ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 59
15 January 2010
This is ISS status report #59 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past two weeks for different European experiments and experiment facilities. The report is compiled by ESA’s Human Spaceflight Coordination Office in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the ISS Utilisation Department.
ISS Utilisation Programme
The principal focus of the European utilisation of the ISS is the Columbus laboratory, which was launched and permanently attached to the ISS in February 2008. In addition to the science taking place using the internal and external experiment facilities of the Columbus laboratory, ESA also has some further ongoing research taking place inside and outside the Russian Segment of the ISS and in the US Destiny laboratory. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and near-term experiments
On 8 January 18, 2010 ISS Flight Engineer Timothy Creamer performed a repair activity aimed at replacing a failed Quick Disconnect at one of the Experiment Container positions on Centrifuge Rotor B. Unfortunately the exchange was not successful and the adaptor tool got damaged, as Creamer encountered an extremely high torque to remove the cover of the valve part of the Quick Disconnect. Photos of the damaged adapter tool and of the BIOLAB rotor Quick Disconnect have been downlinked and engineering teams are investigating the issue.
The next run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment, which was the first experiment to take place in Biolab, has been deferred until spring 2010 and will take place after the science samples of the experiment are launched in conditioned state on Shuttle flight 19A. WAICO deals with the effect that gravity has on the spiralling motion (circumnutation) that occurs in Arabidopsis plant roots. It is suspected that this spiralling mechanism is an internal mechanism in the plant, independent of the influence of gravity.
The TripleLux-B experiment will be the next experiment after WAICO-2 to take place in the Biolab facility during Increment 23/24. The objective of this experiment is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune functions under spaceflight conditions.
The ArtEMISS-A experiment will also tentatively be one of the following experiments to take place in the Biolab facility. This will be tentatively performed on ISS still during a Shuttle sortie flight, which is envisaged in Increment 24/25. The purpose of this experiment is to determine the effect of spaceflight conditions, including weightlessness and radiation on the algae Arthrospira sp. The form, structure and physiology of the algae will be examined along with a genetic study of the organism. This data is important for determining the reliability of using Arthrospira sp. in spacecraft biological life support systems in such projects as MELISSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative).
European Drawer Rack
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 15 January 2010. The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which had been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility before the conclusion of 3.5 months of successful experiment runs in July.
Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
Commissioning activities for the Canadian Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem (MVIS) started on 11 January. Several tests of the system were carried out. Downlink of files on 14 January was only partially successful, as some files were corrupted or could not be received on ground. The downlink will be repeated on 18 January as part of the already planned activities.
The Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem is incorporated within the Fluid Science Laboratory. It is equipped with an extremely sensitive accelerometer that can monitor movements or vibration aboard the Station and it has been designed to isolate the core element of the Fluid Science Laboratory from vibrations of the ISS, and from disturbances generated within the rack itself.
The Flight Acceptance Review for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment has started and after the Experiment Sequence Test in the associated User Support and Operations Centre MARS, the launch of the Experiment Container is foreseen on Progress flight 39P mid in early September 2010. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, chemical industry and in the food industry.
The hardware modifications for the implementation of the GeoFlow-2 experiment are in progress in order to launch it tentatively on ATV-2 at the end of 2010.
European Physiology Modules
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 7 January in support of the PASSAGES experiment and monthly DOSIS data downlink.The facility is equipped with Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. The experiment results will also contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage.
On 7 January ISS Flight Engineer Noguchi successfully performed the first session of the ESA PASSAGES experiment. PASSAGES is designed to test how astronauts interpret visual information in weightlessness: it aims at studying the effects of microgravity on the use of the ‘Eye-Height’ strategy for estimating allowed actions in an environment, and whether this could possibly decrease after a long exposure to weightlessness. Noguchi first configured the ESA multipurpose laptop attached to the European Physiology Module and installed the Light shield on the laptop screen. However, as the crew could not locate the removable NEUROSPAT hard disk shared for ESA neuroscience experiments, the PASSAGES software was run directly from the PASSAGES memory card. Science data was successfully downlinked and is now being analyzed by the science team.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well, however investigation is on-going after missing data was reported following the last data downlink on 7 January. The problem is currently under investigation.
