Expedition 38 Trio Prepares To Depart International Space Station
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Crewmembers on board the International Space Station (ISS) conduct a change of command ceremony and prepare to leave the orbiting laboratory and head back to Earth after their nearly six-month stint in space.
Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy will be leaving behind their crewmates and boarding their Soyuz spacecraft on Monday evening after spending 166 days in space.
The men practiced various scenarios over the weekend in preparation for today’s undocking and subsequent landing. ISS crew members also did a little more work on some science experiments Friday before leaving.
Hopkins installed some new filters in the glovebox for BioLab, which is used to perform space biology experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates. Scientists hope this experiment will benefit biomedical research in areas like immunology, pharmacology, bone demineralization and biotechnology.
The NASA astronaut also checked in on the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test (BCAT), which studies the kinetic behavior of solid materials suspended in a liquid. NASA said Hopkins swapped out the batteries in a camera associated with the experiment and downloaded images.
Hopkins, along with Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata took part in the South by Southwest Technology Conference on Saturday, answering questions from audience members in Austin, Texas.
Over the weekend, Mastracchio exchanged sample cartridges inside the Materials Science Laboratory’s Solidification and Quench Furnace. This research furnace allows scientists to isolate chemical and thermal properties of materials from the effects of gravity.
Wakata set up the Marangoni experiment inside the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility while working on the Kibo module this weekend.
“Marangoni convection is the flow process that results from the difference in surface tensions where a liquid and a gas come together,” NASA said. “By studying this process in microgravity, researchers hope to uncover fundamental properties that could improve the production of semiconductors and optical crystals and contribute to various micro-fluid handling techniques, such as those used in DNA examination and clinical diagnostics.”
Kotov passed the helm of the space station over to Wakata on Sunday during the Change of Command ceremony. After Kotov, Hopkins and Ryazanskiy leave the space station, it will begin the start of the Expedition 39 mission under the leadership of Wakata. This will mark the first time an astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will command the station.
Wakata, Mastracchio and Mikhail Tyurin will be staying on the space station until mid-May. They will be joined by NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev at the end of March.