Medical investigations will begin in earnest today as Discovery's crew moves forward with research comparing the changes the human body goes through when making trips into orbit with the changes that occur as part of the natural aging process on Earth.
Payload Specialist John Glenn, 77, will begin providing the 10 blood samples and 16 urine samples needed to look into the effects of space flight on his body. Researchers want to better understand how the removal of gravity affects balance and perception, immune system response, bone and muscle density, metabolism and blood flow, and sleep. Mission Specialist Pedro Duque, 35, also will provide blood samples, which will be taken by Mission Specialist Scott Parazynski and Payload Specialist Chiai Mukai, both trained physicians.
The blood draws are part of the Protein Turnover in Space Flight study, which will track the balance between protein building and breakdown, the two parts of protein turnover that contribute to muscle atrophy. The astronauts in the experiment take small amounts of the amino acids alanine and histidine, which contain a special tracer molecules, 12 hours before each blood draw. This research may help benefit people on Earth who suffer from weakened muscles or loss of bone mass.
The on-orbit researchers also will continue their examinations of plants., animals and other materials as they react to environmental changes related to the absence of gravity. And Canadian developers of a Space Vision System will check out on board software that will allow them to switch from camera to camera in the payload bay and provide precise positioning information for use by robot arm operators assembling the pieces of the International Space Station.
Early in the crew day, Commander Curt Brown will switch back to a tried and true method of removing iodine from the shuttle's drinking water supply. Yesterday, the crew reported a strange taste in water coming out of a system being tested for the first time. Ground researchers are trying to determine what is causing the strange taste. Iodine is used to prevent contamination of the water system tanks and lines, but must be removed before the crew drinks the water or uses it in food preparation.
At 11:35 a.m., Brown and Glenn will answer questions posed by students at the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio; the Newseum in Arlington, Va., and John Glenn High School in New Concord, Ohio.
The crew was awakened at 7:10 a.m. Central time to the sounds of "Cachito," a song about parenthood. Duque and his wife, Consuelo, recently had a baby. The crew will go to bed at 10:35 p.m.
The next status report STS-95 status report will be issued at approximately 6 p.m. Central time Saturday.
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