The final Renal Stone session began Friday and continued through Tuesday for all crewmembers. The microgravity environment of the Station results in several changes in the human body, including changes in fluid metabolism and bone loss that increase the chance of kidney stone formation during and after flight.
As part of the study, all three Station crew members are taking either two potassium citrate pills - a proven Earth-based therapy to minimize calcium-containing renal stone development - or a placebo as part of this 'blind' study, beginning three days before launch and continuing through 14 days after landing.
Crew members collect urine samples and record their food, fluid, exercise and medication to assess environmental influences other than microgravity. Space Station Science Officer Peggy Whitson is the principal investigator for this experiment.
On Sunday, the crew completed collection of radiation readings on all 12 EVA Radiation Monitoring (EVARM) EVARM dosimeter badges onboard the Station. EVARM is designed to measure radiation dosages received by specific parts of the body during spacewalks. The badges are worn in pockets in the cooling undergarment of the U.S. EVA suits.
On Tuesday, the crew reviewed activation procedures for the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGBA) and activated the hardware. CGBA was ferried to the station last week by the STS-112 Space Shuttle mission. During joint operations, CGBA served as an incubator for three cell culturing experiments involving human kidney cells, salmonella and yeast. Those experiments were transferred to the Shuttle for return to Earth. The CGBA hardware was transferred to the Station, where it will serve as a refrigerator for storing plant samples from the Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus when the planned plant growth cycle ends later this month. BioServe, a NASA Commercial Space Center, located at the University of Colorado-Boulder, is studying possible applications of this phenomenon.
Today (Wednesday) selected members of the crew completed their Crew Interactions survey on the Human Research Facility laptop computer. The hard drive data will be returned on an upcoming Shuttle mission for analysis. The experiment identifies important interpersonal and cultural factors that may affect the performance of the crew and ground support personnel during International Space Station missions. The crew today also collected background radiation dosimeter badge readings on the EVARM badges in preparation for spacewalks during the STS-113 Space Shuttle mission.
On Friday, the crew is scheduled to conduct a routine 90-day health check on the Gas Analyzer System for Metabolic Analysis Physiology (GASMAP). GASMAP is used to periodically assess crew aerobic capacity by checking heart output, lung diffusing capacity, lung volume, pulmonary function, and nitrogen washout.
The Zeolite Crystal Growth experiment, activated on October 12, continued to function normally during the past week and is scheduled for deactivation on Monday, October 28. The Protein Crystal Growth Single Thermal Enclosure System experiment, which arrived on the STS-112 mission, also continued to function normally.
The Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, which arrived on STS-112, is functioning normally. It is growing a crop of Arabidopsis plants for studying the role of gravity on lignin, a plant substance that affects the strength of plant stalks and stems. Ground teams are trouble-shooting a problem transmitting video from the experiment that will allow scientists on Earth to monitor the growth and determine the harvest time. Harvest is now scheduled for October 28. The growth will be stopped and the plants frozen for return to Earth. Science Officer Peggy Whitson will plant a second crop of Arabidopsis plants that will grow until it is returned to Earth at the end of Expedition Five.
Crew Earth Observation photography subjects for this week included the Amazon River, the Hawaiian Island chain and ocean currents, and Eastern Mediterranean dust plumes.