ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.
March 29, 2017
(Highlights: Week of March 20, 2017) - While preparing for a March 24 spacewalk outside the International Space Station, crew members used the microgravity environment of the orbiting laboratory to better examine how metals are formed as they cool from a liquid to a solid.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson exchanged sample cartridges for the Materials Science Lab Batch 2b (MSL SCA Batch 2b), which serves two projects investigating how different phases of matter organize into a structure when metallic alloys are solidified. Both projects will provide data to help develop new light-weight, high-performance structural material for space and Earth applications.
Image above: European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet works on the Canadarm2 during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on March 24. Canadarm2 is a remote-controlled arm used to transfer cargo and release satellites on the space station. Image Credit: NASA.
The Metastable Solidification of Composites (METCOMP) project studies how the remaining liquid bronze reacts with an already formed solid as the liquid bronze is cooling to become a second solid. The other project, Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys (SETA), looks at how two phases that form together organize into aluminum fiber structures when cooling.
ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet inspected the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) attached to the orbiting laboratory. Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room on a spacecraft while providing greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. Pesquet was conducting a periodic checkup of BEAM, which was deployed May 28, 2016. He inspected the various sensors and radiation monitors, checking for leaks and taking surface samples to assess the microbe environment inside the expandable node.
Image above: Pesquet captured this nighttime image of Mount Etna in Sicily from the International Space Station. The bright red lines in the lower left quadrant is a lava flow from an active volcano that can be seen from space. Image Credit: NASA.
BEAM, the first test of an expandable module, allows investigators to gauge how well the habitat performs -- specifically, how well it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space. Crew members will continue to inspect the module every three months to check for stability. Durable, reliable and safe expandable structures have applications on Earth as well. Expandable modules can be used as pop-up habitats in disaster areas or remote locations; storm surge protection devices; pipeline or subway system plugs to prevent flooding; fluid storage containers; or hyperbaric chambers for pressurized oxygen delivery.
Whitson prepared the ultrasound equipment for Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov to take measurements for the study of Fluid Shifts Before, During, and After Prolonged Space Flight and Their Association with Intracranial Pressure and Visual Impairment (Fluid Shifts). One of the main risks for humans during long-duration space missions is change in vision. More than half of American astronauts experience vision changes and other physical alterations to parts of their eyes during and after long-duration spaceflight. It is hypothesized that the fluid shift toward the head that occurs during spaceflight leads to increased pressure in the brain, which may push on the back of the eye, causing it to change shape. Fluid Shifts measures how much fluid moves from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels, and determines the impact these shifts have on fluid pressure in the head, changes in vision and eye structures.
Image above: NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough captured this image he took from the space station looking west over the Red Sea, with Saudi Arabia on the bottom of the picture and Egypt on the top. He shared it to his social media account on Twitter, tagging it #EarthArt. Image Credits: Twitter.com/astro_kimbrough.
Scientists want to develop preventive measures against these and other physiological changes during spaceflight. Results from the Fluid Shifts investigation may also improve understanding of how blood pressure in the brain specifically affects eye shape and vision, which could benefit people confined to long-term bed rest, or suffering from disease states that increase swelling and pressure in the brain.
International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA
Other human research investigations conducted this week include Intracranial Pressure & Visual Impairment (IPVI), Habitability, Space Headaches, and Dose Tracker.
Progress was made on other investigations, outreach activities, and facilities this week, including Google Street View, ISS Ham Radio, MAGVECTOR, and Manufacturing Device.
Materials Science Lab Batch 2b (MSL SCA Batch 2b): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1978.html
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1804.html
Fluid Shifts: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1257.html
Intracranial Pressure & Visual Impairment (IPVI): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1950.html
Space Headaches: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/181.html
Dose Tracker: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1933.html
ISS Ham Radio: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/346.html
Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html
International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 49 & 50.
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