Today was another busy day of science on board Columbia as the crew members conducted investigations into vestibular, pulmonary and autonomic functions.
In studies which used crew members Rick Linnehan, Dave Williams and Kay Hire, and Payload Specialists Jay Buckey and Jim Pawelczyk as operators and subjects, the crew members’ eye movements were tracked in a study of how the brain adapts to microgravity, and whether altered breathing patterns influence how well the astronauts sleep.
In the afternoon, Buckey conducted dexterity experiments with 19- to 25-day old rats, monitoring the young rats as they walked on a specially-designed apparatus resembling a jungle gym. This was the second of three planned behavioral sessions to try to understand if gravity is essential for normal development of the motor system.
Members of Neurolab’s Mammalian Development Team have re-prioritized their science activities following an unexpectedly high mortality rate among the rat neonates. Mission managers reported today that 45 young rats died, likely as the result of maternal neglect. Forty-five of the original complement of 96 neonates remain, with six having been euthanised as part of scientific protocols during the course of the mission. Columbia’s astronauts investigated the animal enclosures after noticing a drop in water consumption by nursing rat dams. Payload Commander Rick Linnehan and his crew mates intervened, providing fluid and nourishment to some of the young rats by hand, in an effort to save them.
Crew members talked about the progress of their mission to date with reporters in the U.S. and Canada during their traditional in-flight crew news conference this morning. Pawelczyk took time this afternoon to discuss Neurolab science with students at Penn State University, his alma mater.
This afternoon, Commander Rick Searfoss and Pilot Scott Altman fired Columbia’s reaction control system jets in a small orbital adjustment maneuver to support landing opportunities for the end of the flight about a week from now. The astronauts will begin an eight-hour sleep period at 8:59 p.m. central time today.
Columbia remains in a 153 x 133 nautical mile orbit, circling the Earth every 90 minutes. All systems on board continue to operate in excellent fashion.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued about 6 a.m. Tuesday or as events warrant
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