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International Space Station: Expedition 15 Science Overview
A computer-generated image of the International Space Station after Discovery's undocking and departure. Expedition 15 -- the 15th science research mission on the International Space Station -- is scheduled to begin in April 2007, when the 15th crew launches on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the space station.

Image at right: A computer-generated image of the International Space Station from November 2006 shows the addition of the P5 Integrated Truss Segment and retraction of the P6 solar array.
Image credit: NASA

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin will command the 14S mission, named for the 14th Soyuz to visit the station. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov will serve as flight engineer. The crew will join NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who has been living and working at the station since her arrival in December 2006 on board the Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-116 mission. The three-person station crew will work with teams on the ground to operate experiments, collect data and maintain the space station.

NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson will join Expedition 15 in progress and serve as a flight engineer after traveling to the station on space shuttle mission STS-118, targeted for launch in June 2007. NASA flight engineer Daniel Tani will join Expedition 15 as flight engineer after launching to the station on mission STS-120, targeted for launch in August 2007.

Current Expedition 14 crew members Michael Lopez-Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin are scheduled to return home in April 2007 on another Soyuz spacecraft – 13S – now docked at the station.

During Expedition 15, two Russian Progress cargo flights are scheduled to dock with the space station, the first in May and the second in September. The re-supply ships will transport scientific equipment and supplies to the station.

The Expedition 15 crew is scheduled for approximately 119 hours for U.S. payload activities. Space station science also will be conducted remotely by the team of controllers and scientists on the ground, who will continue to plan, monitor and operate experiments from control centers across the United States.

A team of controllers for Expedition 15 will staff the Payload Operations Center (PDF, 150 KB) -- the science command post for the space station -- at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Controllers work in three shifts around the clock, seven days a week in the Payload Operations Center, which links researchers around the world with their experiments and the station crew.

Experiments Related to Spacecraft Systems

Many experiments are designed to help develop technologies, designs and materials for future spacecraft and exploration missions. These include:

Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air (ANITA) will monitor 32 potentially gaseous contaminants, including formaldehyde, ammonia and carbon monoxide, in the atmosphere on board the station. The experiment will test the accuracy and reliability of this technology as a potential next-generation atmosphere trace-gas monitoring system for the station.

Elastic Memory Composite Hinge (EMCH) will study the performance of a new type of composite hinge to determine its suitability for use in space. The experiment uses elastic memory hinges to move an attached mass at one end. Materials tested in this experiment are stronger and lighter than current materials used in space hinges and could be used in the design of future spacecraft.

Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions - 2 (InSPACE – 2) will obtain data on magnetorheological fluids -- fluids that change properties in response to magnetic fields -- that can be used to improve or develop new brake systems and robotics.

Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development-Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) is a handheld device for rapid detection of biological and chemical substances on board the space station. Astronauts will swab surfaces within the cabin, add swab material to the LOCAD-PTS, and within 15 minutes obtain results on a display screen. The study's purpose is to effectively provide an early warning system to enable crew members to take remedial measures if necessary to protect the health and safety of those on board the station.

Materials on the International Space Station Experiment 3 and 4 (MISSE – 3 and 4) are the third and fourth in a series of five suitcase-sized test beds attached to the outside of the space station. The beds were deployed during a spacewalk by the station crew in August 2006. They are exposing hundreds of potential space construction materials and different types of solar cells to the harsh environment of space. Mounted to the space station for about a year, the equipment then will be returned to Earth for study. Investigators will use the resulting data to design stronger, more durable spacecraft. MISSE 1, 2 and 5 have already been returned to Earth for analysis.

Microgravity Acceleration Measurement System (MAMS) and Space Acceleration Measurement System – II (SAMS-II)measure vibration and quasi-steady accelerations that result from vehicle control burns, docking and undocking activities. The two different equipment packages measure vibrations at different frequencies. These measurements help investigators characterize the vibrations and accelerations that may influence space station experiments.

Smoke and Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME) will measure the smoke properties, or particle size distribution, of typical from spacecraft fire smokes to identify ways to improve smoke detectors on future spacecraft.

Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) are bowling-ball sized spherical satellites. They will be used inside the space station to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers. Three free-flying spheres will fly within the cabin of the station, performing flight formations. Each satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computers and navigation equipment. The results are important for satellite servicing, vehicle assembly and formation flying spacecraft configurations.

Human Life Science Investigations

Physical measurements of Expedition 15 crew members will be used to study changes in the body caused by exposure to the microgravity environment. Continuing and new experiments include:

Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA) integrates several diagnostic technologies to measure the exposure of crew members to cosmic radiation. It will further our understanding of radiation’s impact on the human central nervous and visual systems, especially the phenomenon of crewmembers seeing phosphenes, or flashes of light, while in orbit. This experiment is a cooperative effort with the Italian Space Agency, ASI.

Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from ISS (CCISS) will study the effects of long-duration spaceflight on crew members' heart functions and their blood vessels that supply the brain. Learning more about the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems could lead to specific countermeasures that might better protect future space travelers.

ELaboratore Immagini Televisive - Space 2 (ELITE-S2) studies the connection between brain, visualization and motion in the absence of gravity. By recording and analyzing the three-dimensional motion of astronauts, this study will help engineers apply ergonomics into future spacecraft designs and determine the effects of weightlessness on breathing mechanisms for long-duration missions. This experiment is a cooperative effort with the Italian Space Agency, ASI.

Validation of Procedures for Monitoring Crew Member Immune Function (Integrated Immune) will assess the clinical risks resulting from the adverse effects of space flight on the human immune system and will validate a flight-compatible immune monitoring strategy by collecting and analyzing blood, urine and saliva samples from crew members before, during and after spaceflight to monitor changes in the immune system.

Behavioral Issues Associated with Isolation and Confinement: Review and Analysis of Astronaut Journals (Journals), using journals kept by the crew and surveys, is studying the effect of isolation. By quantifying the importance of different behavioral issues in long-duration crews, the study will help NASA design equipment and procedures to allow astronauts to best cope with isolation and long-duration spaceflight.

Space Flight-Induced Reactivation of Latent Epstein-Barr Virus (Epstein-Barr) performs tests to study changes in the human immune function. Using blood and urine samples collected from crew members before and after spaceflight, the study will provide insight for possible countermeasures to prevent the potential development of infectious illness in crew members during flight.

of Midodrine as a Countermeasure Against Post-Flight Orthostatic Hypotension (Midodrine) measures the ability of the drug midodrine, as a countermeasure, to reduce the incidence or severity of orthostatic hypotension -- dizziness caused by the blood-pressure decrease that many astronauts experience upon returning to the Earth's gravity.

Nutritional Status Assessment (Nutrition) is the most comprehensive in-flight study done by NASA to date of human physiologic changes during long-duration space flight; this includes measures of bone metabolism, oxidative damage, nutritional assessments and hormonal changes. This study will impact both the definition of nutritional requirements and development of food systems for future space exploration missions to the moon and Mars. This experiment will also help to understand the impact of countermeasures -- exercise and pharmaceuticals -- on nutritional status and nutrient requirements for astronauts.

Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure During Spaceflight-Long (Sleep-Long) will examine the effects of spaceflight and ambient light exposure on the sleep-wake cycles of the crew members during long-duration stays on the space station.

Streptococcus pneumoniae Gene Expression and Virulence Potential in the Space Environment (SPEGIS) will examine the behavior and growth of bacteria in microgravity. The data collected will give insight on what types of bacterial infections may occur during long-duration space missions and the risks to crew members.

Stability of Pharmacotherapeutic and Nutritional Compounds (Stability) will study the effects of radiation in space on complex organic molecules, such as vitamins and other compounds in food and medicine. This could help researchers develop more stable and reliable pharmaceutical and nutritional countermeasures suitable for future long-duration missions to the moon and Mars.

