As the Neurolab mission continues its pace of scientific activity, Columbia’s astronauts spent another day investigating how unborn mice develop without gravity and how young rats learn to walk and swim in a microgravity environment.
Commander Rick Searfoss, Pilot Scott Altman, Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan, Kay Hire and Dave Williams along with Payload Specialists Jay Buckey and Jim Pawelczyk worked through a busy day after enjoying a half day off yesterday.
Linnehan, Williams, Buckey and Pawelczyk injected three more mice with chemical markers to trace the early development of the cerebral cortex in their unborn embryos. Today’s injections were followed by the second and final session of mouse dissections.
Reconfiguring the General Purpose Work Station for the young rat behavioral studies took longer than planned, but the orbiting researchers were expected to complete their full complement of experiments before going to sleep about 10:19 p.m. CDT
Astronauts marked the joints of 15- and 21-day-old rats with permanent black dots, then videotaped them as they moved around in a rodent "jungle gym" with various surfaces to allow them to walk and climb. Scientists on the ground will watch to see if motor skills develop differently in the rats that had never experienced gravity and those that had some experience in gravity, and will look at how each group adapts to normal gravity upon returning to Earth.
Several crew members spent time on the Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) equipment that is collecting data on the crew’s breathing patterns and blood gas concentrations, as scientists study any possible relation to the astronauts’ ability or inability to sleep on orbit. During an interview with the Discovery Channel today, Hire and Williams put sleep monitoring equipment on an orange model of the human brain as they demonstrated how a palm-sized sleep laboratory could eventually allow patients to collect data on their sleep habits at home.
Hire worked again with the saltwater aquarium serving as home to four oyster toadfish whose gravity receptors are being studied, and reported good quality tissue cultures in the Bioreactor Demonstration System.
Searfoss and Altman conducted a good firing of Columbia’s maneuvering thrusters to make available additional landing opportunities at the end of the mission.
Columbia remains in a 154 x 137 n.m. elliptical orbit, circling the Earth once every 90 minutes.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued about 6 a.m. Wednesday.
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