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Space Station Crew Measures Space Radiation Effects On Nervous Systems

By | March 12, 2007

      International Space Station crew members tested their hand-eye coordination to see whether space degrades eye-hand coordination, and to see whether astronauts exposure to cosmic radiation impairs their central nervous systems, NASA reported.

      Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Suni Williams performed scientific experiments on themselves, conducting another session with the Anomalous Long-Term Effects in Astronauts’ Central Nervous System (ALTEA) to measure exposure to cosmic radiation, according to the space agency.

      For 90 minutes, each crew member wore an instrumented helmet containing six different particle detectors that measure radiation exposure, brain electrical activity and visual perception, NASA stated.

      ALTEA will further understanding of how radiation impacts the human central nervous and visual systems, especially the phenomenon of crew members seeing flashes of light while in orbit.

      As well, Expedition 14 space station crew members conducted the Test of Reaction and Adaptation Capabilities (TRAC) experiment on themselves.

      TRAC studies the theory that while the brain is adapting to space, it is unable to provide the resources necessary to perform normal motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination.

      For TRAC, the astronauts use a laptop and a joystick to control the position of a cursor and use a reaction time box to measure their responses to audio and visual cues. Understanding how the brain adapts to microgravity could lead to improved procedures for activities requiring precise motor skills.

      Space station crew members also prepared for upcoming additions to the station.

      Lopez-Alegria and Williams completed the last of the internal assembly tasks for the startup later this year of the new Oxygen Generation System in the Destiny laboratory. They installed sound-deadening equipment and an electrical cable and reconnected a wastewater hose for the hardware delivered last summer on Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-121.

      The Oxygen Generation System will be required when the station crew size expands to six people. Slated for activation during Expedition 15, it will function initially as a backup to the Russian Elektron system, which supplies oxygen for the station’s crew.

      Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin prepared for the arrival of the first European Space Agency cargo-carrying Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

      He set up equipment in the Zvezda module for a ground-operated test of the satellite navigation system to be used during autonomous docking of the ATV to the Zvezda module’s aft port.

      He also pressurized and stowed a spare liquids unit for the Elektron and installed a new liquid crystal display for the TORU system, the manual docking system for Progress unpiloted supply ships.

      U.S. and Russian station officials reached agreement on a plan to prepare for arrival of the Soyuz TMA-10, which will deliver the Expedition 15 crew to the station.

      The Soyuz TMA-9 craft will be relocated from the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module to the aft port of the Zvezda module March 29.

      That way, the next station resident crew will not need to perform the maneuver to reach Zarya as its final destination.

      To make room for the Soyuz, the ISS Progress 23 cargo ship, currently docked to Zvezda, will undock on March 27, plunging into the Earth’s atmosphere.

      Officials from both sides also agreed to reboost the station on March 15, using the Progress 23 engines to place the station at the correct altitude for the Soyuz TMA-10 capsule, scheduled to launch April 7 and dock to Zarya on April 9.

      The Soyuz TMA-9 is scheduled to undock April 20, returning the Expedition 14 crew to Earth.

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