The International Space Station is getting ready to welcome a new commercial cargo vehicle. The orbital laboratory's six crew members also continued more science work to benefit life on Earth and in space.
Orbital Sciences will launch its Cygnus resupply craft Dec. 17 at 10:07 p.m. EST from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will arrive early in the morning Dec. 20 when it will be captured with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony node. Astronauts Koichi Wakata and Mike Hopkins practiced those robotic maneuvers Thursday morning.
This will be Orbital Sciences' first mission for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services program. The company completed a demonstration mission to the station in September proving its ability to safely deliver cargo with a private spacecraft.
Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio and Hopkins continued more eye exams for the Ocular Health experiment which observes and seeks to understand vision changes during long-term space missions. Past station crew members have reported changes to their sight and have scanned their eyes with the data being down linked real time for analysis on the ground.
In conjunction with doctors on the ground, the crew members test their vision, check their blood pressure and scan their eyes with an ultrasound device. Ocular Health also measures pupil size and includes data from magnetic resonance imaging collected before, during and after a mission.
Mastracchio also continued more maintenance work on the Sabatier water generator. The device eliminates the need to deliver water on spacecraft by extracting water from the space station's environment.
One of the most important things that crew members do to minimize the effects of zero gravity is exercise at least two hours a day. Scientists are studying ways to maximize the benefits of exercise in space to reduce muscle and bone loss.
Wakata participated in the multi-year Sprint exercise experiment that requires working out on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) while wearing an ultrasound device. Sprint explores the theory that decreasing the amount of exercise time on the ARED while increasing the intensity of the workout is actually more beneficial for the crew member.
In the Russian segment of the station, Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov joined Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy for more work with the NAPOR-mini experiment. The experiment tests new technology that down links Earth observation videos from the Zvezda service module. Scientists would analyze the videos to monitor ecological and environmental conditions on Earth.
Veteran flight engineer and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin began his day collecting air samples from inside Zvezda to detect possible harmful contaminants. He also checked the Elektron oxygen generation system and updated the station's inventory management system