(Highlights: Week of Aug. 26 and Aug. 19, 2013) - The Space Test Program-Houston 4 (STP-H4) facility was successfully installed robotically by ground crews and is now operational. The STP-H4 is an external payload that consists of eight investigations: Small Wind and Temperature Spectrometer (SWATS) provides in-situ measurements of the Earth's thermosphere and ionosphere; Integrated Miniaturized Electrostatic Analyzer-Reflight (iMESA-R) is integrated into SWATS, enabling synergistic co-located density and temperature measurements between instruments; Global Awareness Data-Exfiltration International Satellite (GLADIS) uses commercially available electronics to extract data from maritime and terrestrial sensors, and provides two-way communications; Miniature Array of Radiation Sensors (MARS) tests the performance of a new radiation shielding material; and Active Thermal Tile (ATT) measures the performance of a series of thermal interface tiles. STP-H4 also includes the ISS SpaceCube Experiment 2.0 (ISE 2.0). SpaceCube 2.0 is a small, powerful data processing module with multiple high-definition cameras to demonstrate new algorithms. Within ISE 2.0 is a thermal plate prototype to demonstrate Electro Hydro-Dynamic (EHD) pumping of liquids in micro-channels for advanced thermal control; and FireStation, which measures the optical lightning flash, the radio signatures of lightning, and the gamma rays and electrons produced in terrestrial gamma ray flashes.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy completed Robonaut 2's seventh and final session of taskboard operations and teleoperations for Expedition 35/36. The ground team controlled Robonaut to perform soft goods manipulation. This included opening and closing small fasteners; grasping and removing a soft goods blanket and transferring hands; using its vision system to recognize, grab, release and regrasp a small soft goods box; and reattaching the box and closing the blanket. Robonaut serves as a springboard to help evolve new robotic capabilities in space. It demonstrates that a dexterous robot can launch and operate in a space vehicle, manipulate mechanisms in a microgravity environment, operate for an extended duration within the space environment, assist with tasks, and eventually interact with the crew members. General Motors co-developed this technology with NASA, and plans to use it in future advanced vehicle safety systems and manufacturing plant applications.
European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg completed the second of three sessions for the Microbiome study. They completed questionnaires along with body and saliva sampling. The samples are stored in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). Microbiome investigates the impact of space travel on the human immune system and on an individual's microbiome (the collection of microbes that live in and on the human body) to help predict how long-term space travel may impact human health. It is known that factors such as stress, diet and an impaired immune system can trigger changes in the human microbiota, increasing the risk of contracting a disease. The product of this study will be an assessment of the likelihood and consequences of alterations in the microbiome due to extreme environments, and the related human health risk. Findings could be used to benefit people on Earth who live and work in extreme environments. Other potential applications of this study could be to further research in preliminary detection of diseases, alterations in metabolic function and immune system deficiency.
Nyberg began the Asian Seed 2013 investigation by watering the bean seeds. The experiment will continue to next week. Asian Seed 2013 is an education and outreach program designed to promote an understanding of space biology among people in the Asian-Pacific region. The crew conducts the investigation with Azuki beans and produces a video, which students will use to repeat the experiment and compare their results on ground.
The Expedition 36 crew and ground teams completed the seventh of 10 sample wells for the Advanced Colloids Experiment-1 (ACE-1) study. Nyberg prepared a sample and the ground team gathered image data of the colloidal solution in the well using an oil lens. ACE-1 is a series of microscopic imaging investigations that uses the microgravity environment to examine flow characteristics, and the evolution and ordering effects within a group of colloidal materials. The ACE-1 samples provide important data that is not available on Earth -- data that can guide our understanding of crystallization, production quality control and phase separation (e.g., shelf life and product collapse). Additionally, since product shelf life may be dependent upon binodal decomposition and possibly upon Ostwald ripening (coarsening) in the emulsion samples, a better understanding of these processes could have an enormous commercial impact in terms of quality, production and longevity.
Nyberg completed the third of three sessions for the Surface Telerobotics study. She operated the K-10 rover by deploying the final two arms of the telescope. This investigation examines how the crew can effectively teleoperate ground robots from orbit to simulate activities, such as landing site validation and traverse scouting, while constrained by factors related to the space environment, crew vehicle resources and communications. The team has exceeded the success criteria for the session and they have achieved all the objectives for the overall experiment. This operation will obtain baseline engineering data, validate and correlate prior ground simulations, and reduce the risk that architecture/mission planning is based on inaccurate assumptions associated with space-based crew control of surface telerobotics for future missions such as L2 Lunar farside, Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) and Mars orbital exploration. The payload can lead to advances for controlling deep-sea exploration robotic missions.
The crew rerouted the Amine Swingbed payload's exhaust outlet and cleaned the inlet air filter. The ground team completed two sessions at the medium-low scrubbing rate. To date, they have completed 47 of 81 test points of their test matrix. This investigation assesses the effectiveness of a smaller, more efficient vacuum-regenerated amine system in removing carbon dioxide from the space station atmosphere for potential use on longer duration human spaceflight missions. This can be used in Earth applications if access to a clean purge gas supply is available.
Other human research investigations continued for various crew members including Space Headaches, Reaction Self Test, Skin-B, Ocular Health, Spinal Ultrasound, and Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD).
Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist