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Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist
January 21, 2014

[image-94][image-51][image-78](Highlights: Week of Jan. 13, 2014) - Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio performed the SPHERES Zero Robotics competition from the International Space Station. On Jan. 17, teams from across the United States and abroad gathered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and virtually for the fifth annual challenge. NASA uploaded software developed by high school students onto the spherical free-floating SPHERES satellites. During the simulated mission, the teams competed in a special challenge called CosmoSPHERES, a competition in which students must program their satellites to alter a fictional comet’s earthbound trajectory. Kotov and Mastracchio commanded the satellites aboard the space station for the competition in order to execute the teams' flight program and provided real time commentary on the competition via live feed. The winner of the European competition was team C.O.F.F.E.E and for the United States was "yObOtics! Gru Eagles." SPHERES stands for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites. Zero Robotics is a challenge where students have the opportunity to utilize the station as a laboratory to test programming codes from the ground using SPHERES. The program is aimed at engaging students in innovative, complementary learning opportunities, as well as increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

To view additional images of the event, visit @Astro_Box and @SciAstro on Twitter.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Mastracchio completed operations for the National Laboratory Pathfinder Vaccine (NLP Vaccine-21) -- also known as the Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space (AES-1) investigation. NLP Vaccine-21 is planned for return on SpaceX-3, scheduled for launch in February. It arrived on Orbital-1 earlier in the month. Drug-resistant bacteria are of increasing concern to public health. As bacteria grow more resistant to antibiotics, there are less effective pharmaceutical treatment options for people with bacterial infections. Researchers for the AES-1 investigation aboard the space station look to determine gene expression patterns and changes using E. coli. This research builds upon previous space station investigations into drug-resistant bacteria, such as the National Laboratory Pathfinder Vaccine Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (NLP-Vaccine-MRSA) study of what is commonly referred to as staph infection. EXPRESS Racks can support science experiments in any discipline by providing structural interfaces, power, data, cooling, water, and other items needed to operate science experiments in space.

Hopkins and Mastracchio set up the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert-06: Ants in Space (CSI-06) habitats. They opened forage areas to release the ants, Tetramorium caespitum, and stowed the habitats at the end of operations. CSI-06 includes two habitat groups, each containing four habitats. Historical photographs also were taken. The investigation is planned for return on SpaceX-3. Students in grades K-12 will observe videos of these "ant-ronauts" recorded by cameras on the International Space Station. The students will conduct their own ant interaction investigations in their classrooms as part of a related curriculum. Educational investigations such as Ants in Space are designed to motivate budding scientists in primary and secondary school to pursue their interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The study examines the behavior of ants by comparing groups living on Earth to those in space. The idea is that ant interactions are dependent upon the number of ants in an area. Measuring these interactions may be important in determining behavior of ants in groups. This insight may add to existing knowledge of swarm intelligence, or how the complex behavior of a group is influenced by the actions of individuals. Developing a better understanding of swarm intelligence may lead to more refined mathematical procedures for solving complex problems, like routing trucks, scheduling airlines or telecommunications efficiency.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata completed the Try Zero-G operations. He demonstrated unique phenomena of zero gravity. Try Zero-G allows the public, especially students, to vote for and suggest physical tasks for JAXA astronauts to perform to demonstrate the difference between zero and one gravity (G) for educational purposes. Various categories of experiments are performed, including movements in space, spin (rotation), folding clothes, "Magic Carpet," water pistol, eye drops, propulsion through space and two-way movement. Video from these experiments will be used to support resources for educators in Japan. Try Zero-G introduces the next generation of explorers to the space environment and implements activities to enlighten the general public about microgravity utilization and human spaceflight.

Hopkins performed his fifth session of Reversible Figures while Wakata completed his third. This investigates whether the perception of ambiguous perspective-reversible figures (figure that can normally be seen to change in perspective or orientation in two different ways) is affected by microgravity. A comparison of the perceived reversals during visualization of the figures in crew members occurs before, during and after long-term exposure to microgravity. It is expected that measurable, perceptual differences can expand our understanding of human cognitive-perception dynamics by examining the differences that exist between the microgravity environment of the space station and that of Earth's surface..

Other human research investigations continued for various crew members including Energy, Journals, Reaction Self Test and Space Headaches.

 

John Love, Lead Increment Scientist
Expedition 37/38

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 Historical photographs were taken of the ant habitat facility by an Expedition 38 crew member.
Historical photographs were taken of the ant habitat facility by an Expedition 38 crew member. The study examines the behavior of ants by comparing groups living on Earth to those in space.
Image Credit: 
NASA
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Video screenshot of JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata conducting the "Magic Carpet" activity as part of the Try Zero-G experiment.
Video screenshot of JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata conducting the "Magic Carpet" activity as part of the Try Zero-G experiment.
Image Credit: 
NASA
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Commander Oleg Kotov and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio monitor bowling ball-sized satellites controlled by student written algorithms for the SPHERES Zero Robotics competition.
Commander Oleg Kotov and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio monitor bowling ball-sized satellites controlled by student written algorithms for the SPHERES Zero Robotics competition.
Image Credit: 
NASA TV
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