In this photo posted on Twitter by Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, she undergoes a spinal ultrasound scan conducted by Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano. Credit: NASA
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The Expedition 36 crew aboard the orbiting International Space Station supported a wide array of research and technology experiments Thursday while preparations for next week's Russian spacewalk kicked into high gear.
Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency began their workday conducting ultrasound scans of each other for the Spinal Ultrasound investigation. Medical researchers have observed that astronauts grow up to three percent taller during their long duration missions aboard the station and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation seeks to understand the mechanism and impact of this change while advancing medical imaging technology and techniques for use on the station as well as on Earth. Medical personnel already make use of the training methods developed for the space station crews when using ultrasound in remote areas.
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Afterward, Nyberg checked in on the Constrained Vapor Bubble experiment inside the Fluids Integrated Rack, inspecting and photographing the scientific payload. This experiment takes a look at the physics of evaporation and condensation in the absence of gravity. Results from this study could lead to more efficient cooling systems in space and on Earth.
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Parmitano meanwhile reached the midpoint of his session with Biological Rhythms 48hrs, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study of the circadian variation of astronauts' cardiac function during spaceflight using a small digital electrocardiograph. Parmitano downloaded data from the medical monitors he wore for the past 24 hours and initiated the next 24-hour monitoring session.
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Throughout the day Nyberg and Parmitano also followed a carefully prescribed diet and logged their meals for the Pro K study, which proposes that a diet with a decreased ratio of animal protein to potassium will lead to decreased loss of bone mineral during long duration spaceflight.
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Inside the cupola, Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy eyeballs a point on Earth some 250 miles below him and the International Space Station before pinpointing a specific photo target of opportunity. Credit: NASA
Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA spent part of his day conducting an inventory of the batteries and small propellant tanks associated with a trio of soccer-ball-sized free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. Station crews beginning with Expedition 8 have operated these robots to test techniques that could lead to advancements in automated dockings, satellite servicing, spacecraft assembly and emergency repairs. More recently the crew has upgraded SPHERES with smartphone technology for remote operation and stereoscopic "goggles" for relative navigation based on a visual model.
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Cassidy, Nyberg and Parmitano rounded out their day unloading some of the 7.3 tons of cargo from the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 that docked to the rear of the station's Zvezda module Saturday.
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In advance of a planned six-hour spacewalk Monday by Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin, Commander Pavel Vinogradov closed the hatch between the ISS Progress 50 cargo craft and the Pirs docking compartment that will be used as the crew's airlock to begin the excursion.
With the assistance of Vinogradov, Yurchikhin and Misurkin moved their Orlan spacesuits into Pirs to prepare to suit up for a "dry run" exercise Friday to insure that the suits fit properly and all systems are ready to go. Yurchikhin also spent time cleaning air vents and dust filters in Pirs.
During the spacewalk scheduled to begin Monday at 9:35 a.m. EDT, Yurchikhin and Misurkin will replace a fluid flow control valve panel on the Zarya module and install clamps that will later hold cables bringing power from the U.S. segment of the station to a new Russian laboratory targeted to arrive at the station later this year. The two spacewalkers are also slated to install handholds for future spacewalk activities and retrieve experiments from the hull of Zvezda.
This will be the sixth spacewalk for Yurchikhin and Misurkin's first.
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