Robotics for Station Crew
After a light-duty day to ring in the new year, the Expedition 34 crew of the International Space Station returned to work Wednesday with a focus on robotics and medical experiments.
Inside the station’s Destiny laboratory, Commander Kevin Ford of NASA assembled and powered up Robonaut 2 for some remote testing for the first humanoid robot in space. Ground teams commanded Robonaut to turn and twist toggle valves and metering valves on a simulated task board. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually taking over tasks deemed too dangerous or mundane for astronauts, perhaps even venturing outside the complex someday to assist spacewalkers. Robonaut’s form and dexterity allow it to use the same tools that astronauts currently use and removes the need for specialized tools just for robots.
Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA participated in the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment, which measures the atrophy of the heart muscle that appears to develop during long-duration spaceflight. Investigators use the data from these tests to develop countermeasures to keep the crew healthy. The research may also have benefits for people on Earth with heart problems.
Marshburn, a medical doctor, also brushed up on Crew Medical Officer duties with an onboard training session. He later took a break from his work for a pair of live in-flight interviews with reporters in his home state of North Carolina.
Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency began his day deploying formaldehyde monitors and acquiring air samples to track any adverse changes in the station’s environment. Later he joined Ford and Marshburn to discuss their roles and responsibilities on the U.S. segment of the station.
Hadfield also participated in Crew Medical Officer proficiency training and rounded out his day by recording some podcasts to share the experience of living and working in space.
Meanwhile on the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin replaced panels in the Zvezda service module. The two cosmonauts also conducted the BAR experiment, which looks at methods and instruments for detecting the location of an air leak from one of the station’s modules.
Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko, also a cosmonaut, began his day collecting and analyzing blood and saliva samples for an ongoing Russian experiment.
Romanenko, along with Marshburn and Hadfield, also had time set aside for crew orientation to become accustomed to living and working aboard the orbiting complex during their first two weeks on orbit. The trio arrived in their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft on Dec. 21 to begin a five month stay aboard the complex.
Back on Earth, flight controllers were preparing for a possible Debris Avoidance Maneuver (DAM) to keep the station clear of a conjunction with a piece of debris from an Indian PSLV satellite, but new tracking data Wednesday afternoon provided confidence that the maneuver was not necessary. Flight Director Bob Dempsey told his team and his Russian counterparts to stand down from any further planning.