Space Station Sunday: Kick The Tires And Light The Fires

This week, activities on the ISS included a diverse array of scientific tests as well as the arrival of a Russian cargo ship bearing supplies. The Russian ship Progress 55, which had been docked aboard the ISS since April, was filled with trash and set free to de-orbit on Monday. Its successor Progress 56 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazahkstan on Wednesday, arriving at the ISS only six hours later with a payload of food and other supplies.

As reported by NASA, scientific tests of note on the ISS this week included:

-analysis of intra-ocular pressure of astronauts' eyes to determine and improve how long-duration spaceflight affects astronauts' vision (microgravity forces bodily fluids upwards towards the skull, often applying unwanted pressure to ocular nerves.)

-the Aquatic Habitat for Zebrafish Muscle Study environment was tended to by German astronaut Alexander Gerst. This experiment examines at a molecular level the atrophy of muscles in microgravity by using zebrafish (small freshwater vertebrates) as test subjects. The fish live in two aquariums with a closed-loop water supply, and analysis of their muscles as well as those of the astronauts may help prevent the loss of muscle mass in space.

-the BASS (Burning And Suppression of Solids)-II Experiment was worked on by flight engineer Reid Wiseman. The experiment, which has a special Combustion Integrated Rack equipped with a combustion glovebox, 100 fuel samples, fuel and oxidizer controls as well as five cameras, aims to assess which materials may be MORE flammable in space than on earth, and how the reactions studied can aid fire detection and prevention on both Earth and the ISS. As stated by NASA, "BASS-II tests the hypothesis that materials in microgravity, with adequate ventilation, burn as well if not better than the same material in normal gravity with other conditions being identical (pressure, oxygen concentration, temperature, etc.). The main variables being tested are the effects of ambient oxygen concentration, ventilation flow velocity, and fuel type, thickness, and geometry." The spherical shape in which flames burn in space allows for more thorough analysis of the combustion's possible effects.

The ISS astronauts also took time to respect the history of their institution, citing the Apollo missions as early inspirations as they spoke via radio with Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as well as Apollo 13 astronaut (and Apollo 11 backup commander) Jim Lovell. The vintage astronauts had gathered for the renaming of the Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Building in honor of Neil Armstrong as part of the moon landing's 45th anniversary celebrations.
A  customs form from our early astral immigrants, celebrating 45 years of repatriation to Earth.

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