The DOSIS experiment will determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors spread around the laboratory. This is the first time that 'area dosimetry' is being undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module. DOSIS will continue to record the radiation environment in the Columbus laboratory for at least one year.
ISS Flight Engineer Creamer successfully performed his first session of the 3D Space experiment on 13 January. The participation of JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi in the experiment is currently on hold in connection with crew time allocation. This human physiology study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the mental representation of visual information during and after spaceflight. Accurate perception is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of tasks in space. The experiment has different elements including investigations of perception of depth and distance carried out using a virtual reality headset and standard psychophysics tests.
Flywheel Exercise Device
No further activities were carried out using the Flywheel Exercise Device in the two weeks up until 15 January 2010. The Flywheel Exercise Device was launched to the ISS with Columbus in order to become an advanced exercise device for ISS astronauts and serving human physiology investigations in the area of advanced crew countermeasures.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 4 January ISS Commander Williams successfully completed his third Thermolab session in conjunction with the VO2Max experiment. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless condition in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology. The Portable Pulmonary Function System currently supports the combined VO2max (NASA) and ThermoLab (ESA) experiments on orbit.
Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 15 January 2010. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.
Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
No further sessions of the WEAR experiments were carried out in the two weeks up until 15 January 2010. WEAR is demonstrating the usability of augmented reality technology on the ISS. The system will be worn by astronauts and will assist them when performing onboard tasks. When carrying out these tasks WEAR will allow the astronaut to consult procedures and manuals hands-free, with relevant information for the assigned task being displayed on a partially see-through screen before the astronaut’s eyes. The astronaut will control the system via voice commands. The main objective of this experiment involves assessing the maturity, suitability and overall usefulness of the technologies used in WEAR: object recognition, speech recognition, barcode reading, augmented reality and integration of multiple data sources such as the ISS Inventory Management System. The assessment will be based in the improvement observed using WEAR on a standard Columbus maintenance procedure.
European Modular Cultivation System
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks up until 15 January 2010. This space biology facility, which was flown to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and has been operated for two years under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA which is expected to be continued.
The return of EMCS to full functionality makes it possible to for the following experiments to be undertaken in the facility: Tentatively in early 2010 the execution of the next NASA experiment TROPI-2 is planned. Genara is tentatively the next ESA experiment to take place in the European Modular Cultivation System and will study plant (Arabidopsis) growth at molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to better understand gravitropism and to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space. After a further NASA experiment Seedgrowth ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment will be following towards the end of 2010.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was reactivated on 11 January, with the remaining runs of the SODI ‘Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids’ (IVIDIL) experiment currently planned to be carried out on a continuous basis until 20 January. Two spontaneous reboots occurred on 14 January though the Microgravity Science Glovebox was successfully recovered and the issue had no impact on the science. A loss of FTP capability occurred between SODI and MSG occurred on 15 January, preventing the transfer of files via FTP, though again this did not affect the science data. Following preliminary analysis of the results of experiment runs from Cell Array 2, the science team have requested some specific runs in order to be able to properly interpret the fluid behaviour of Cell Array 2 and look in more detail into the role of the applied temperature gradient in the cell.
In addition to the SODI-IVIDIL experiment the triple SODI (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument) experiments also includes the ‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’ (DSC) experiment and the Colloid experiment, which covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The DSC and Colloid experiments will be launched on future Shuttle flights in the time frame until spring 2010.
