A trio of Expedition 39 crew members is preparing to end its mission May 13. Meanwhile, the six station crew members continue their focus on microgravity science, maintenance, cargo transfers and exercise.
Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin, Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio are beginning to pack cargo and personal supplies for their return to Earth. The home-bound crew will enter their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft for a 3.5 hour trip home next month.
A docked ISS Progress 53 resupply craft fired its thruster engines Tuesday morning raising the station’s orbit. The orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude supporting the May 13 Expedition 39 undocking.
Back on Earth, another trio is finalizing preparations to continue six-person operations aboard the International Space Station. Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev and Expedition 40/41 Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst are in Star City, Russia, conducting suited Soyuz simulations. They are due to launch aboard a Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft May 28 at 3:57 p.m. EDT for a six-hour ride to the station’s Rassvet docking module.
Aboard the orbital laboratory, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev started and ended their day collecting blood and saliva samples for the Immuno investigation. The samples are returned to Earth so scientists can analyze a crew member’s change in immunology and metabolism.
Wakata was back at work on the Japanese alternative exercise experiment Hybrid Training. The investigation uses the contraction produced by applying electrical stimulation to the opposite muscle, which will in turn resist the voluntary contraction of the active muscle. The study could prove useful for future crew member’s exercising on smaller spacecraft flying beyond low-Earth orbit.
Mastracchio installed hardware for the new FASTER fluid physics experiment inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. FASTER investigates emulsions, or liquids suspended in another liquid, to study how liquids bind together in microgravity with potential benefits for food on Earth, such as dairy products, and spacecraft systems through which emulsions flow.
Mastracchio continued more work inside the Quest airlock with the U.S. spacesuits scrubbing their cooling loops. He and Swanson performed a one hour, 36-minute spacewalk last week tp replace a failed computer.
NASA astronaut Steve Swanson joined Wakata and Mastracchio for more cargo transfers from the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Dragon will complete its mission May 18 when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean carrying cargo and science gear for recovery.
Robotics controllers are still in the process removing external cargo from Dragon’s trunk using Canadarm2 and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM). The huge robotic arm with the SPDM in its grasp is removing two external experiments for installation outside the orbital laboratory.