Sunday, June 15, 2014

Space Station Crew Wraps Up Week With Medical Research

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst enjoys the view of Earth from the windows in the cupola of the International Space Station.

Image Credit: NASA

The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the International Space Station wrapped up another workweek in space Friday supporting medical and physics research, maintaining station systems and gearing up for next week’s spacewalk.

Following the crew’s normal 2 a.m. EDT reveille, Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst participated in a variety of experiments aimed at understanding the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body and developing countermeasures to mitigate the health risks.

This research is vitally important as NASA works toward sending humans on longer voyages beyond low Earth orbit.

Swanson began his day with the Sprint investigation, which measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during spaceflight.

Station crew members currently work out around 2 ½-hours every day, and the researchers behind Sprint aim to reduce that total exercise time while maintaining crew fitness.

Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman, equipped with a bungee harness, exercises on the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT) in the Tranquility node of the International Space Station.

Image Credit: NASA

Wiseman meanwhile served as the subject for a session of the Cardio Ox study, which is investigating the risks of cardiovascular disease related to long-duration spaceflight.

With guidance from the ground team, Gerst performed an ultrasound scan on Wiseman and measured his blood pressure.

Results from this experiment will help researchers determine if biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory stress are elevated during and after spaceflight, and how those markers correlate with the long-term health changes in astronauts.

Wiseman also logged his meals and followed a prescribed diet for the Pro K study as nutritionists monitor how dietary changes may affect spaceflight-related bone loss.

For the Circadian Rhythms investigation, Gerst donned sensors and an armband monitor to track his body’s core temperature over a 36-hour period.

Since the station orbits the Earth 16 times a day, an astronaut’s body clock can get disrupted from experiencing a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

Results from this investigation will provide insights into the adaptations of the human autonomic nervous system in space and will help optimize crew schedules and workplace illumination.

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