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment. The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been continuously used for NASA experiments and will again play an important role for ESA’s SODI experiment series.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
The current Sun Observation Window started on 5 January, and the instruments are currently acquiring data. A spontaneous reboot occurred on 6 January, following a loss of communication with the SOLSPEC instrument, but the platform was quickly recovered and back acquiring science. An Analog Input Board (AIB) failure occurred on 9 January: SOLAR was power cycled and recovered, and the failure caused only a minor impact on science acquisition.
The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range during a 2-year timeframe on-orbit. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. The detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension has been successfully concluded and the science team will be able to continue gathering further science data in a period of increasing solar activity up to the maximum level in 2013.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
No activities were carried out using the Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks up until 15 January 2010. ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1, which was launched together with a total of six sample cartridges for NASA and for ESA’s MICAST and CETSOL projects on STS-128/17A under a cooperation agreement with NASA and is now installed in the US Laboratory on the ISS.
CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary material science projects, which carry out research into the formation of microstructures during the solidification of metallic alloys. The goal of MICAST is to study the formation of microstructures during casting of technical alloys. In space, buoyancy convection is eliminated and the dendritic solidification of the alloys can be quantitatively studied under purely diffusive conditions. The objective of CETSOL is then to study the transition from columnar growth to equiaxed growth that occurs when crystals start to nucleate in the melt and grow independently. Results of these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
In its experimental set up the Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. The Phantom will be relocated to the Japanese Kibo laboratory and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters which were uploaded on the Progress 35P flight, which docked to the Station on 18 October. JAXA have already confirmed the technical accommodation feasibility assessments conclusion and now concrete implementation steps and bi-/trilateral agreements with JAXA and Russia can be envisaged for another experiment run until mid 2010. Roscosmos concurs to the proposed trilateral agreement and also JAXA’s concurrence has been received. In the long-term Matroshka may again be accommodated on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels in Low Earth Orbit which are of relevance for EVA activities.
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was temporarily deactivated on 31 May though negotiations with Russian representatives are ongoing for reactivation of the instrument and continuation of the so-called test mode. GTS will be tentatively a cooperative European-Russian experiment on ISS. This experiment is intended to test the receiving conditions of a time and data signal for dedicated receivers on the ground. The time signal distributed by the GTS has special coding to allow the receiver to determine the local time anywhere on the Earth without user intervention. The main scientific objectives of the experiment are to verify under real space operation conditions: the performance and accuracy of a time signal transmitted to the Earth’s surface from low Earth orbit; the signal quality and data rates achieved on the ground; measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.
Additional European science outside the ISS in open space
The Expose-R facility, which was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian-based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, is operating nominally and science acquisition is on-going after full telemetry storage and downlink capability was recovered with the payload computer replacement performed on 28 december 2009. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for fall 2010 which allows a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period of 50%. The planned payload computer replacement was successfully performed on 28 December by Flight engineer Suraev, with the data files of the experiments successfully downloaded. Data was transmitted to the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) in Cologne, Germany for analysis.
Expose-R hosts a suite of nine new astrobiology experiments (eight from ESA, one from IBMP, Moscow), some of which could help understand how life originated on Earth. This suite of experiments was transported to the International Space Station on Progress flight 31P, which docked with the ISS on 30 November 2008. The experiments are accommodated in three special sample trays, which are loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns, which are exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about one and a half years.
The individual Expose-R experiments are as follows:
- AMINO: Photochemical processing of amino acids and other organic compounds in Earth orbit
- ENDO: Response of endolithic organisms to space conditions
- OSMO: Exposure of osmophilic microbes to the space environment
- SPORES: Spores in artificial meteorites
- PHOTO: Measurements of vacuum and solar radiation-induced DNA damages within spores
- SUBTIL: Mutational spectra of Bacillus subtilis spores and plasmid DNA exposed to high vacuum and solar UV radiation in the space environment.
- PUR: Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA and polycrystalline uracil to the space environment.
- ORGANIC: Evolution of organic matter in space.
- IMBP: Exposure of resting stages of terrestrial organisms to space conditions.
