Weekly ISS Experiments Report: Spinal Studies & More

n this photo posted on Twitter by NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, she undergoes a spinal ultrasound scan conducted by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano. (Credit: NASA)
In this photo posted on Twitter by NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, she undergoes a spinal ultrasound scan conducted by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano. (Credit: NASA)

Highlights: Week of Oct. 28, 2013
John Love, Lead Increment Scientist
Expedition 37/38

Aboard the International Space Station, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano completed session three of three for the Spinal Ultrasound investigation, including cervical and lumbosacral ultrasound scans. NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins performed one of three sessions, which also included a crew conference and taking of historical photos. Spinal Ultrasound uses ground and space-based studies to characterize spinal changes during and after spaceflight.

Ground based pre- and post-flight MRI and high-fidelity ultrasound, combined with in-flight ultrasound help scientists characterize and assign a mission health risk to microgravity-associated spinal alterations for back pain and potential injury. The research will determine the accuracy of MRI and musculoskeletal ultrasound in characterizing the anatomy of the vertebral unit and develop novel imaging and training methodologies.

An exchange of the Video Compression & Recording Unit (VPU) was installed in the Imaging Processing Unit (IPU) for the Dynamic Surf study. This study examines Marangoni convection, a flow driven by the presence of surface tension gradient as produced by a temperature difference at the liquid/gas interface. By understanding how these fluids move, scientists can learn how heat is transmitted in microgravity, and ultimately drive the design and development of more efficient fluid flow-based systems and devices. The knowledge from Marangoni space experiment is applicable to high-performance heat exchangers and heat pipes in space and on Earth. Designing more efficient, lightweight radiators that remove unwanted heat from spacecraft is critical for long-duration space missions.

SPHERES-Rings (Credit: NASA)
SPHERES-Rings (Credit: NASA)

Hopkins completed the SPHERES-Rings onboard training (OBT) in preparation for the following week’s activities. SPHERES-Rings is short for Department of Defense Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites-RINGS. This investigation uses the SPHERES facility to demonstrate and test,enhanced technologies and techniques related to micro-electromagnetic formation flight and wireless-inductive power transfer. By advancing the knowledge base of inter-satellite attitude control and wireless-power transfer, future systems can expect enhanced attitude control performance between separate satellites and potentially the ability to transfer power efficiently at a distance, possibly alleviating the need for alternate or expendable (i.e., batteries) power sources.

A functional checkout was performed for the Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS), a requirement before the arrival of the Advanced Plant Experiments-02 (APEX-02) on SpaceX-3. The study focuses on the growth and development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings in the spaceflight environment and the effects of the spaceflight environment on root development and cell wall architecture. The crew harvests plants in orbit by preserving them with a chemical fixative, and then, the plants are returned to the ground for post-flight evaluation by biologists. As with all basic research, an improved understanding of the basic growth and environmental response phenomena of living organisms has important implications for improving growth and biomass production on Earth.

Other human research investigations continued for various crew members including Circadian Rhythms, Microbiome, Space Headaches, Reaction Self Test, Reversible Figures, and Dietary Intake Can Predict and Protect Against Changes in Bone Metabolism During Spaceflight and Recovery (Pro K).