by Staff Writers
Houston TX (SPX) May 12, 2014
More botany experiments were being worked Thursday as scientists learn how to sustain future crews on long-term space missions. Meanwhile, three Expedition 39 crew members are preparing to complete their mission aboard the International Space Station.
Veggie operations officially kicked off Thursday as astronaut Steve Swanson installed and set up the plant experiment to deliver water to lettuce seeds. Veggie is a test bed to determine if lettuce grown in space is safe for consumption by future crews. The lettuce will be harvested aboard the station, stored in a science freezer and returned to Earth for analysis.
Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio worked in the evening completing a run of the Gravi-2 experiment as he disassembled and stowed the science hardware. The botany investigation observes how lentil roots grow in space using a centrifuge which helps scientists determine the reliability of plants as a source of oxygen, food and water for future missions.
Commander Koichi Wakata started his morning with some plumbing work partially filling a flush tank in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Afterward, Wakata familiarized himself with gear and prepared a sample for the CsPINs plant growth study taking place in the Kibo laboratory. That study examines how plants, specifically cucumber seedlings, sense gravity which may have impacts on future plant cultivation in space.
Mastracchio and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin started their day testing the motion control system of their Soyuz spacecraft. In the afternoon, Wakata joined the duo for a few hours of Soyuz descent and entry training exercises. The trio will return to Earth May 13 inside the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft after undocking from the Rassvet module which marks the end of Expedition 39.
At that time, Expedition 40 will officially be under way with Swanson assuming command of the orbital laboratory and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev continuing their stay. Waiting on Earth to join Expedition 40 are Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst. They are scheduled for launch May 28 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, for a six-hour ride to the space station aboard the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft.
Swanson joined Skvortsov and Artemyev at the end of their day to review their roles and responsibilities in the unlikely event of an emergency. They checked escape routes and safety gear, ensured Soyuz readiness and reviewed communication procedures in response to a rapid depressurization event, fire or chemical leak.
Back on the ground, flight controllers reported a power channel failure in the space station's 3A power channel connected to a solar array located on the S4 truss. Power was transferred seamlessly to the 3B channel with impacts being assessed including those to the backup heater power of the station's external robotics system. Inside the station, the crew is working normally, payload operations are continuing as planned and there is no direct impact on next week's Soyuz undocking.
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