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Dragon Departure, Soyuz Arrival Cap Busy Week on Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Mar 29, 2013 10:09 pm via: NASA
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After a long week that saw the departure of a commercial cargo craft loaded with the results of numerous scientific investigations and the express arrival of three new crewmates aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, the International Space Station’s Expedition 35 crew took a well-deserved day off Friday to rest and recharge for the mission ahead.

Commander Chris Hadfield and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko began their week loading some final items, including a GLACIER freezer filled with experiments and biological samples, into the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and closing the hatches.

After spending 23 days attached to the station, Dragon was unberthed from the Harmony node using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm and released to begin its journey back home at 6:56 a.m. EDT Tuesday. Dragon then fired its engines for the last time to send it through the Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. A team of SpaceX engineers, technicians and divers worked on spacecraft recovery operations off the coast of Baja, Calif., for Dragon’s journey back to shore.

Marshburn also spent some time participating in the Energy experiment, which is aimed at measuring how much food is needed for astronauts during long-duration space missions. Following a strictly prescribed menu on Tuesday, Marshburn carefully logged his meals for the remainder of the week, provided urine samples for testing and completed four 45-80 minute sessions monitoring his oxygen intake through a mask.

On Wednesday, Hadfield installed some jumpers and collected power meter measurements on the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier that houses the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02 (AMS-02). Previous tests indicated that the fiber optic transmit and receive lines were inverted, and Hadfield’s efforts should restore them to the proper configuration. AMS-02 is a state-of-the-art particle physics detector, collecting information from cosmic sources emanating from stars and galaxies millions of light years beyond the Milky Way.

Throughout the week, Hadfield and Marshburn also participated in the Reaction Self-Test, a short reaction time task that allows the crew to track the effects of fatigue on performance.

On Thursday, the Soyuz TMA-08M carrying three new Expedition 35 flight engineers completed an unprecedented fast track to the station, going from the launch pad to the orbiting complex in less than six hours.

Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:43 p.m. Thursday (2:43 a.m. Friday, Baikonur time) and docked to the station’s Poisk module at 10:28 p.m.

Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy are the first station crew members to take this historic expedited route to the orbiting laboratory. The Soyuz reached the station after only four orbits instead of the usual two-day launch-to-docking mission profile. Russian space officials tested and perfected this rendezvous technique with the last three Progress cargo vehicles to visit the station.

After the hatches opened at 12:35 a.m. Friday, the trio was welcomed aboard the complex by Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko. All six crew members crew then participated in a welcome ceremony with family members and mission officials gathered at the Russian Mission Control Center in Star City near Moscow.

Over the weekend, the crew will have some off-duty time to relax, talk with friends and family back on Earth and perform routine station maintenance and housekeeping tasks.

Expedition 35 will operate with its full six-person crew complement until May when Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko return to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 36 under the command of Vinogradov, who along with crewmates Cassidy and Misurkin will maintain the station as a three-person crew until the launch of three additional flight engineers in late May. Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are scheduled to return to Earth in September.

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