On a week when the International Space Station welcomed three new crew members, the current residents on the orbiting laboratory watched the skies over the Pacific Ocean as a super storm struck Asia.
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams powered up the hardware for the Cyclone Intensity Measurements from the International Space Station (Tropical Cyclone) investigation. Earth scientists wanted to collect data on Typhoon Nepartak in the Pacific Ocean as it neared Taiwan. The investigation uses a specialized, automated camera and other instruments to acquire data about the storms through one of the portals on the orbiting laboratory.
Scientists are demonstrating new techniques for accurate real-time measurement of the intensities of strong tropical cyclones by using passive instrumentation from low-Earth orbit. This method requires measurements of the temperature of the top of the eye wall clouds of the storm and the height of these clouds above sea level. Combined with information on sea-level surface temperatures and air pressure, scientists can more accurately predict the wind speed, strength and intensities of cyclones prior to landfall. This information would assist emergency responders and coastal residents to better prepare for oncoming storms.
After watching the storm develop on Earth, the station crew turned their attention inward to radiation detection in the orbiting laboratory with the Radi-N2 Neutron Field Study (Radi-N2) investigation. Williams NASA deployed eight radiation detectors around the orbiting laboratory. The Canadian Space Agency‘s bubble spectrometers, placed in predetermined locations throughout the station, measure neutron radiation levels while ignoring all other radiation. This investigation characterizes the station neutron environment, defining the risk posed to crew members’ health, and provides the data necessary to develop advanced protective measures for future spaceflight. Because neutrons carry no electrical charge, they have greater potential to penetrate the body and damage tissue. Radi-N2 will help doctors better understand the connections between neutron radiation, DNA damage and mutation rates and can be applied to other radiation health issues on Earth.
Williams installed three new water pump tubes in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) on the station. This plant incubator is an ESA (European Space Agency) experimental facility dedicated to studying plant biology in a reduced gravity environment. It supports the cultivation, stimulation, and crew-assisted operation of biological experiments under controlled conditions. It can provide dedicated life support for plants, including temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and water supply as well as illumination and observation capabilities for scientists. The EMCS facility’s data and command capabilities allow experiment control by the crew and from ground, downlinking housekeeping, science, and image data.
The facility has already performed multi-generation experiments — growing plants from seeds until those plants create new seeds — and studies the effects of gravity and light on early development and growth. In the future, this facility may be used for experiments with insects, amphibia and invertebrates as well as studies with cell and tissue cultures.
Progress was made on other investigations and facilities this week, including BRIC NP, Mouse Epigenetics, Ex-HAM-Interstellar Carbonaceous Solids along with various other Ex-HAM samples, Meteor, ISS Ham, DOSIS-3D and 3D Printing in Zero-G.