After enjoying some time off yesterday afternoon, the seven members of the STS-90 crew will be back on the job full-time today as they begin the sixth day of on-orbit research dedicated to learning more about the human nervous system.
Commander Rick Searfoss, Pilot Scott Altman, Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan, Kay Hire and Dave Williams along with Payload Specialists Jay Buckey and Jim Pawelczyk received a wake up call from Mission Control with Robert Palmer’s song "Bad Case of Loving You" at 6:39 a.m.
The four crew members who make up the science team – Linnehan, Williams, Buckey and Pawelczyk – will be involved in a variety of science efforts today. Part of the day will involve continued work with the "Reduced Gravity - Effects in the Developing Nervous System" experiment which is focusing on the early development of the cerebral cortex in mice embryos. Today’s efforts will see the second and final injection and dissection activities with the mice.
A total of nine mice will be anesthetized and their embryos removed before being euthanized. Six of the nine were injected with cell markers on Flight Day 3. Three of those mice will receive an additional cell marker injection about 2 ½ hours before embryo removal. Researchers are using this experiment to investigate how microgravity affects nervous system development.
Additional work with the Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) equipment which is collecting data on the crew’s breathing patterns and blood concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide also will take place today.
The Effects of Gravity on Postnatal Motor Development Experiment, one of the Mammalian Development Team’s project will receive it’s first run of the mission today. Ground research has indicated that gravity plays a significant role in rats learning basic motor skills like swimming and walking. The rats being studied in this experiment were launched when they were only a few days old and scientist will be looking to see if motor skills develop normally in the weightless environment. The rats will be videotaped as they move around in a special walking apparatus that has various surfaces to allow them to walk and climb. Additional motor skill test will be performed after the flight to see if the rats are able to readapt to the force of gravity.
Hire efforts today will include more videotaping and work with the aquariumm unit known as the Vestibular Function Experiment Unit (VFEU). The VFEU has four separate aquariums to house the oyster toadfish being carried as research subjects for the Neurolab aquatic experiments. Hire will pull the fish package out, give it a movement and then monitor how the fish respond to that acceleration. She will also continue her monitoring of the Bioreactor Demonstration System experiment that is growing renal tissue and bone marrow samples as part of an evaluation for the ability to produce substances useful in a variety of medical treatments on Earth.
Searfoss and Altman will oversee a firing of Columbia’s maneuvering thrusters as part of an orbit adjust burn designed to make a second landing opportunity available for use at the end of the mission. The firing of Columbia’s forward reaction control system jets will take place at shortly after 3 p.m. Central.
Just before 4 p.m. this afternoon, Hire and Williams will take a few minutes to conduct an interview with the Discovery News program which will be used as part of a Discovery Channel documentary on the Neurolab mission.
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 10:19 p.m. CDT this evening and receive a wake up call from Mission Control on Thursday morning at 6:19 a.m.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued about 6 p.m. this afternoon.
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