Expose-R complements the exobiology science package that was performed in Expose-E, a twin facility which had been in operation on ESA’s EuTEF facility outside of Columbus since February 2008 until EuTEF’s return to Earth with the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight in September.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
ISS Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Creamer’s week-long session of the NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment were completed with the monthly Actiwatch data download to the Human Research Facility 1 laptop performed on 6 January. Body Mass Measurements for Creamer and Williams were performed on 7 January using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device.
Human Research Facility 2
The Human Research Facility 2 was activated in the last two weeks to support blood operations related to NASA’s Pro-K experiment, which is aimed at evaluating dietary countermeasures to lessen bone loss of the astronauts.
ISS general system information and activities *
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Main points of interest are as follows:
ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams collected air samples from different points in the ISS including in the Columbus Laboratory on 4 January.
NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Timothy Creamer carried out periodic inspection of the portable emergency equipment on the ISS on 4 January including the two Portable Fire Extinguishers, two Portable Breathing Apparatus oxygen bottles, and two Quick-Don Mask Assemblies in the Columbus laboratory.
Columbus Thermal Control System
Tim Creamer installed an Antimicrobial Applicator module in the Internal Thermal Control System loop in the Columbus laboratory on 12 January. Once activated, the module introduced an antimicrobial agent (Ortho-phthalaldehyde) into the loop’s coolant. Later that day Jeff Williams disconnected and removed the module. On 14 January Creamer took a sample of coolant from the Thermal Control System for analysis on ground.
Russian EVA 24
Preparations for Russian EVA 24 were carried out principally by Russian ISS Flight Engineers Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov between 4 and 14 January. Prior to a suited dry run on 12 January the two cosmonauts gathered relevant EVA tools and equipment together, undertook Russian pre-EVA medical protocols, configured the Pirs Docking Compartment and Service Module Transfer Compartment for an EVA. Hereafter they assembled, activated and inspected the Orlan suits, carried out leak testing of the suits and associated equipment. They also installed telemetry units and oxygen tanks in the suits along with helmet lights, tool caddies, tethers, cameras, drink bags and other equipment.
Progress M-03M/35P Closure
In preparation for Russian EVA-24, Suraev and Kotov installed the Progress 35P docking mechanism at the Pirs docking Compartment nadir port on 6 January. Two days later they activated the Progress supply ship, removed the clamps stabilising the connection between the spacecraft and the ISS, closed the hatched and carried out relevant leak checks.
EVA Dry Run
On 12 January Suraev and Kotov carried out an EVA dry run, tearing down the air ducts from the Service Module Transfer Compartment to the Pirs Docking Compartment/Airlock, configuring communications systems, leak checking and testing the Orlan suits and associated equipment before putting on the EVA suits. After additional functional testing of the suits, the cosmonauts carried out mobility and translation testing inside the Docking Compartment, which includes use of various pieces of EVA equipment. After the exercise all equipment was returned to its pre- dry run configuration.
Russian EVA 24 was carried out by Flight Engineers Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov on 14 January. The main purpose of the 5h 44min EVA, which started at 11:05 (CET), was to complete outfitting of the Mini Research Module 2, which arrived at the ISS in November. This was necessary to prepare the module for future rendezvous and docking operations. During the spacewalk the two EVA cosmonauts routed and connected cables from the Service Module to Mini Research Module 2 in connection with the Kurs-P automatic rendezvous/docking system; routed and connected Ethernet cables between the same two modules; installed docking targets antennas and two handrails on Mini Research Module 2; jettisoned two bundles of Multi-Layer Insulation; and removed and returned a Biorisk experiment container from the Pirs Docking Compartment. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures.
Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
During the past two weeks ISS Flight Engineers Tim Creamer (NASA) and Soichi Noguchi (JAXA) stowed blood and urine samples in the European-built MELFI freezer. The samples were taken as part of new routines, which developed from NASA’s Nutrition experiment. On 5 January Williams inspected the contents of each module inside Dewar 1 of both MELFI freezers. Creamer carried out the same procedures on Dewars 2, 3 and 4 on 6, 12 and 15 January. On 8 January Williams inserted two minus 32 degrees C ice bricks into each section of Dewar 1 for MELFI 2.
