Ask The Mission Team - Question and Answer Session
ISS Payload Manager
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Sushant Sudame from Birmingham, AL: What payloads are flying?
This mission is titled the Utilization Logistics Flight, ULF-1.1. It contains three primary payload elements, the multi-purpose logistics module and two cross-bay carriers. The MPLM contains space station cargo. Three carriers are bringing spare space station parts and a platform to investigate repair techniques for the orbiter's wing leading edge material, reinforced composite carbon.
Farol from Dallas and Junichi MAKI from Niihama, Japan: How do you weigh the payloads and the shuttle and what are their combined weight?
I can at least answer for sure how we weigh the payload. Each payload element is weighed individually, and then all elements are added together to get the total weight. The way we do this is each element is lifted and placed on a scale called the load cell. The total weight of the payloads for this mission is about 8,602 pounds. The total liftoff weight is about 2,200 tons, which is about equal to 44 big rig trucks.
Jennifer from Green Bay, WI: What kind of food does the crew eat while in space? Is it normal food or is it made differently?
The astronauts eat three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some foods can be eaten in their natural form, such as brownies and fruit. Other foods require adding water, such as macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. Of course, an oven is provided in the space shuttle and space station to heat foods to the proper temperature. There are no refrigerators in space, so space food must be stored and prepared properly to avoid spoilage -- especially on longer missions.
They actually do have such things as ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Salt and pepper, though, are available only in liquid form. This is because astronauts can't sprinkle salt and pepper on their food in space. The salt and pepper would simply float away. There is a danger that this salt and pepper could clog air vents, contaminate equipment or get stuck in an astronaut's eyes, mouth or nose.
Lynn from Cape Canaveral and Junichi MAKI from Niihama, Japan: What is the multi-purpose logistics module for and what will it bring back from the ISS?
The Multi-Purpose Logistics Module built by the Italian Space Agency acts as a moving van for the International Space Station, carrying laboratory racks with science equipment as well as racks and platforms filled with bags of experiments and supplies to and from the orbiting laboratory. On the return, it will be packed with cargo from on orbit not needed on the International Space Station.
Abigail from Pembroke Pines, FL: Are astronauts allowed to take any personal items with them into space?
Yes, they are. There is something they call a crew option list, from which each crew member gets to select items. Some items include watches, handkerchiefs, seat cushions and safety helmets. These items are usually placed in their personal belongings locker. A few astronauts have even taken musical instruments. All these items, though, are checked to make sure that they're safe to fly. They're evaluated for the size, the weight, and also there are concerns that they may be flammable, they may outgas. So they're evaluated to make sure they're safe to fly in the space environment.
Jennifer from Green Bay, WI: Is there new equipment on board that the astronauts will be testing? If so, what is it?
Yes. In this mission in particular, we are bringing up lots of equipment. The astronauts will be very busy with investigations on orbiter repair techniques. They're going to be very busy unpacking supplies and equipment from the MPLM, the multi-purpose logistic module, and removing spare equipment from the carriers to the International Space Station.
Jennifer from Green Bay, WI: Are any plants or animals or anything living going up for research or testing on this mission?
This mission does add science capability to the International Space Station. It contains a minus-80-degree freezer that will be used to transport and stow experiment samples, an experiment on microbial cells, an experiment investigation with fruit flies, a collection of instruments to study the astronauts' nervous system in space, and an environment to study the effect of light and gravity on plant growth and development.
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