Expedition 38 To ISS Prepares For Departure
November 6, 2013

NASA Expedition Crew 38 Preps For Departure To ISS

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

With three crew members from Expedition 38 arriving at the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday morning, three of the six-member Expedition 37 crew – Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano and Fyodor Yurchikhin – are slated to return to earth. The departing crew members are keeping busy with various experiments during their last days aboard the station.

After conducting a live television interview on Monday, Nyberg performed a test run of the ongoing Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) experiment. The experiment involves student-written algorithms that control small satellites aboard the space station. This particular set of experiments involved switching control of the bowling ball-sized satellites back-and-forth with scientists on the ground, using a new graphical user interface.

Before that, Nyberg and Parmitano paired up for eye exams that were conducted with remote guidance from the ground. The departing crew members also prepared for their return trip on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio are making final preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, where they will launch Thursday morning local time. The arriving team is slated to dock their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft with the station in four orbits, six hours after launch. The trio will be bringing the Olympic torch that will light the flame at the opening of the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, from Expedition 37, will bring the torch outside the space station on a Saturday morning spacewalk. Ahead of their planned walk, the duo have checked their Russian Orlan spacesuits, installed gear and put them on inside the station’s docking compartment.

After the spacewalk, Fyodor Yurchikhin will command the undocking of the Soyuz TMA-09M from the station, marking the official start of Expedition 38. Yurchikhin will also command the return trip and subsequent landing in Kazakhstan. The return will mark the end of over five months in space that started back in May.

In addition to performing a wide range of experiments on the ISS, Nyberg also found time to make a quilt block that she plans to use in creating a global community space quilt along with fellow quilters back here on Earth.

Nyberg shared the star-themed quilt block via a web video last week. She invited the public to come up with their own star-themed quilt blocks to help celebrate both her time in space and passion for quilting.

"Now that I've tried my hand sewing in space, I can say one thing with certainty: it's tricky," Nyberg said. “First of all, it’s keeping all of your things in order - Ziploc bags come in very handy.”

Nyberg and The International Quilt Festival will work together on stitching the squares for a display at the 40th annual International Quilt Festival in 2014 and other events. The Houston festival is the biggest annual quilt festival in the world, with more than 60,000 guests annually in attendance.

Parmitano’s time aboard the ISS was unfortunately marked by a cancelled spacewalk back in July. Parmitano reported feeling water floating behind his head and said he first thought it was sweat due to exertion. However, his fellow spacewalker, American Christopher Cassidy, said it might be water from his drink bag, adding that it looked half a liter low.

Parmitano blogged about his first spacewalk on the European Space Agency official website, describing the scrupulous preparations each spacewalker must go through before leaving the station’s airlock.