Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Astronaut Ops

The CARA experiment was successfully activated this morning at 7:04 a.m. EDT. The astronaut proceeded smoothly through the instructions, asked questions along the way, we answered, and the experiment began its growth phase on the ISS. Sounds simple, and in a way it is, but conversing with the astronaut is a little like a game of telephone…

It works like this: We scientists sit in the EMA with our Payload Integration Specialist. She talks with other payloads on a communications loop with the Payload Operations Director (POD), who in turn talks to the Payload Communications Manager (PAYCOM), and then PAYCOM conveys the message directly to the astronaut. It may sound complicated, but these are communications experts and it all works flawlessly.

What the astronaut sees when the payload is de-stowed from its cold transport bag is a set of plates wrapped in black cloth (1). Unwrapped, the seeds can be seen sown on the surface of the nutrient agar inside the Petri plate (2). In eight days, the seeds will look something like the plants in (3), and then on day 12 they will be harvested, looking much like the plants in (4).

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