is scheduled Wednesday to bring in an additional Florida landing opportunity at the end of the mission May 3 or 4.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued about 6 a.m. CDT Wednesday.
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