Tag: Futura

Taming a monster: ESA MARES experiment

Some operations make us nervous because there is not much about we can do about them from ground. The MARES experiment in the Columbus space laboratory is one of these: it is large, highly complex, equipment and can sometimes be a bit of a problem child.

The Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise system (MARES) allows us to investigate muscle groups of astronauts and contributes to answering essential questions that arise during long space flights: how does the human body react to weightlessness? How fast to muscles degrade when they are not used in weightlessness?

Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES). Credits: ESA

Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES). Credits: ESA

We think of MARES as a bit of a monster as it fills half of the Columbus module –it takes a while to unpack so each experiment involving MARES takes a long time, afterwards it must be disassembled again. It looks a little like the torture devices that can be found in many fitness centres – this might explain why the flight controllers have so much respect for the machine. It is a mechanically very complex device and any problems astronauts have encountered in the past have proven difficult to solve over the radio…

So it was with a sigh of relief on my part that I was not on console when this was planned to be setup: many hours of astronaut crew time are designated in the timeline to work on MARES. I got nervous again when a colleague fell sick and I had to take over after all …

Ultimately, of course my colleagues and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti did excellent work: they had to replace a battery (a machine of this size requires more power than Columbus can provide on its own), install a new hard drive and finally test the device for the first time in orbit through by calibrating its servo-motors.

The machine was then put back where every monster belongs, in its “cage”, an experiment cabinet in Columbus – until next time…!  

Thomas Uhlig Columbus Control Centre


Cover picture:  Only in Space recommended: four years ago MARES was installed in Columbus – Astronaut Doug Wheelock and proves prowess … (Credits: NASA)

Don't panic

27/03/2015

Change of command on the ISS

Three International Space Station crew members are scheduled to leave the orbiting laboratory on Wednesday 11 March after almost six months in space performing scientific research and technology demonstrations. Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA handed over command of the International Space Station to NASA astronaut Terry Virts early this  afternoon, marking the start of Expedition 43. Wilmore will return to Earth 11 March in the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova, wrapping up almost six months in orbit. Here is the schedule to follow their return to Earth.

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Watch the replay of the handing over here:


Don't panic

10/03/2015