Well, the big news of the past few days is of course that Dragon has arrived! It’s always very special to watch a vehicle approach Station.
As big as ISS is, this human outpost in space is only a tiny speck of metal in the vastness of Low Earth Orbit: and yet on Friday morning, as Terry and I monitored from the Cupola, a cargo ship from Earth found us and came knocking at our door.
I enjoyed watching Dragon getting bigger and bigger, as continents and oceans passed by beneath, but I also consciously tried to detach myself from the romantics of it all to remain focused on my main task ahead: operating the robotic arm to capture Dragon.
It’s something I have practiced hundreds of times on the simulator, mostly with the virtual vehicle moving around a lot more than a real Dragon usually does, but doing it for real is of course quite different: let’s say that it’s one of those situations when it doesn’t take much to become very famous for all the wrong reasons!
Fortunately everything went well and, after capture, the ground team took control of the arm to slowly berth Dragon to Node 2 nadir – it’s now basically an extra room just outside our crew quarters. On Friday I performed the vestibule leak check. As you might remember, the vestibule is that space between the berthed vehicle and the ISS, a little corridor that is formed when the two are joined. Before we open the hatch of ISS we need to make sure that the vestibule is not leaking, hence we pressurize a little, to ca. 260 mmHg, and then verify the pressure again after a certain interval of time. Vestibule passed the leak check, then Scott and I opened the ISS hatch and worked a couple of hours on getting the vestibule ready, mainly removing components that are not needed while Dragon is berthed and are in the way of… opening the Dragon hatch!
Scott and Terry opened the Dragon hatch yesterday morning and that was the beginning of a weekend of intense work, getting out urgent cargo and starting the science activities, many of which are on a very tight schedule due to degradation of samples as time passes.
As soon as the big bags were out of the Dragon center volume, my task was to retrieve a new Kubik, the stand-alone centrifuge-incubators I mentioned in the last logbook, (https://plus.google.com/+SamanthaCristoforetti/posts/fyeELbtxCjt
) and get it setup and configured to support two cell biology experiments, Cytospace and NATO, both of which started yesterday afternoon and will continue autonomously for a few days, when it will be time to remove the experiment containers from Kubik and put them in the freezer, waiting for return to Earth for analysis.
Cytospace, as the name suggests, looks at the cellular cytoskeleton, the structures within the cell that give it its shape. How does microgravity affect the shape of the cell? And, most importantly, how do changes in the cell shape affect gene expression? This sounds like a complicated concept, but in the end it simply means that the shape of the cell, which is changed by microgravity, likely affects the way the cell does its job. And we’re really interested in understanding this better because… well, we’re made of cells and what happens in the cells determines what happens in our body as a whole. And vice versa, what we observe in entire systems of our body, for example in term of bone loss or impairment of the immune system, can be explained by changes at the level of the cell.
Next time I’ll talk to you about NATO!
Futura mission website (Italian): Avamposto42avamposto42.esa.int #SamLogbook +futura42
(Trad IT) Traduzione in italiano a cura di +AstronautiNEWS
(Trad FR) Traduction en français par +Anne Cpamoa
(Trad ES) Tradducción en español por +Carlos Lallana Borobio
(Trad DE) Deutsch von http://www.logbuch-iss.de