For release: 01-16-03 (for week ending 01-16-03)
Science Ops status report #: 03-009
Space Station research focuses on lung experiment, longer space missions
The International Space Station crew is currently focusing on research about human lung function in space and in the low-pressure environment of the spacesuits. Knowledge from the Pulmonary Function in Flight experiment will help keep space travelers healthier on long missions in the future. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center.
Photo: Astronaut preparing lung function experiment. (NASA/JSC)
With the International Space Station crew's attention on its spacewalk this week, the focus of scientific research inside the orbiting laboratory was on human lung function in space and in the low-pressure environment of the spacesuits.
Spacewalks are key data collection opportunities for the Pulmonary Function in Flight experiment (PuFF) science team. The principal investigator for this research is Dr. John West, of the University of California, San Diego.
The crewmembers last week performed the PuFF lung function tests, which served as both their regular monthly test and as a pre-spacewalk test for astronauts Ken Bowersox and Don Pettit. They were scheduled to repeat the PuFF tests today (Thursday) for comparison to the pre-spacewalk data. The PuFF experiment consists of five lung function tests.
Although numerous safety measures are in place to prevent this, spacewalkers face the risk of nitrogen bubble formation in their blood similar to the threat of decompression sickness faced by scuba divers. Symptoms in more serious cases include headaches, memory loss and blurred vision. The human body normally is exposed to 14.7 pounds per square inch (1.034 kilograms per square centimeter) of pressure at sea level. A spacesuit provides only 4.3 pounds per square inch (0.302 kilograms per square centimeter) to make movement in the pressurized suit less difficult. Additionally, little is known about how the lungs can be affected by long-term exposure to microgravity - the near-weightlessness of space.
PuFF measures changes in the evenness of gas exchange in the lungs and monitors changes in respiratory muscle strength. Unevenness of gas exchange is a hallmark of virtually every pulmonary disease, and gas exchange can be temporarily disrupted by the filtration by the lungs of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream. Changes in respiratory muscle strength may result from long periods in the absence of gravity.
Also during the spacewalk, Pettit was asked to photograph the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), located on the outside of the Station. Deployed in August 2001, it is exposing hundreds of samples – ranging from lubricants to solar cell materials – to the punishing effects of the Sun, temperature extremes, radiation, and hard vacuum of space. By examining how the specimens fare in the harsh environment of space, researchers seek new insight into developing materials for future spacecraft, as well as making materials last longer on Earth.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Commander Ken Bowersox is scheduled to deactivate the Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment, to end this experiment’s 15 day processing period – the second experiment run of Expedition Six. The Zeolite experiment has been following an automated processing routine. The goal of this experiment, sponsored by the Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern University, Boston, Mass., is to grow larger, more perfect zeolites for study on Earth. Zeolites are used in many manufacturing processes, including petroleum refining. Improving zeolites could make gasoline production more efficient or lead to ways of storing clean-burning hydrogen for fuel.
Crew Earth Observation crew photography targets for today include the coastline of Lake Victoria in Kenya; Nairobi, Kenya; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital city; air quality over industrialized Southeast Africa; Caracas, Venezuela; Brasilia, Brazil, the Sabancaya landslide in Peru; Patagonian Glaciers in South America; and the Pearl, Hermes, Lisianski, Laysan, and Howland Island reefs in the Pacific for a global mapping projects.
On January 28th, the crew and ground controllers are scheduled to begin operations with the Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) experiment for Expedition Six. EarthKAM is a NASA education program that enables thousands of students to photograph and examine Earth from a space crew’s perspective. Using the Internet, the students control a special digital camera mounted onboard the International Space Station. This enables them to photograph the Earth’s coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest from the unique vantage point of space. The team at EarthKAM then posts these photographs on the Internet for the public and participating classrooms around the world to view.
As part of an effort to make payload operations smoother and trouble-free, the Payload Operations Center will be uplinking some software upgrades to the Destiny laboratory’s EXPRESS Racks over the next week. EXPRESS racks supply power, cooling, fluids and other utilities to science experiments housed inside. Rack 5 will be upgraded on the January 17. Rack 1 will be upgraded on January 20. Rack 4 will be upgraded on January 24. Rack 3 will be upgraded on January 27. Rack 2 will be upgraded on January 30.
The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International
Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.
For more information:
PuFF fact sheet
Science Ops Web site
Public Affairs Office
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