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Cargo Craft Departure Sets Stage for Soyuz Relocation

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:35 pm via: NASA
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The departure of a European space freighter, preparations for an upcoming crew rotation and a variety of science experiments were the focus of activities Monday for the Expedition 37 crew aboard the International Space Station.

The European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4), also known as the “Albert Einstein,” undocked from the aft port of the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module at 4:55 a.m. EDT Monday.

Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Oleg Kotov, who together closed up the hatches to the ATV-4 Friday, monitored the automated departure from a control panel inside Zvezda, ready to take control of the process if needed. The “Albert Einstein” will be commanded by European Space Agency controllers in Toulouse, France, to deorbit Saturday and enter the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

ATV-4 delivered more than 7 tons of food, fuel and supplies when it docked with the complex on June 15.

The departure of ATV-4 sets the stage for the relocation of a Soyuz spacecraft currently docked at the station and the arrival of three new crew members.

Parmitano, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg will relocate their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from its docking port on the Rassvet module to the newly vacated Zvezda port on Friday.The trio spent part of the day Monday performing leak checks on the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear during the relocation.

On Nov. 7, three new station crew members — NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency – will dock their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft to Rassvet about six hours after their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Nine astronauts and cosmonauts will live and work together aboard the station before Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano make their final farewells on Nov. 10 and board their Soyuz for the return to Earth after more than five months in space. Their departure will mark the end of Expedition 37 and the beginning of Expedition 38 under the command of Kotov.

In addition to her preparations for her return to Earth, Nyberg installed a dehumidifier in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility.  Housed in the Saibo experiment rack inside the Japanese Kibo module, this facility is an incubator with a centrifuge that serves as an artificial gravity generator.

Nyberg also performed an ultrasound on Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins for the Spinal Ultrasound investigation. Medical researchers have observed that astronauts grow up to three percent taller during their long duration missions aboard the station and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation seeks to understand the mechanism and impact of this change while advancing medical imaging technology by testing a smaller and more portable ultrasound device aboard the station.

Afterward, Hopkins gathered and inspected spacewalking tools and tethers. Some of these items will be used in a Nov. 9 Russian spacewalk to take the Olympic torch, which is being carried to the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-11, outside the complex.

In the Russian segment of the station, Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy tested the transmission of images through slow-scan television via the station’s amateur radio equipment. He also performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module.

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