Space Station glovebox parts returned to Earth for repair

by Steve Roy of NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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International Space Station Expedition Five Science Operations Status Report for the week ending Dec. 4, 2002.

Elements of the Microgravity Science Glovebox were packed aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour for return to Earth for repairs this week after extensive troubleshooting efforts by the crew of the International Space Station.

Expedition Five Science Officer Peggy Whitson and Expedition Six Science Officer Don Pettit conducted a variety of tests - including electronic continuity checks - on the Glovebox on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The crew and control teams concluded that in-orbit repair was not possible on the Glovebox. The Power Distribution and Control (PDC) box and a related component, the Exchangeable Standard Electronics Module (ESEM) #3, were packed aboard Endeavour Sunday before undocking on Monday. Replacement parts are in the final stages of testing and will be ready for the next shuttle flight to Space Station in March. The returned parts will be examined for failure analysis. If there is an inherent design problem, a modification will be attempted prior to re-flight in March. The Glovebox experienced a loss of power on November 20 during sample processing on the Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation. Subsequent attempts to re-power the Glovebox were unsuccessful. Glovebox science activities will be deferred until the returned equipment can be repaired and ferried back to the Station.

Before Shuttle undocking on Monday, the crews completed the transfer of new Expedition Six experiments to the orbiting lab and stowing completed Expedition Five payloads aboard the Space Shuttle. Five new experiments or additional samples for current experiments were stowed in the Destiny lab module. Plants and biological samples grown and processed during Expedition Five will be returned to science teams on the ground for analysis.

Beginning today (Dec. 4) and scheduled to continue through Saturday, Pettit, Nikolai Budarin and Ken Bowersox did the computer-based training, diet log and urine sample collections for the Renal Stone experiment. Pettit is scheduled to stow the experiment hardware on Sunday. The crew will do the Renal Stone research two more times during Expedition Six, in addition to daily ingestion of Potassium Citrate/Placebo pills as part of the countermeasure study.

Also today, Pettit - together with the science team and controllers on the ground - installed a new computer hard drive into the Human Research Facility (HRF) laptop computer and upgrading the HRF rack operating software to support Expedition Six research operations. Ground controllers verified that the software upgrade worked correctly.

Pettit today was also scheduled to download radiation data from the EVA Radiation Monitoring (EVARM) experiment to the HRF laptop, which were later sent to the ground. The data was collected by dosimeter badges worn in the U.S. EVA suits during three spacewalks to attach a new section of framework to the Station. The badges measure radiation absorbed by the eyes, skin, and blood-forming organs.

On Friday, Pettit is scheduled to prepare and check out the HRF workstation to support the new Foot Reaction Forces During Space Flight (FOOT) experiment. This experiment will study the stress on the lower extremity bones and muscles during extended missions in microgravity. Experiment operations are planned for later this month.

Crew Earth Observation subjects for this week included: lake levels in the Central Andes related to El Nino-related rainfall patterns, Central Andes Mts., the El Chichon volcano in Mexico, Guatemala's Santiaguito and Pacaya volcanoes, the Peten rain forest, major coral reefs of the Yucatan coastline, panoramic views of Cuba, the Bounty Islands, North Island and Aukland in New Zealand, Honolulu, Hawaii, Lake Eyre in Australia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the active volcano of Mt. Cameroon, Bamako, Mali, Navassa Island in the Caribbean, and Mexico City.

The Expedition Six crew this week continued to conduct daily status health and status checks on new and continuing research payloads.