The seven astronauts aboard Columbia neared the halfway mark of their neuroscience research mission today, operating the 26 individual experiments designed to provide insight into the operation of the nervous system, the most complex and least well-known part of the human body. The STS-90 crew members have used themselves as test subjects in a variety of experiments associated with studying functions such as blood pressure regulation , balance, coordination and sleep patterns. They have also studied a variety of animals to gain additional insight into the effects the weightless environment of space has on the development and performance of the 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 at 5:59 a.m. Central time to the sound of "This Land is Your Land." The song was selected to honor the work Searfoss has done with the Boy Scout organization.
Today, Buckey and Williams will euthanize and dissect eight young rats which were nine days old at launch in an experiment to study critical periods in the development of the balance system which are a part of the work being done by the Mammalian Development Team. This particular experiment is looking at changes occurring in the vestibular receptors of the rats in different stages of growth. Without the presence of gravitational forces during development, receptors and neuronal circuits that process the information on balance and position may develop differently than those of animals developing on Earth.
Searfoss, Altman and Hire will continue their monitoring of Columbia’s systems, perform routine orbiter housekeeping chores and assist in science activities in the Spacelab. Searfoss and Altman also will each take turns operating the Portable In-Flight Landing Operations Trainer (PILOT), a laptop computer and joystick system that allows them to simulate approaches and landings to the Kennedy Space Center to maintain their piloting skills. Hire will continue her monitoring of the the aquarium being carried in the Spacelab known as the Vestibular Function Experiment Unit which houses the oyster toadfish used as research subjects for the Neurolab aquatic experiments.
Linnehan, Pawelczyk and Buckey will spend part of their day studying the autonomic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that automatically controls functions such as blood pressure. They are monitoring changes taking place in blood pressure control during the flight and will again use the Lower Body Negative Pressure (LBNP) device as part of their data collection. The LBNP is designed to place stress on the cardiovascular system similar to what is experienced when standing in Earth’s gravity environment. Just after 3:30 p.m. Central this afternoon, Altman and Linnehan will be interviewed by newstalk anchor Spike O’Dell of WGN Radio in Chicago. Altman, who is an Illinois native, and Linnehan, will talk about the various Neurolab research activities being conducted in the Spacelab module and Altman’s first flight in space.
Columbia is flying in a 153 x 133 nautical mile orbit, circling the Earth once every 90 minutes with all its systems operating perfectly.
The astronauts will go to sleep at 9:39 p.m. Central time tonight and will be awakened at 5:39 Saturday morning to begin the ninth day of their long research mission.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued about 6 p.m. this afternoon.
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UPCOMING EVENTS ON NASA TV Friday, April 24, 1998
MET CDT EDT
NASA VIDEO FILE 06/21:41 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
MISSION STATUS BRIEFING / 06/23:41 01:00 PM 02:00 PM ANIMAL SCIENCE BRIEFING
WGN RADIO, CHICAGO INTERVIEW 07/02:15 03:34 PM 04:34 PM
FLIGHT DAY HIGHLIGHTS 07/05:41 07:00 PM 08:00 PM
CREW ACTIVITY REPORT / 07/06:41 08:00 PM 09:00 PM FLIGHT DAY HIGHLIGHTS REPLAY / VIDEO FILE REPLAY (replayed every hour on the hour through crew wake up)
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