[image-51]The Expedition 36 crew of the orbiting International Space Station put a humanoid robot through its paces Thursday, prepared for the return home of three crewmates and gathered gear for more spacesuit troubleshooting this weekend.
Inside the Destiny laboratory, Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy spent much of his morning conducting a tele-robotics operations test of Robonaut, with the humanoid robot literally acting as his eyes and hands through the use of special virtual reality gear. As it mimicked Cassidy’s movements, Robonaut manipulated an insulation cover typical of the ones found aboard the station. Robonaut conducted a similar task on its specially designed task board Wednesday through remote commanding from Houston’s Mission Control Center. Since its arrival to the station aboard space shuttle Discovery during the STS-133 mission in 2011, Robonaut has been put through an increasingly complex series of tasks to fine-tune robotic operations in microgravity and demonstrate the capabilities of humanoid robots in space.
With this latest round of Robonaut testing complete, Cassidy stowed the robot and moved on to gathering items for disposal aboard the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo craft that is targeted for launch from the Wallops Flight Facility, Va. on Sept. 17. After its berthing to the station on Sept. 22, Cygnus will reside on the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module for a month before it is unberthed and deorbited for a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere.
[image-78]Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg rounded up tools and equipment in preparation for more troubleshooting this weekend on the spacesuit that Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano wore during a July 16 spacewalk that was cut short when his helmet began to fill with water. The crew will replace a water relief valve inside the suit, power up the empty suit as if it were going out on a spacewalk and see if the water leak persists. They will also replace a gas trap in the suit if time permits. Cassidy and Parmitano were able to recreate the leak during suit testing Tuesday, giving NASA managers key insight for developing the plan for this weekend.
The suspect parts will be returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft when Cassidy, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin undock from the station on Sept. 10. Throughout the day Thursday, Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy each had some time set aside to continue packing up for journey home after five and a half months aboard the orbiting complex.
Parmitano wrapped up some troubleshooting on Biolab’s microscope cassette. Located in the Columbus module, Biolab is used to perform space biology experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates.
[image-94]Afterward, Parmitano joined Nyberg and Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin for a periodic emergency drill. The three crewmates reviewed their roles and responsibilities for an emergency descent aboard the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft that brought them to the station in late May.
Yurchikhin and Misurkin also spent some time stowing tools and equipment they used during a pair of back-to-back spacewalks on Aug. 16 and 22.
The crew’s workday wrapped up with medical checks as Cassidy used a fundoscope to examine the eyes of Parmitano and Nyberg. Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and flight surgeons are seeking to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to minimize this risk.
Meanwhile at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, three new crew members are preparing for a Sept. 25 launch to join their crewmates aboard the station. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy donned Sokol launch and entry suits for a Soyuz simulation as they prepare for next week’s final qualification exams.