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Friday, November 03, 2006

NASA Updates Space Station Activities

Repair of an oxygen generator, robotic arm operations and cargo unpacking were the top priorities aboard the International Space Station this week.

On Monday, Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin installed newvalves and cables to repair the Elektron oxygen-generation unit which shutdown in mid-September. Tyurin re-activated it after installing the newparts, and the Elektron is supplying oxygen for the cabin atmosphere.

The crew unpacked most of the items from the recently arrived RussianProgress cargo ship including the Elektron parts, fresh food and othersystems hardware. The rest will be unpacked as needed and as time permits.

Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria worked on robotics proficiency tasksthroughout the week. At the start of the week, ground controllers relocatedthe Mobile Transporter to a different worksite on the station's truss. OnWednesday, Lopez-Alegria maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm over to the transporter and its operating base from the arm's normal home base on the Destiny Lab. The free end of the arm was photographed to help roboticsspecialists as they evaluate an issue that can cause snares to misaligninside the arm's end effector.

On Thursday, Lopez-Alegria connected the free end of the arm to anothergrapple fixture on the Mobile Base System and released the opposite end.Friday, the Mobile Transporter was moved by ground controllers to theoutermost worksite on the port truss. It will provide support there for the Canadarm2 operations during the next shuttle assembly mission, STS-116.

Next week Lopez-Alegria will check out the robotic system for the shuttleflight, which will bring and install a new truss spacer segment to the station.

Lopez-Alegria set up and activated cameras for a session of the EarthKnowledge Acquired by Middle School Students, or EarthKAM experiment. The middle school students study the Earth, then control a specialdigital camera mounted on the space station to photograph coastlines,mountain ranges and other geographic items from the unique vantage point ofspace. At the University of California at San Diego, an undergraduatestudent team manages the image requests and posts the photographs on the Internet for the public and participating classrooms around the world toview.

More than 107 schools from 10 countries participated in this session. The second sample of seeds for the Analysis of a Novel SensoryMechanism in Root Phototropism was harvested and frozen in the Minus-EightyLaboratory Freezer, a cold storage unit that maintains experiment samplesat temperatures of -80 C, -26 C, or 4 C throughout a mission. FlightEngineer Thomas Reiter worked with the experiment, which will increase theunderstanding of the different systems plants use to determine thedirection their roots and shoots should grow and which genes areresponsible for successful plant growth. Reiter also continued work on a suite of European Space Agency science experiments. One such experiment, called CARD, is helping scientists examine the relationship between salt intake and the cardiovascular systemwhen exposed to the microgravity environment.

Crewmembers typically experience reduced blood pressure inmicrogravity. To help them readjust to gravity on Earth, they take salttablets just before returning, which temporarily increases the bloodvolume. CARD is looking at the effects of ingesting occasional saltsupplements throughout the long duration mission. This experiment's resultscould also help improve treatment of patients on Earth with heart failure.

The crew began gathering tools for a Nov. 22 spacewalk by Tyurin andLopez-Alegria in Russian Orlan suits from the Pirs Docking Compartment.They will replace and retrieve several science experiments from the hull ofthe Zvezda Service Module.

Tyurin also plans to hit a golf ball from a bracket on Pirs as part of a Russian commercial activity.


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