What’s up with @Astro_Luca on the ISS? June 16 – June 22, 2013 | Albert Einstein, EVA and more!

This week was extremely busy for Luca and the other crew members of the ISS! With the unloading of ATV (automated transport vehicle) Albert Einstein, a scheduled EVA (extra vehicular activity, or ‘space walk’) by two Russian cosmonauts, and countless experiments, the crews schedules were packed!

Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the post to see my favorite @Astro_Luca space pictures!

Albert Einstein has delivered!

The incoming European Space Agency ATV-4 affectionately named Albert Einstein was highly anticipated by the ISS crew, with plenty of work involved both before and after its arrival. One June 15, 2013 the Albert Einstein arrived bringing more than 7 tons (1,500 items) of materials: gas, water, experiments, and more! In the hours prior to the ATV’s arrival, Luca, along with fellow ISS crew member Alexander ‘Sasha’ Misurkin, were in charge of monitoring onboard systems. Although the docking is automatic, Albert Einstein is still set to receive commands (such as positional adjustments and possible aborts) from both ground control and the ISS. To read more about the crew involvement with the docking of Albert Einstein, read Luca’s blog post “Why Do We Train With ATV?”

ATV-4 Albert Einstein Cargo

ATV-4’s cargo. Credits: ESA/NASA

Once Albert Einstein was docked and all safety checks were completed, Luca and Sasha opened the hatch and installed an air purification system this happened on Tuesday June 18, 2013. The air purification system is important to protect the crew and station from any possible dust or other harmful elements that may have gotten loose during the ATV’s flight. After this was completed, the crew began unloading the ATV’s cargo. All crew members were involved in this massive task, but Luca was the ‘Loadmaster,’ responsible for the entire operation.

Luca Parmitano ATV-4 Albert Einstein

Luca gives the thumbs up that the inner atmosphere is clear! Time to begin unloading! Credits: ESA/NASA

While the unloading may seem simple, it is actually rather complicated. Keeping track of the numerous items in indistinct containers, identified only by a code, in the weightlessness of space is rather tricky. Add to it that the unloading must be done quickly to prepare the Albert Einstein for any emergency undocking complicates the entire process. While the ATV-4 brings literally tons of supplies important to the function of the ISS, it also brings some personal items that the crew members are very keen on.  This includes fresh clothing and food (including some special Italian cuisine), which Luca describes as “a cherry on the cake.” It is wonderful to report that both the docking and unloading were successfully completed!

karen nyberg EVA-4 Albert Einstein

Cargo operation started with Karen Nyberg taking the first package…wonder if this is the tiramisu?
Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

International Space Station: Laboratory in Space

One of the most important aspects of astronauts living on the International Space Station in long-duration flights is that it provides a lot of information for scientists about how humans handle being in space for extended periods of time. Many experiments are conducted on astronauts while they live in space to help scientists with their research. This is exciting to me because the work the astronauts and scientists are doing today will eventually lead to human space exploration to the moon, Mars and asteroids in deep space.

Here are some experiments that Luca worked on this week, all which focused on long-duration space flight effects:

The Pro K Experiment: focuses on dietary intake as a factor in bone mineral and density loss during long duration space flights. The astronauts eat a specific diet (decreased animal protein to potassium) and then take samples of their blood and urine at specific intervals throughout their flight. These samples are stored to be returned to Earth and analyzed. Both Luca and Karen Nyberg will be performing this test, adding to a long list of previous subjects dating back to ISS Expedition 21/22 (2009). To learn more about this experiment, see the NASA research page!

Photo Credit: ESA/NASA

Luca and Karen watch their food in micro-gravity before eating and analyzing samples for the Pro K Experiment. Photo Credit: NASA/Nyberg

Reaction Self Test: Preformed twice a day, to assess the affect fatigue has on crew members in long-duration space flight. The test consists of a short 5-minute simulation using a laptop computer.

Spinal Ultrasound: Astronauts are known to grow up to 3 centimeters taller during long duration missions, then loose this height upon returning to Earth. Spinal Ultrasound looks into why and how the spine elongates while in space.

Photo Credit: ESA/NASA

Karen Nyberg works aboard the ISS. Photo Credit: NASA/Nyberg

Biological Rhythms 48hrs: a measurement of astronauts cardiac function while in space, measured by a small digital electrocardiograph.

Russian EVA (spacewalk) Preparation! 

This week was also busy for Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander ‘Sasha’ Misurkin who prepared for an EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) this Monday. This is Misurkin’s first EVA, and Yurchikhin’s sixth. The six hour EVA is set to maintain and install various systems on the Russian module Zarya. This past Friday June 21, Yurchikhin and Misurkin performed a successful ‘dry run’ of the space walk to check suit fit, systems, etc.

Russian EVA-33 Yurchikhin Misurkin

Russian EVA-33 Simulation Fyodor Yurchikhin and Aleksandr Misurkin
Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Luca has two EVA’s (EVA 22 and EVA 23) scheduled for early to mid July. He will conduct both EVAs with Chris Cassidy who has logged more than 18 EVA hours. On EVA 22 there will be several maintenance tasks performed, as well as retrieving a camera from the Mobile Base System and finally the retrieval of Experiment payloads located on the outside of ISS. The experiment payloads retrieved will be Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) and the Optical Reflector Materials Experiment (ORMatE).

For EVA 23 the focus will continue to be on external maintenance and also completion of any tasks they do not complete in EVA 22.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano EVA Training

Luca in his his Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit (EMU) during EVA training in Houston.
Photo Credit: NASA

My Favorite Photos This Week! 

I read somewhere there are over one million ISS photos of the earth that have been taken over the years. Yet we all love to see the newest batch of photos sent down. What is making Luca’s photos especially intriguing is his personal narrative, which is poetic to say the least. I have selected my favorite photos of this week, but you should definitely check out Luca’s Flickr account to see all his great photos.

A beautiful picture made all the better by its Lord of the Rings Reference reference! Geeks unite!

"The eye of Mordor? No, not Middle Earth, just Earth…" - Luca Parmitano  Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

“The eye of Mordor? No, not Middle Earth, just Earth…” – Luca Parmitano
Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

A simply stunning photo of Bolivia.  I love this photo! It’s like a giant snowflake on top of the mountain…so beautiful!

"A snowy peak near La Paz, Bolivia, reminds me of a white poinsettia!" - Luca Parmitano  Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

“A snowy peak near La Paz, Bolivia, reminds me of a white poinsettia!” – Luca Parmitano
Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

Somehow the moon doesn’t usually look this stunning from Earth. Perhaps it’s the stark black surroundings and the fact that we know it was taken in space?

"The moon as seen from Cupola." - Luca Parmitano  Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

“The moon as seen from Cupola.” – Luca Parmitano
Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

A beautiful photo with a beautiful caption. Something to think about…

"Even rivers have to change their course many times during their lifetime."  Luca Parmitano  Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

“Even rivers have to change their course many times during their lifetime.” Luca Parmitano
Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano

Last but not least…this has been a favorite of everyone online…It’s such a stunning picture!

ISS Sky Picture Luca Parmitano

“The sky is simply perfect.” -Luca Parmitano
Photo Credit: ESA/NASA/Parmitano


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