New Station Crew Wraps Up Training For Launch
Three new Expedition 39 crew members wrapped up training Friday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as they prepare for next week’s launch to join Commander Koichi Wakata and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mikhail Tyurin aboard the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev inspected the Soyuz TMA-12M that will carry them on an express, six-hour journey to the station on Tuesday. The trio checked out the seats and the interior configuration of the Soyuz in advance of its being rolled out to the launch pad.
The Soyuz carrying Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev is scheduled to lift off from Baikonur at 5:17 p.m. EDT Tuesday (3:17 a.m. Wednesday, Kazakh time) and dock to the Poisk mini-research module at 11:04 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage of all the events, including the hatch opening planned for 12:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will remain aboard the station until mid-September. Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin have been aboard the orbital outpost since November 2013 and will return to Earth May 14, leaving Swanson as the Expedition 40 commander.
Aboard the orbiting complex Friday, Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin tackled a range of scientific experiments and performed some routine maintenance and cleaning to get the station shipshape for the arrival of their three new crewmates.
Wakata spent much of the morning cleaning the ventilation screens and ductwork that carries the air in and out of the Unity node. Proper air flow inside the station’s module is essential to crew health because in the absence of gravity stagnant air can form dangerous pockets of carbon dioxide.
Mastracchio meanwhile continued maintenance work on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment – the station’s bathroom located in the Tranquility node. He also replaced an audio terminal unit in the Columbus laboratory that was suspected of being faulty.
Afterward, Mastracchio assisted Wakata with the Body Measures experiment, which collects anthropometric data to help researchers understand the magnitude and variability of the changes to body measurements during spaceflight. Predicting these changes will maximize crew performance, prevent injury and reduce time spent altering or adjusting spacesuits and workstations. The investigation also could help scientists understand the effects of prolonged bed rest, which produces physiological changes similar to those experienced in microgravity. With Wakata wearing reflective dots on his body – much like the ones used for motion capture for special effects in movies – Mastracchio collected data and photographs for the experiment.
Wakata rounded out the day with more ventilation system cleaning, while Mastracchio set up the Combustion Integrated Rack for more ground-commanded research. This experiment rack, which includes an optics bench, combustion chamber, fuel and oxidizer control and five different cameras, allows a variety of combustion experiments to be performed safely aboard the station.
On the Russian side of the complex, Tyurin spent much of his day loading items for disposal aboard the ISS Progress 54 cargo craft and updating the station’s Inventory Management System as he went along. Progress 54, which arrived at the station back on Feb. 5 with 2.8 tons of cargo, is set to depart the station on April 7 for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.
Tyurin also deployed dosimeters for the Matryoshka experiment. Named after the traditional Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station.
Over the weekend, the station’s residents will have some free time to relax, speak with family members back on Earth and take care of weekly housekeeping chores. Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin also will continue their daily two-hour exercise regimen to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-duration spaceflight.