Fyodor Yurchikhin begins his first full day as Expedition 37 commander. Residing with him on the International Space Station are Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano.
Expedition 37 officially started Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. EDT when their Expedition 36 crewmates Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin undocked in a Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft for a landing in Kazakhstan about 3-1/2 hours later.
It is a day of rest for the station residents after Tuesday’s long schedule of crew farewell and undocking activities. All three crew members stayed up late and monitored the undocking as they videotaped and photographed the departing Soyuz from numerous vantage points throughout the station.
Waiting to join Expedition 37 are two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut who are in Russia counting down to their Sept. 25 launch. Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy will launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in a Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft and dock to the Poisk mini-research module vacated by Expedition 36.
The new space trio will be the third crew to launch and dock to the station in just four orbits, or about six hours. The first crew to reach the station with the shortened timeline was Expedition 36 on March 28. Previously, station crews took a two-day trip aboard a Soyuz spaceship but the new short trip allows the vehicle to conserve resources.
However, before Expedition 37 expands to six crew members a new cargo craft will demonstrate its ability to rendezvous and berth to the space station. Orbital Sciences is planning a Sept. 17 launch of its Cygnus resupply craft for a 5-day trip to the station where it will be captured by the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony node.
Orbital Sciences will be the second company to send a commercial cargo craft to the space station. SpaceX was the first company to send its own cargo ship with two successful commercial resupply missions under its belt.
On Thursday, the three orbiting station residents will be back at work. Yurchikhin will be working maintenance on the Russian side of the station. Parmitano will be working on a materials science experiment, InSPACE-3, which observes fluids containing ellipsoid-shaped particles subjected to a magnetic field. Nyberg will be cleaning the crew quarters and be joined later by Parmitano for pre-packing gear to be stowed inside the Cygnus.