For release: 03/20/02 (for week ending 03/20/02)
Science Ops status report #: 02-060
Space Station crew activates more protein crystal experiments
The crew of the International Space Station has activated three additional protein crystal growth chambers as part of an experiment with potential contributions to the fields of medicine, agriculture, the environment and other biosciences. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Center.
Photo: A protein crystal growth tray (NASA)
The Station crew activated three additional protein crystal growth chambers during the past week as part of an experiment with potential contributions to the fields of medicine, agriculture, the environment and other biosciences.
Cylinder 9 of the Protein Crystal Growth Single Thermal Enclosure System (PCG-STES) was activated Friday, March 15. Cylinders 10 and 11 were activated on Monday and Tuesday (March 18-19), respectively. Cylinders 8, 9, and 11 were deactivated Wednesday, followed by cylinder 10 today.
Scientists will use the results of the experiment to determine how fast different solutions can form protein crystals, so scientists on later Station missions can better match the length of the mission to the type of protein solution being flown and how long it requires to form crystals. All the protein crystal growth cylinders are identical and have identical contents. The only variable is the growth period.
“To use a baking analogy, I want to know how long I need to leave a cake in the oven to bake it thoroughly, said Dr. Craig Kundrot, discipline scientist for macromolecular biotechnology at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “We’re putting dozens of cakes in the oven at different times, and we will take all of them out at the same time and compare them.”
The first six PCG-STES growth cylinders, containing proteins for ground study, were activated soon after the experiment arrived on the Space Station. The remaining six cylinders – numbered 7 through 12 – are focused on the crystallization rate study. The seventh was activated February 8, and the eighth chamber was activated February 28. The fundamental goal for growing biological crystals is to determine their structure and the biological processes in which they are involved.
On Friday (March 15), Flight Engineer Dan Bursch collected plant tissue samples from plants growing in the Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC) experiment. The crew collected condensate, nutrient and gas samples on Monday (March 18).
The Space Acceleration Measurement System and Microgravity Acceleration Measurement System recorded Tuesday’s undocking by a Russian Progress resupply ship. This vibration information is important to scientists planning future microgravity experiments.
Recovery of the Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) and an associated experiment for analyzing the system has been completed and the crew tested the system Wednesday by tapping on EXPRESS Rack 2, which houses the experimental device. The experimental device, designed to isolate delicate microgravity experiments from vibrations, experienced a failure in January. The crew recently replaced one of eight pushrods used to “float” the rack inside its location in the Destiny lab module.
Procedures were completed last week at Johnson Space Center to enable Flight Engineer Carl Walz to troubleshoot the Experiment on Physics of Colloids in Space this week. During recovery operations today Wednesday, efforts by Walz and ground controllers to regain command of the experiment computer, which failed February 24, were unsuccessful. The ground is currently assessing the situation.
Ahead on the crew’s schedule for this week, all three will fill out their Crew Interactions surveys today. Bursch and Walz will perform the monthly Pulmonary Function in Flight lung volume tests on Thursday and take routine weekly readings on the EVA Radiation Monitoring dosimeter badges on Friday.
Locations scheduled to be photographed this week for the Crew Earth Observations research program were: seasonal vegetation burning in the Angola and Congo-Zimbabwe regions, and marshes in the Parana River basin in South America.
Other experiments onboard the Station continue to function normally, while the crew continues routine status checks and maintenance on the lab and its experiments.
Tuesday, March 19, marked the first anniversary of round-the-clock operations in support of Space Station science experiments by the Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Center.
Editor’s Note: The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.
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