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Station Crew Preps for New Arrivals

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed May 16, 2012 6:23 am via: NASA
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The Expedition 31 crew of the International Space Station focused Tuesday on preparations for the arrival of three new crewmates currently making their way to the orbiting complex aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:01 p.m. EDT on Monday (9:01 a.m. Tuesday, Kazakhstan time), beginning a two-day flight to the International Space Station.

The trio will dock to the station’s Poisk Mini-Research Module at 12:38 a.m. Thursday, bringing the Expedition 31 crew to its full six-member complement. Acaba, Revin and Padalka will join the current station residents, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, and begin a four-month tour of duty aboard the orbiting complex.

While they await the arrival of their crewmates, Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers spent their Tuesday performing science experiments and making sure all systems aboard the station remain in shipshape condition.

Pettit and Kuipers both began the morning with the Reaction self test, a short reaction time task that allows the crew to track the effects of fatigue on performance, before moving on to the day’s activities.

Kuipers then collected water samples throughout the station, testing some of the samples with the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer to check for any contamination and labeling others for return to Earth for additional study.

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 meanwhile participated in another session with the Sprint experiment as he conducted an ultrasound scan of his leg with remote guidance from the ground team. Sprint measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-term exposure to weightlessness.

Afterward, Pettit moved on to some housekeeping chores as he performed a thorough cleanup of the overhead crew quarters, which are closet-sized compartments built as small state-rooms to give each crew member a bit of personal space to relax and sleep at night. Each crew quarters contains lighting, laptop connectivity, power, fans, ventilation and a caution and warning system.

On the Russian side of the house, Kononenko spent his morning with the Typology experiment, which studies a crew member’s psychophysical state during long-duration spaceflight.

Later Kononenko conducted an MPEG-2 video test with the station’s Ku-band communication system to make sure that live views of the Soyuz rendezvous and docking are available to flight controllers Thursday.

The commander also gathered treadmill hardware for return to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft, set to launch Saturday and arrive at the station next week. Dragon, the first commercial cargo vehicle employed to deliver supplies to the complex, will spend several weeks docked with the station before returning to Earth and landing 300 miles off the California coast for retrieval.

The International Space Station Program completed an additional Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Tuesday morning on the upcoming SpaceX demonstration mission to the orbital complex. The teams reported all remaining work had been completed and everyone is “GO” for launch. SpaceX reported that the Dragon spacecraft and its systems are ready for the mission.

Tuesday’s FRR mainly focused on the software changes that had been made by SpaceX during the last few weeks and the closeout of additional paperwork. SpaceX will conduct its own launch readiness review on Thursday and will issue a statement after it concludes.

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