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New Station Trio Set for Wednesday Launch

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue May 27, 2014 9:18 pm via: NASA
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While the orbiting Expedition 40 crew supported botanical research and robotics Tuesday aboard the International Space Station, the three crewmates who will return the station to its full six-person crew on Wednesday are in the final stages of preparations for launch.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, cosmonaut Maxim Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst are set to launch aboard their Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:57 p.m. EDT Wednesday (1:57 a.m. Thursday, Kazakh time). Less than six hours later, at 9:48 p.m., Soyuz Commander Suraev will dock the Russian spacecraft to the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the station.

Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov, who have been aboard the complex since March 27, will welcome the new flight engineers aboard when the hatches open at 11:25 p.m.

NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Live coverage resumes at 9 p.m. for the docking, followed by hatch opening coverage at 11 p.m.

The Soyuz that will carry Wiseman, Suraev and Gerst to the station was rolled out by train from the integration building on Monday and erected on the launch pad.

Meanwhile aboard the orbiting complex, Swanson spent much of Tuesday morning in the station’s Kibo laboratory breaking down equipment used for the most recent session of the Resist Tubule experiment. This Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study takes a look at the mechanisms for gravity resistance in plants. Results from this study will help researchers learn more about the evolution of plants and enable efficient plant production both on Earth and in space. During a long-duration mission beyond low Earth orbit, plants can provide future astronauts with regenerative sources of food and supplemental methods of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Afterward, Swanson used the Kibo module’s airlock to transfer a replacement camera to the exterior of the station. The robotic teams at the Mobile Servicing System Operations Complex in Saint Hubert, Quebec, and the Mission Control Center in Houston worked together to command the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, to retrieve the camera from the airlock and install it near the elbow joint of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. As part of an operation that began last week with the transfer of a camera into the system’s mobile base, which together with Dextre and Canadarm2 forms the Mobile Servicing System, Dextre has become the first robot to repair itself in space.

Swanson took a break from his work to talk with CBS correspondents Bill Harwood and Peter King and ABC News anchor Dan Kloeffler.

On the Russian side of the complex, Skvortsov and Artemyev teamed up for the Russian BAR experiment, which is studying methods of detecting a leak from one of the station’s modules.

Skvortsov and Artemyev later participated in examinations of the veins in their legs as teams on the ground keep track of any changes to the cosmonaut’s health during the six-month stay aboard the station.

Artemyev also updated software for the Napor-mini RSA experiment, which utilizes an optical telescope and a small radar system for monitoring Earth’s environment.

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