Columbia's astronauts conducted scientific studies ranging from the behavior of granular materials in weightlessness to the effects of microgravity on fungi, and filmed the sprites associated with thunderstorms across the globe as their scientific research flight continued in its fifth day.
Red team members Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon conducted additional data takes with the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment located in the Spacehab Research Module in Columbia's cargo bay. The MGM experiment is providing information on the behavior of saturated sand when exposed to confining pressures in microgravity. The experiment could provide engineers valuable data for strengthening buildings against earthquakes.
The Red team is working what amounts to the day shift on orbit, while the Blue team --- Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialist Dave Brown and Payload Commander Mike Anderson --- is working the overnight shift. The division of the two teams into 12-hour shifts assures that scientific research is conducted round-the-clock.
One of the host of experiments in the Spacehab science lab --- the Microbial Physiology Flight Experiment --- was monitored by Clark as she studied how specific fungi react to the absence of gravity for long periods of time.
Additional data was acquired by Anderson and Ramon with an experiment in the Combustion Module in the Spacehab --- the study of Laminar Soot Processes (LSP) --- designed to gain a better understanding of soot formation, oxidation and radiative properties within flames. Two other experiments studying flame properties in space in the large Spacehab furnace are to be conducted throughout the course of the flight.
Work was also accomplished with a series of biomedical experiments studying the human body's response to weightlessness --- particularly dealing with protein manufacturing in the absence of a gravity environment, bone and calcium production, the formation of chemicals associated with renal stones and how saliva and urine change in space relative to any exposure to viruses. The crewmembers also continued periodic blood draws to study how their bodies are adapting to the microgravity environment.
Experiments continued with the MEIDEX cameras in the cargo bay observing thunderstorms to capture images of sprites, which are associated with discharges from the tops of thunderclouds into the Earth's upper atmosphere, and with the SOLSE experiment, studying the amount of ozone in the Earth's upper atmosphere by using a special imaging spectrometer in the payload bay to look across the limb of the Earth during specifically scheduled orbits.
Having been awakened just after 4 p.m. Central time, McCool, Brown and Anderson planned to continue the more than 80 experiments on board Columbia. The Red team will begin its eight-hour sleep period just after 8 p.m. Central time.
This afternoon, flight controllers observed a minor electrical current spike in one of two systems designed to collect and distribute water produced from condensation buildup caused by the operation of the cooling system in the Spacehab Research Module in the cargo bay.
An identical system sprung a leak under the floorboards of Spacehab last night and was shut down. The secondary system had been operating normally until the electrical spike was observed at around 1:15 p.m. A plan was implemented to reconfigure a valve in Columbia, allowing cool air from the shuttle to flow into the science module, thus enabling the module's temperatures to remain at a level that will not require the use of Spacehab's cooling system, while preventing any further buildup of condensation. Later, an air duct was routed from Columbia to the Spacehab to increase the flow of cool air into the science facility.
Flight controllers plan to continue their analysis of the Spacehab cooling issue throughout the night, with no impact expected to science operations.
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and ISS Science Officer Don Pettit entered their third month in orbit today with a full complement of scientific research activities, exercise and routine ISS maintenance work.
The three ISS crewmembers conducted a number of cardiovascular tests, unloaded samples from a Zeolite Crystal Growth experiment in the Destiny laboratory that has completed its work for this Expedition. The Russian Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system in the Zvezda Module, which shut down last week, is now operating normally following the weekend replacement of a valve. The U.S. segment CO2 removal system, which has been operating in place of Vozdukh, was powered down as a result of the Vozdukh revival.
All other station systems are operating normally as are all the systems aboard the shuttle Columbia, which, like the ISS, is orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes.
The next STS-107 mission status report will be issued Tuesday afternoon, or earlier, if events warrant.
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