ISS Prepares For Crew Exchange
September 9, 2013

Out With The Old, In With The New: ISS Prepares For Crew Exchange

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA has reported that the International Space Station (ISS) is about to undergo a crew exchange as three Expedition 36 crew members prepare to return to Earth.

Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin will be boarding inside a Soyuz TMA-08M Tuesday night. Vinogradov will be handing over control of the station to Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin on Monday during a traditional Change of Command Ceremony. Once Expedition 36 undocks from the ISS, Yurchikhin will officially become Expedition 37 commander.

Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano will be staying behind with Yurchikhin for the Expedition 37 team. This team, along with future crew members Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy, will be witnessing history as the Cygnus commercial cargo craft performs a demonstration mission to the station.

The company Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) will be sending the cargo ship to the ISS for a demonstration mission on September 17. During this flight test, the Cygnus vehicle will be testing out several of its systems and capabilities. Once the cargo ship is cleared for rendezvous, it will undergo a series of tests and maneuvers before docking with the station.

Cygnus will be joining the SpaceX Dragon module as one of the first commercial spaceships to dock with the space station. Dragon became the first commercial vehicle to dock with the orbiting laboratory last May. Cygnus and Dragon are on track to replace the space shuttle program, which was retired a few years ago to allow NASA to prepare to reach beyond low-Earth orbit.

Expedition 36 crew members performed a variety of experiments while aboard the space station. Cassidy photographed samples collected for the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test experiment, which studies nano-particles dispersed in liquids with potential benefits for the food industries.

Cassidy also took part in a few spacewalks during his time on the pace station, including one mission to repair an ammonia leak first detected by Expedition 35 crew members back in May. The NASA astronaut also accompanied Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano earlier this summer when a leak in Luca's spacesuit started making the astronaut feel like he was drowning in space.

Parmitano later described the event in a blog post on the European Space Agency's (ESA) blog site, talking about everything from the awful sensation of potentially drowning, to the enormous sense of relief when he found his way back to the re-compression chamber.