Test of Reaction and Adaptation Capabilities (TRAC) will test the theory of brain adaptation during spaceflight by testing hand-eye coordination before, during and after the mission. This experiment is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Other Biological Experiments

Studies of the responses of microbes in the space environment will help evaluate risks to human health. Plant growth experiments give insight into the effects of the space environment on living organisms. These experiments include:

Molecular and Plant Physiological Analyses of the Microgravity Effects on Multigeneration Studies of Arabidopsis thaliana (Multigen) will grow arabidopsis thaliana – a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard -- in orbit for three generations. The results of this investigation will support future plans to grow plants on the long-duration transit to Mars. This is a cooperative investigation with the European Space Agency, ESA.

A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft (SWAB) will use advanced molecular techniques to comprehensively evaluate microbes on board the space station, including pathogens -- organisms that may cause disease. It also will track changes in the microbial community as spacecraft visit the station and new station modules are added. This study will allow an assessment of the risk of microbes to the crew and the spacecraft.

Education and Earth Observation

Many experiments from earlier expeditions remain on board the space station and will continue to benefit from the long-term research platform provided by the orbiting laboratory. These experiments include:

Crew Earth Observations (CEO) takes advantage of the crew in space to observe and photograph natural and human-made changes on Earth. The photographs record the Earth’s surface changes over time, along with more fleeting events such as storms, floods, fires and volcanic eruptions. Together, they provide researchers on Earth with vital, continuous images to better understand the planet.

Crew Earth Observations - International Polar Year (CEO-IPY) is an international collaboration of scientists for the observation and exploration of Earth's Polar Regions from 2007 to 2009. Space station crew members will photograph polar phenomena including auroras and mesospheric clouds in response to a daily message from the scientists on the ground.

Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert – 02 (CSI-02) is an educational payload designed to interest middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math by participating in near real-time research conducted on board the station. Students will observe three experiments through data and imagery downlinked and distributed directly into the classroom via the internet. The first is a seed germination experiment, where students will learn how gravity affects plant development. Small seeds will be developed on orbit in a garden habitat. The second experiment will examine crystal growth formation using specific types of proteins and enzymes, and the third experiment will examine crystal formation using silicates -- compounds containing silicon, oxygen and one or more metals. For the two crystal growth experiments, students will grow crystals in their classrooms and analyze growth of those compared to the crystals grown in space.

Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM), an education experiment, allows middle school students to program a digital camera on board the station to photograph a variety of geographical targets for study in the classroom. Photos are made available on the web for viewing and study by participating schools around the world. Educators use the images for projects involving Earth Science, geography, physics and technology.

Education Payload Operations (EPO) includes curriculum-based educational activities that will demonstrate basic principles of science, mathematics, technology, engineering and geography. These activities are videotaped and then used in classroom lectures. EPO is designed to support the NASA mission to inspire the next generation of explorers.

Education Payload Operations - Kit C (EPO – Kit C) is an on-orbit plant growth investigation using basil seeds. The still and video imagery captured will be used as part of a national engineering design challenge for students in grades K-12. Students will grow basil seeds -- control and flown seeds -- to conduct their own science experiments on plant growth using growth chambers created by the students on the ground.

Space Shuttle Experiments

Many other experiments are scheduled to be performed during upcoming space shuttle missions that are part of Expedition 15. These experiments include:

Commercial Biomedical Test Module - 2 (CBTM-2) will use a proven mouse model to examine the effectiveness of an investigational therapeutic drug designed to limit muscle loss in microgravity. Combined with exercise, this drug could form the basis for a treatment that will maintain a high level of physical fitness in future flight crews.

Cell Culture Module – Immune Response of Human Monocytes in Microgravity (CCM – Immune Response) is Department of Defense Space Test Program research directed at understanding the effects of microgravity on living systems, concentrating on compromised immune systems. This investigation will examine the human immune response in microgravity and study effects of recently discovered natural antibacterials that may improve immune response during space flight.

Cell Culture Module – Effect of Microgravity on Wound Repair: In Vitro Model of New Blood Vessel Development (CCM – Wound Repair) is Department of Defense Space Test Program research directed at understanding the effects of microgravity on living systems, concentrating on wound healing. This investigation is directed at the use of adipose-derived adult stem cells for use in injury repair and how the microgravity alters new blood vessel development which is a key component of wound and tissue repair.