Japanese Laboratory Robotic Arm: Small Fine Arm Assembly
On 5 January, following Japanese airlock preparations the previous day, Noguchi and Williams performed the final assembly and checkout of the Small Fine Arm of the Japanese robotic arm. The Small Fine Arm will handle small items, which includes exchanging the Orbital Replacement Units on the Exposed Facility of the Japanese Laboratory. These final activities included putting together the Small Fine Arm electronics and mechanism, installing the Small Fine Arm tool on the Small Fine Arm mechanism and configuring the whole assembly for installation clearance in the airlock. The astronauts then connected a checkout cable for testing the Small Fine Arm assembly and conducted the checkout via a robotics laptop. From 6 to 8 January Noguchi performed clean up activities in the Kibo Module, disconnecting and stowing equipment.
Combustion Integrated Rack
On 6 January, after carrying out preparatory activities on the previous day, ISS Flight Engineer Creamer performed maintenance on the Combustion Integrated Rack to replace a leaky supply hose, a fuel reservoir and both Igniter Tips of the Multi-user Drop Combustion Apparatus. Afterwards, the rack was configured to allow the activation of the Passive Rack Isolation System to support operations.
External Storage Platform 3 relocation
Ground controllers moved the Mobile Base System on the Station’s truss on 7 January in preparation for relocation of External Storage Platform 3. The following day Williams and Creamer relocated the Station’s principal robotic arm on to the Mobile Base System. On 11 and 12 January Noguchi and Creamer, working with the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, successfully relocated the External Storage Platform 3 from its attachment site on the upper side of the P3 truss to the lower side of the S3 truss. The platform was first released and relocated to the Mobile Base System Capture Attachment System on 11 January, and on 12 January it was moved from the Mobile Base System to its final position on the S3 truss.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 7 January ISS Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov carried out an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session taking images of the ground with a digital still camera with a 400mm lens. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the STS-130 Shuttle Orbiter during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking in February. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the Station, the photographers will only have around 90 seconds to take high-resolution digital photographs of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Endeavour, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.
Water Processor Assembly
On 11 January Jeff Williams performed a back flush procedure of the Water Processor Assembly in the U.S. Laboratory, forcing water through a suspected blockage and also through plumbing to complete cleaning. A leak check was carried out the following day. The activity aimed at troubleshooting a possible blockage in the line, which is believed to be the cause of the pressure problem recently experienced between the Waste Water Unit and the Mostly Liquid Separator located in the Pump/Separator. However, no performance increase was noticed. The system will continue to operate in a degraded mode, until the Pump/Separator is replaced.
Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System (TVIS)
On 14 January, while Russian EVA 24 was taking place, Jeff Williams carried out troubleshooting on the power for the TVIS treadmill in the Russian Service Module. The 60W drop in power available to the Vibration Isolation System, that had been experienced, could increase the chance of damage to the equipment especially at higher speeds and loads.
Dragon Grappled Free Flyer
On 14 January Creamer and Noguchi routed and connected power, data and radio cabling to EXPRESS Rack 6 in preparation for the arrival at the ISS of the Dragon Grappled Free Flyer vehicle later this year.
Air Quality Monitor
Williams, Creamer and Noguchi completed several sampling sessions with the Air Quality Monitor in the last two weeks. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over a period of several months.
Other activities that have taken place in the two week period include reattaching the temporarily lost fire port cap at the SAIBO Rack in the Japanese laboratory; upgrading firware for the ISS Global Positioning System 1; connecting cables in the Service Module to prepare the KURS-P system to support docking operations at the zenith port; and repairing a leak on the Inside Core of JAXA’s Marangoni hardware.
(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.
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Last update: 22 January 2010