A successful spacewalk, the third in as many weeks for the current ISS crew, was completed on Wednesday. According to nasa.gov, Russian cosmonauts Max Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev, who are both EVA (extravehicular activity) veterans, spent 3 hours and 38 minutes outside the ISS.
|Cosmonaut Maxim Suraev has got this spacewalking thing down. And up. And sideways.|
(Image courtesy nasa.gov.)
The two cosmonauts took photos, jettisoned old experiments and equipment, and collected samples for analysis of a mysterious growth on the exterior of the Russian modules (the substance is thought to be microbes or propellant residue...no word on alien gardening projects yet.)
Even if the substance did prove unpleasant, it's likely nothing the ISS astronauts haven't dealt with already. Samples of MRSA, e.coli, and salmonella are among the pathogens that get studied in microgravity (where their structure and growth may be altered.) Certain behaviors the diseases exhibit during their stay on the ISS could lead to different discoveries in combating them back on earth.
Speaking of back on earth, the unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule (which had ferried supplies to the ISS in late September) has been returned to sender, chock full of completed science experiments. It splashed down in the Pacific Ocean some 300 miles west of Baja, California, on Saturday afternoon.
|"AIR MAIL!" The SpaceX Dragon leaves the ISS, bound for Baja.|
(Image courtesy nasa.gov.)
The Dragon, which had carried up a Rapid Scatterometer (for use in earth science monitoring) as well as a 3D printer, carried back gear that was just as important. An arugula plant growth study was undertaken to examine how plants might be grown to optimum nutrient-density in microgravity environments (which could be a big help on future long-distance spaceflights.) Another experiment, the Rodent Research-1, aided in the understanding of how microgravity affects various biological functions.
Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters, stated, “This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space...Investigations in the returned cargo could aid in the development of more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, the development of plants better suited for space, and improvements in sustainable agriculture.”
More news to follow next week, as the Cygnus and other cargo vehicles arrive! Maybe one of them will ferry up a delivery of some well-deserved Halloween candy, like a reverse trick-or-treat. Until then, watch this space!