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Station Conducts Science, Chats with Star Trek Cast
Astronaut Chris Cassidy

Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy gives a thumbs up from the orbiting International Space Station to the cast and crew of "Star Trek Into Darkness" during a Google+ Hangout. Credit: NASA TV

The three-person Expedition 36 crew aboard the International Space Station supported botanical and complex fluid experiments Thursday while awaiting the arrival of three additional crewmates in less than two weeks.

Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA spent most of his morning working with the Binary Colloid Alloy Test-4 experiment, which looks at the formation of crystals in well-mixed samples containing microscopic spheres suspended in a liquid. Cassidy took multiple photos of samples that have been left undisturbed for several years to allow investigators to determine if there had been any phase separation. He also mixed some samples to study the reaction over a one week period. Results from these experiments help scientists develop fundamental physics concepts that could enable the advancement of a wide range of next generation technologies such as high speed computers and advanced optical devices.

Cassidy also completed some set up procedures for the Seedling Growth experiment, which studies the effects of microgravity on the growth of plants. During long-duration spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit, plants could provide future astronauts with regenerative sources of food and supplemental methods of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, so researchers are studying the growth of thale cress seedlings to understand how to effectively use plants in life support systems.

› Read more about Seedling Growth

Cassidy took a break from his work to participate in a live Google+ hangout with the cast and crew of “Star Trek Into Darkness.” The NASA flight engineer discussed life and work aboard the space station with Star Trek cast members Chris Pine, Alice Eve and John Cho, director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter and producer Damon Lindelof.

› Watch a replay of the Google+ Hangout

On the Russian side of the complex, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin participated in the Interactions experiment, which studies the impacts of personal, cultural and national differences among crew members.

Misurkin also downloaded data from the Matryoshka experiment. Named for the traditional Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station.

Vinogradov meanwhile cleaned dust filters and performed routine maintenance on the life-support system inside the Zvezda service module.

JSC2013-E-033434: Expedition 36 crew members

Expedition 36/37 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg of NASA (left), Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin (center) and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency answer questions from reporters May 16 at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Credit: NASA

Meanwhile, the three crew members who will return the station to its full six-person complement flew from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final launch preparations. NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin will launch aboard their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft May 28 for a six-hour flight to the station.

The three crew members will suit up at the Site 254 Integration Facility at Baikonur on Friday for the first of two “fit check” activities, and climb into their Soyuz spacecraft to familiarize themselves with its cockpit displays and systems.

To place the station in the optimal altitude and phasing for the arrival of Nyberg, Parmitano and Yurchikhin, the thrusters of the ISS Progress 51 cargo ship docked to the rear of Zvezda will fire for 15 minutes, 4 seconds beginning at 10:21 p.m. EDT Thursday. The reboost will raise the apogee of the station’s orbit by 2.4 statute miles and its perigee by 1.1 statute miles, leaving the complex in an orbit of 261.7 x 254.8 statute miles.

› Read more about Expedition 36