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For release: 01-24-03 (for week ending 01-162403)
Science Ops status report #: 03-015

Space Station crew finishes processing fourth set of zeolite crystals

The crew on the International Space Station just finished processing the fourth set of zeolites - crystals with the potential to improve oil production and store new clean-burning fuels. Scientists will study the zeolites to see if they can improve the way zeolites are made on Earth and customize them for new applications. This experiment and many others are sponsored by industry through NASA's Space Product Development Program at the Marshall Center.

Expedition Six Zeolite Crystal Growth research was successfully completed this week aboard the International Space Station.

Commander Ken Bowersox removed the 19 sample tubes from the crystal growth furnace on Monday following a 15-day processing run.  The samples were stowed for return on the ULF-1 Space Shuttle mission to the Station.  The goal of this experiment is to grow larger, more perfect zeolites for study on Earth. Zeolites are used in many manufacturing processes, including petroleum refining.  Improving zeolites could make gasoline production more efficient or lead to ways of storing and using clean-burning hydrogen for fuel.

Also on Monday, the Payload Operations Center and the Station crew successfully upgraded software for EXPRESS Rack 1 in the Destiny lab.  This upgrade is expected to make science operations smoother.  Two racks have received the new software, with three more scheduled.  EXPRESS Racks provide Station experiments with utilities such as power, cooling, fluids, communications and more.

The crew also inspected the sample containers for the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions (InSPACE) experiment in preparation for processing once the Microgravity Science Glovebox is repaired.  One of six sample containers was discovered to be cracked. However, an identical backup sample container was intact, so the science team expects to complete all its objectives for the experiment with minimal impact.

InSPACE is designed to obtain basic data on magnetorheological fluids — a new class of "smart materials" that can be used to improve or develop new brake systems, seat suspensions, robotics, clutches, airplane landing gear, and vibration damper systems.

The Glovebox, which provides a sealed work volume for crews to work safely with experiments involving fumes, fluids or flames, lost power on Nov. 20, 2002.  Repair parts will be launched next month aboard a Russian Progress resupply ship, which should restore the Glovebox to working order.

Also on Tuesday, the crew completed the 90-day checkout with the Gas Analyzer System for Metabolic Analysis Physiology (GASMAP), used for periodic assessment of crew aerobic capacity. It analyzes human metabolics, cardiac output, lung diffusing capacity, lung volume, pulmonary function and nitrogen washout.  Crewmembers activate the GASMAP hardware and perform a full functional health check every 90 days.

On Wednesday, Bowersox conducted the third round of research with the FOOT/Ground Reaction Forces During Space Flight (FOOT) experiment.  FOOT is designed to characterize the stress on the bones and muscles in the lower extremities in microgravity. 

Beginning today, the crew will conduct five days of research with the Renal Stone experiment.  The crew is taking potassium citrate pills or a placebo to study a possible preventative for kidney stones in space. The microgravity environment of the Station results in several changes in the human body, including changes in fluid metabolism and bone loss that increase the chance of kidney stone formation during and after flight.  As part of the experiment, they collect urine samples and record their food, fluid, exercise and medication to assess environmental influences other than microgravity.

Crew Earth Observation crew photography opportunities for today include Buenos Aries, Argentina; the Tuamotu Archipelago, air quality over Southeast Africa, Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and Patagonian glaciers.

On January 28th, the crew and ground controllers are scheduled to begin operations with the Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) experiment for Expedition Six. 

The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station.  The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.

For more information:
Status report
Zeolites fact sheet
Science Ops Web site

Steve Roy
Public Affairs Office
(256) 544-0034

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