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Home > News > PTI

What Sunita is now doing in space

Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston | March 10, 2007 22:43 IST

Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams and Expedition 14's other crewmembers have performed several experiments related to human adaptation to space.

Sunita and Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria completed the last of the internal assembly tasks for the startup later this year of the new Oxygen Generation System in the Destiny laboratory.

The astronauts installed sound-deadening equipment and an electrical cable and reconnected a wastewater hose for the hardware delivered last summer on space shuttle mission STS-121.

The Oxygen Generation System will be required when the station crew size expands to six members. Slated for activation during Expedition 15, it will function initially as a backup to the Russian Elektron system, which supplies oxygen for the station's crew.

Sunita and Lopez-Alegria also performed scientific experiments, conducting another session with the Anomalous Long-Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System to measure exposure to cosmic radiation.

For 90 minutes, each crewmember wore an instrumented helmet containing six different particle detectors that measure radiation exposure, brain electrical activity and visual perception.

ALTEA will further the understanding of radiation impact on the human central nervous and visual systems, especially the phenomenon of crew members seeing flashes of light while in orbit.

The crewmembers also tested their hand-eye coordination during the Test of Reaction and Adaptation Capabilities experiment.

TRAC studies the theory that while the brain is adapting to space, it is unable to provide the resources necessary to perform normal motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination.

For TRAC, the astronauts use a laptop and a joystick to control the position of a cursor and use a reaction time box to measure their responses to audio and visual cues.

Understanding how the brain adapts to microgravity could lead to improved procedures for activities requiring precise motor skills.

Also this week, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin prepared for the arrival of the first European Space Agency cargo-carrying Automated Transfer Vehicle.

He set up equipment in the Zvezda module for a ground-operated test of the satellite navigation system to be used during autonomous docking of the ATV to the Zvezda module's aft port.

Tyurin also pressurized and stowed a spare liquids unit for the Elektron and installed a new liquid crystal display for the TORU system, the manual docking system for Progress unpiloted supply ships.

American and Russian station officials reached an agreement this week on a plan to prepare for the arrival of the Soyuz TMA-10, which will deliver the Expedition 15 crew to the station.

The plan is to relocate the Soyuz TMA-9 craft from the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module to the aft port of the Zvezda module on March 29. As a result, the next station resident crew will not need to perform the manoeuvre to reach Zarya as its final destination.

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