Every day on the International Space Station brings a new and remarkable experience.
For instance, early last week I was working in the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which is docked to the Russian-built Zvedza Service Module. Suddenly, I heard what can only be described as the banging of a muffled bass drum reverberating off the metallic shell of the ATV. After listening to this for a while, I realized I was hearing the firing of the Russian attitude thrusters as the ISS maneuvered for the Progress spacecraft to undock. Living and working in space is definitely something you experience with all of your senses!
Last week alone, one Progress resupply vehicle undocked, and then another docked;
we were busy getting ready for the shuttle arrival (now delayed);
we fixed the space toilet several times (you can’t just call a plumber);
and we conducted a number of scientific experiments.
What a departing Progress spacecraft looks like in our rear view mirror
Kids in Micro-G
Cady Coleman and I participated in a great NASA education program called “Kids in Micro-G”. Middle school students are challenged to design scientific experiments to perform in the classroom and on the space station.
NASA chose six experiments from sixty-two proposals. Cady and I performed the experiment submitted by 5th graders at the Chabad Hebrew Academy in San Diego, CA. The students who designed the experiment demonstrated that static electricity induced into a rubber hose by rubbing it with nylon would attract a stream of water from a faucet. They postulated that if we performed a similar experiment in space we would see the same results. Would we?
To perform the experiment we first induced a static charge into a rubber hose with nylon running shorts. Then we floated a bubble of water near the hose. In space, when you dispense water from a container the surface tension of the water causes the water to form into a sphere.
To our amazement, as we released the spheres of water, they began to orbit around the hose. With each orbit the drops spiraled in closer and closer to the hose. As the drops moved closer, they also accelerated faster and faster until finally, they impacted the hose. It was really fascinating to see these little static electricity induced solar systems in action.
We filmed the experiment and it should be available at nasa.gov soon.
Working in the KIBO Experiment Module (KIBO means 'hope') on a Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) investigation of how plants sense gravity and use it for growth. It’s a great experience to be working in the laboratory I helped install during my mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 2008.
Dima, Paolo and I working in the Destiny Lab, the primary research laboratory for U.S. experiments