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Station Crew Focuses on Robotics

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed May 2, 2012 7:56 am via: NASA
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Robotics was the keyword Tuesday aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 31 crew rehearsed the robotic grapple of a commercial cargo ship and powered up the Robonaut 2 humanoid robot for a milestone engineering test.

Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers spent much of their day practicing on the robotics workstation to prepare for the grapple and berthing of the station’s first commercial cargo craft, the SpaceX Dragon. The two flight engineers rehearsed techniques for an offset grapple of Dragon with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Dragon is scheduled to launch Monday, May 7, at 9:38 a.m. EDT and arrive near the station for a series of rendezvous tests on May 9 before being grappled and berthed to the station the following day.

Pettit also set up Robonaut 2 in the Harmony module for a milestone dexterity test, bringing it another step closer to earning its keep aboard the station. Commanded from the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Space Flight Center, Robonaut 2 threw switches and pushed buttons for the first time on a taskboard that simulates other control panels aboard the station. Robonaut 2 was sent to the space station with the intention of eventually taking over tasks too dangerous or mundane for astronauts.

Kuipers also unloaded additional cargo from the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3, which delivered 7.2 tons of food, fuel and supplies when it docked to the aft end of the Zvezda service module March 28.

Pettit and Kuipers took a break from their activities to talk with Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press and Larry Marino of KRLA Radio in Los Angeles. The two flight engineers answered questions about the upcoming Dragon mission and the important research onboard the orbiting complex.

In the Russian segment of the station, Commander Oleg Kononenko cleaned ventilation screens in the Rassvet and Zarya modules before moving on to the Matryoshka radiation-measurement experiment. The commander also transferred cargo from the ISS Progress 47 resupply ship, which docked to the station April 22.

Meanwhile at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and astronaut Joe Acaba relaxed before their flight Wednesday to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final pre-launch preparations. The trio will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft May 14 to join the crew of Expedition 31 as flight engineers aboard the station.

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