Expedition Five Space Station experiments packed for return

by Marshall Space Flight Center

More articles in Science Projects

On November 20, the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the Destiny Laboratory experienced a loss of power. At the time researchers were processing a sample that is part of the Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation (PFMI). Subsequent attempts to re-power the glovebox were unsuccessful. A series of troubleshooting procedures was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the NASA payload controllers and performed in sequence by ISS Science Officer Astronaut Peggy Whitson aboard ISS. This systematic process allowed engineers to narrow the problem to a power distribution and conversion (PDC) box that provides electrical power to the facility. The box was removed from the glovebox facility on November 23 and further on-orbit troubleshooting is being planned.

Science activities this week aboard the International Space Station focused on transferring new Expedition Six experiments to the orbiting lab and stowing completed Expedition Five payloads aboard the Space Shuttle.

“The arrival of the Space Shuttle at the Station marks the beginning of the third year of science aboard the orbiting research laboratory,” Lead Increment Scientist Vic Cooley said. “To date, NASA has conducted more than 90,000 hours of scientific research there. We will continue to add to that total with 18 new or continuing experiments during the four-month mission of the Expedition Six crew.”

New experiments and other payload equipment scheduled for transfer this week included:

The Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions (InSPACE) experiment, designed to obtain basic data on magnetorheological fluids - a new class of "smart materials" that can be used to improve or develop new brake systems, seat suspensions, robotics, clutches, airplane landing gear, and vibration damper systems.;

The Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, designed to investigate the interaction of small and large particles in a mixture that can have an effect on the strength of materials ranging from turbine blades to dental fillings and porcelain;

The Foot/Ground Reaction Forces During Space Flight experiment to characterize the load on the lower body and muscle activity in crewmembers while working on the Station;

The new Protein Crystal Growth Single-locker Thermal Enclosure System (PCG-STES) Unit 10 for growing biological materials that could contribute to insights in medicine, agriculture and other fields;

New samples for the Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment, which has applications in chemical processes, and electronic device manufacturing. The goal for Expedition Six is to study mixing procedures in microgravity using clear sample containers.

Experiments and other payload equipment scheduled for transfer from the Space Station to the Shuttle for return are:

The Protein Crystal Growth Single Thermal Enclosure System (PCG-STES) Unit 7;

The Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (PGBA), containing Arabidopsis plants for analysis;

The ARCTIC 2 freezer, being returned for repairs;

Last week and again on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, the crew collected background radiation readings on the EVA Radiation Monitoring (EVARM) experiment. The experiment consists of dosimeter badges worn by astronauts in the cooling undergarments of their spacesuits during spacewalks. Measurements taken inside the Station will be compared to radiation readings recorded after spacewalks. The EVARM badges will be worn next on the STS-113 Shuttle mission to the Space Station scheduled for November 26. EVARM is the first experiment to measure radiation received by specific parts of the body, including the eyes, internal organs and skin.

The Space Station crew used a Space Shuttle launch delay last week to get ahead on upgrading the science capability of the Destiny laboratory. Whitson and Commander Valery Korzun on November 19 installed the Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) in EXPRESS Rack 3. ARIS installation was previously scheduled for early 2003. ARIS is a vibration-dampening system to protect delicate microgravity experiments from tiny vibrations caused by crew movement, operating equipment, etc. EXPRESS Rack 2 was the first rack to be equipped with the vibration dampener. EXPRESS Racks and EXPRESS derivatives are used to house experiments and provide them with connections for power, data, fluids and other utilities.

The crew completed and stowed the Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) experiment after several days of operations last week. EarthKAM allows students around the country to send commands via the Internet to a camera mounted in a window of the Station and take pictures of geographical or manmade features for various classroom studies. The automated EarthKAM system collected about 866 images using a 400-mm lens and 130 images with an 800 mm lens. Ten schools participated in last week’s operations.

On November 21, Whitson and Korzun, conducted the Pulmonary Function in Flight (PuFF) experiment. PuFF includes five lung function tests for each crewmember. The focus is on measuring changes in the evenness of gas exchange in the lungs and detecting changes in respiratory muscle strength caused by long periods in the absence of gravity. The results will help maintain crew health during long space missions.

Also on November 21, selected members of the crew participated in the Crew Interactions research program. The experiment consists of a computer-based survey of roughly 70 questions. Scientists hope to identify and characterize interpersonal and cultural factors that could affect the performance of the crew, as well as ground support personnel also participating in the survey.

The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.