lundi 21 septembre 2015

Halftime in Space: Space Station Crew and Ground Controllers Mark Mid-point of One Year Mission

ISS - Expedition 44 Mission patch.

Sep. 21, 2015

On Sept. 15, Kelly, the commander of the International Space Station, passed the half-way mark of a one-year mission on the orbiting laboratory. The one-year mission began in March 2015, enabling the most detailed study of long-duration human spaceflight to date.

The average International Space Station expedition lasts four to six months. Kelly and Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are spending a full year on the station, not only to advance knowledge of our world, but also to conduct science on themselves -- measuring changes in motor skills, eyesight, fluid shifts in their bodies and basic neurology. These investigations on the world’s only microgravity lab are crucial to preparing humans for exploration of deep space, including our journey to Mars.

Image above: NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, left, and Scott Kelly harvest the first red lettuce grown on the International Space Station as part of the Veggie investigation. This technology and method of growing food could help sustain astronauts by growing the food astronauts need to survive in space and is a critical step on the path to Mars. Image Credits: NASA.

The Payload Operations & Integration Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, has been with them every step -- and the 2,736 orbits -- along the way.  In Huntsville and around the globe, hundreds of experts work on the ground to ensure the success of science operations on the space station. For the one-year crew mission, and for every expedition, the POIC team begins months ahead of each expedition to plan and coordinate investigations on the space station, making sure astronauts have the resources necessary to succeed and produce results that benefit people on Earth and pave the way for deep-space exploration.

While one of the investigations from the first six months opened up another collaborative avenue for NASA flight controllers, it also presented new challenges for the team.

"Probably one of the biggest hurdles was coordinating, planning and executing the first session of the Fluid Shifts study," said Becky Grimaldi, payload operations manager at Marshall for space station Expeditions 43 and 44, each of which ran about three months. "Fluid Shifts examines the various fluids moving around the body in microgravity and pressures it can put on organs such as the eyes and brain. In orbit, the experiments involve activities in the Russian segment of the station and we had not done those types of operations before. We needed to coordinate with our Russian counterparts a lot more than usual."

These investigations astronauts perform on themselves are providing new insights into the human body and how it reacts to long-duration space travel. Data from these studies will affect all aspects of the journey to Mars, which could last two and a half to three years. These investigations carry potential benefits for humans on Earth, from helping patients recover after long periods of bed rest to improved monitoring for people whose bodies are unable to fight infections.

Image above: The Payload Operations Integration Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center serves as NASA’s mission control for science activities on the International Space Station. Flight controllers at the POIC plan and coordinate research on the station and are on-hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help astronauts and scientists on the ground with hundreds of investigations. Image Credits: NASA.

In fact, Scott Kelly will investigate illness on the space station in the coming months with assistance from his twin brother on Earth. Mark Kelly is also a veteran NASA astronaut who flew on four space shuttle missions.

"We're conducting a lot of science comparing two people with identical DNA," said Stephanie Dudley, a payload operations manager at Marshall who will take over lead duties from Grimaldi for the next expedition. "We sent up the first flu vaccine on board for Scott to take this autumn, and Mark will take the same injection on the ground so we can compare the two and find out if microgravity alters the effectiveness of such medicines. Since astronauts don't usually fly on a mission longer than six months, every bit of data we acquire for the rest of this mission will be new information."

Science performed on the space station now is helping NASA prepare for future deep space missions, and the POIC at Marshall is critical to that research, benefiting space exploration as well as life on Earth.

The POIC is essentially NASA’s mission control for science aboard the space station, with flight controllers on hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help astronauts in orbit and scientists on the ground with hundreds of investigations.

More than 2,400 scientists from over 83 countries have conducted more than 1,700 investigations on the space station because it is a laboratory with unique characteristics such as a microgravity environment, a great view of Earth, and direct exposure to space.

Hubscher, an ASRC Federal/Analytical Services employee, supports the Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.

Related links:

International Space Station (ISS):

One-year mission:

Payload Operations & Integration Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Tracy McMahan/Lee Mohon.


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