Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Robot Goes to Work While Crew Prepares for Spacewalks

Robotics and spacewalk preparations took center stage Tuesday aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 24 crew orbited above the Earth.

Dextre, an agile, two-armed extension for the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, continues its debut task to replace a failed Remote Power Control Module (RPCM) from a truss segment on the station’s port side. On Tuesday flight controllers in Houston began conducting a “dress rehearsal” of the actual replacement as they commanded Dextre to partially remove and reinstall an RPCM on the P1 truss. After Dextre successfully completes the test, Mission Control plans to swap the failed RPCM with a spare from the P3 truss Wednesday.

Meanwhile the Expedition 24 crew continued its own preparations to venture outside the station for an upcoming pair of spacewalks.

Image above: The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft (partially out of frame in the foreground), docked to the Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1, and the ISS Progress 37 resupply vehicle, docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment, are featured in this image. Credit: NASA

Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Mikhail Kornienko, both flight engineers, prepared the cooling loops of the Russian Orlan spacesuits they will wear during a six-hour spacewalk set to begin the evening of July 26. The pair will install Kurs automated rendezvous equipment on the exterior of the recently delivered Rassvet module to facilitate future dockings with Russian spacecraft.

Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson continued preparations for their Aug. 5 spacewalk as they each conducted a session of onboard training for Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, or SAFER. Should a spacewalker become untethered during a spacewalk and begin floating away, the small nitrogen-jet thrusters of SAFER could help the astronaut get back to the station.

Shannon Walker, also a station flight engineer, assisted with the American spacewalk preparations as she inspected safety and waist tethers for structural integrity and reviewed spacewalk procedures.

The Expedition 24 crew also tackled a number of science investigations Tuesday. Commander Alexander Skvortsov spent part of his day working with a Russian experiment known as Russalka, which involves using a camera equipped with an ultraviolet filter to collect measurements of methane and carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Wheelock prepared the Solution Crystallization Observation Facility for a Japanese study of facet-like crystallization. The results of this experiment may provide valuable data on creating high quality materials for industrial use such as superconducting magnets.

The Americans also continued maintenance work on the Oxygen Generation System, flushing the components that allow liquid to flow through the system so that oxygen can be extracted from recycled water to provide air for the crew to breathe.

Later, Walker assisted Wheelock with the latest session of Kids In Micro-Gravity!, an experiment that gives students a hands-on opportunity to design a demonstration that can be performed both in the classroom and aboard the station. Tuesday’s activity, a look at whether blowing across the tops of bottles filled with different amounts of water will create the same tones in space as on Earth, was developed by fifth grade students at Vaughan Elementary in Powder Springs, Ga.

Researchers can learn more about opportunities to develop and fly science experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) at the NASA ISS Research Academy Aug. 3-5 in League City, Texas.

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