This morning Expedition Five Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson set up and activated the ultrasound equipment at the Human Research Facility rack in the Destiny laboratory, then with guidance from flight surgeons in Houston, used it on herself to capture live video images for more than four hours. The ability to capture and downlink ultrasound imagery from orbit expands the kinds of medical research that can be conducted in space by scientists on Earth, and could offer physicians the chance to diagnose ailments in space station crewmembers earlier than they could otherwise. This possibly could improve the chances of effectively treating the problem without requiring an emergency deorbit of the crew and abandonment of the station.
Whitson completed another research milestone on Wednesday when she removed the last sample of the experiment known as SUBSA (Solidification Using Baffle in Sealed Ampoules), the first science project conducted inside the Destiny lab's new Microgravity Sciences Glovebox. Investigators observed via videotape as semiconductor materials were melted inside a transparent furnace. They are investigating methods for reducing the magnitude of motions in those melting materials as a means of reducing defects in the manufacture of semiconductors. The next MSG experiment, which begins operation next week, is PFMI (Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation), in which scientists will observe the formation and movement of bubbles trapped in melting metal and crystal samples, which might diminish material strength and effectiveness.
Thursday, Expedition Five Commander Valery Korzun and Whitson used the station's Canadarm2 to visually examine the Common Berthing Mechanism on the nadir (Earth pointing) side of the Unity module. The examination was prompted by the discovery of some foreign object debris on the CBM of the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module that was docked to Unity during the most recent shuttle mission in June. During a three-hour procedure, the station crewmembers gathered close-up views of Unity's berthing port with its protective petals closed and open. Specialists in Houston are reviewing the images along with crewmember descriptions to determine if any action is required.
Wednesday night Russian flight controllers commanded a firing of thrusters on the Progress cargo craft docked to the aft end of Zvezda, raising the station's average altitude by 1.5 nautical miles to 243 statute miles (391 kilometers). The reboost sets the stage for the arrivals of a new Progress resupply ship, targeted to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sept. 24, and a new Soyuz rescue craft, planned to launch on Oct. 28 carrying a "taxi" crew consisting of Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin and European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium.
Along with getting time for rest and family conferences last weekend, the station crewmembers fashioned a temporary grounding strap for the Active Rack Isolation System in the Destiny laboratory's Express Rack No. 2 using standard grounding straps found in the lab's zero-g stowage racks. This temporary repair, permitting ARIS activation for operations recalibration, became necessary when the original strap became frayed. New hardware to finalize this repair is being scheduled for delivery to the station on the next shuttle flight.
The shuttle that next will visit the International Space Station moved to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Tuesday for final preparation for the next assembly mission (9A). STS-112 is targeted for an Oct. 2 launch on a flight to install the next component of the station's Integrated Truss Structure, the S1 Truss, during three planned spacewalks. The move to the launch pad was completed following replacement of bearings in the Jacking, Equalization and Leveling cylinders of shuttle Crawler Transporter No. 2.
Next week Korzun and Whitson are expected to return to maintenance of the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the Destiny laboratory, which is still scrubbing the station's environment of carbon dioxide despite indications of interior leaks. Troubleshooting by flight controllers in Houston led to the conclusion that the desiccant valves in the Desiccant/Sorbent Bed Assemblies are seated properly, and that a leak is likely in one of the hydroflow lines; a visual inspection of that area by Whitson confirmed the analysis. Time should be scheduled for Korzun and Whitson next week to open the system rack housing CDRA, as they did when they replaced one of the sorbent bed assemblies in July, to make repairs.