Education Payload Operations - Educator (EPO - Educator) will use video and still photography to capture data of experiment activities on-orbit. Students also will be designing and completing ground-based investigations developed by the NASA Education Office, focusing on grades K-12. The activities will support the educator astronaut in their mission on orbit. An educator astronaut is a full-time astronaut who has experience teaching in K-12 classrooms.

Incidence of Latent Virus Shielding During Spaceflight (Latent Virus) will determine the frequencies of reactivation of latent viruses -- inactive viruses in the body that can be reactivated, such as cold sores -- and clinical diseases after exposure to the physical, physiological, and psychological stressors associated with spaceflight. Understanding latent virus reactivation may be critical to crew health during extended space missions as crew members live and work in a closed environment.

Perceptual Motor Deficits in Space (PMDIS) will investigate why shuttle astronauts experience difficulty with hand-eye coordination while on orbit. This experiment will measure the decline of astronauts’ hand-eye coordination during space shuttle missions. These measurements will be used to distinguish between three possible explanations: the brain not adapting to the near weightlessness of space; the difficulty of performing fine movements when floating in space; and stress due to factors such as space sickness and sleep deprivation. This experiment is a cooperative effort with the Canadian Space Agency.

Bioavailablity and Performance Effects of Promethazine During Spaceflight (PMZ) will examine the performance-impacting side-effects of promethazine and its bioavailability -- the degree to which a drug can be absorbed and used by the parts of the body on which it is intended to have an effect. Promethazine is a medication taken by astronauts to prevent motion sickness.

Ram Burn Observations (RAMBO) is an experiment in which the Department of Defense uses a satellite to observe space shuttle orbital maneuvering system engine burns. The study's purpose is to improve plume models, which predict the direction of the plume, or rising column of exhaust, as the shuttle maneuvers on orbit. Understanding this flow direction could be significant to the safe arrival and departure of spacecraft on current and future exploration missions.

Maui Analysis of Upper Atmospheric Injections (MAUI) will observe the space shuttle engine exhaust plumes from the Maui Space Surveillance Site in Hawaii. The observations will occur when the shuttle fires its engines at night or twilight. A telescope and all-sky imagers will take images and data while the shuttle flies over the Maui site. The images will be analyzed to better understand the interaction between the spacecraft plume and the upper atmosphere.

Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure During Spaceflight - Short (Sleep-Short) will examine the effects of spaceflight on the sleep-wake cycles of the astronauts during space shuttle missions. Advancing state-of-the-art technology for monitoring, diagnosing and assessing treatment of sleep patterns is vital to treating insomnia on Earth and in space.

Destiny Laboratory Facilities

Several research facilities are in place on the station to support Expedition 15 science investigations:

The Human Research Facility-1 is designed to house and support life sciences experiments. It includes equipment for lung function tests, ultrasound to image the heart and many other types of computers and medical equipment.

Human Research Facility-2 provides an on-orbit laboratory that enables human life science researchers to study and evaluate the physiological, behavioral and chemical changes in astronauts induced by spaceflight.

European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) is a large incubator that provides control over the atmosphere, lighting and humidity of growth chambers used to study plant growth. The facility was developed by the European Space Agency.

Minus Eighty-degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) provides refrigerated storage and fast-freezing of biological and life science samples. It can hold up to 300 liters of samples ranging in temperature from -80 C, -26 C, or 4 C throughout a mission.

The Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) provides a safe environment for research with liquids, combustion and hazardous materials on board the International Space Station. Without the glovebox, many types of hands-on investigations would be impossible or severely limited on the station.

The Destiny lab also is outfitted with five EXPRESS Racks. EXPRESS, or Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station, racks are standard payload racks designed to provide experiments with utilities such as power, data, cooling, fluids and gasses. The racks support payloads in disciplines including biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and medicines. The racks stay in orbit, while experiments are changed as needed. EXPRESS Racks 2 and 3 are equipped with the Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) for countering minute vibrations from crew movement or operating equipment that could disturb delicate experiments.

On the Internet:

For fact sheets, imagery and more on Expedition 15 experiments and payload operations, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/science/index.html