A new trio of Expedition 38 flight engineers opened the Soyuz and station hatches at 7:44 a.m. EST Thursday and were greeted by six station crew members. They docked to the Rassvet docking compartment at 5:27 a.m. after lifting from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 11:14 p.m. Wednesday aboard a Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft.
New station crew members Mikhail Tyurin, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio joined Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano, Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy.
This will be the first time since October 2009 that nine people have resided on the station without the presence of a space shuttle. However, just four days later the station residents will say goodbye to Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano, all Expedition 37 crew members, when they undock in the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft and land in Kazakhstan about 3-1/2 hours later.
When the Expedition 37 trio returns home this Sunday they will have completed a 5-1/2 month stay in space. The station's newest Expedition 38 trio will live and work in space until May 2014.
Expedition 38 officially begins when the home-bound trio undocks. Kotov will become station commander for the second time since Expedition 23 in 2010. Staying behind are veteran station residents Mikhail Tyurin and Koichi Wakata; Rick Mastracchio, a veteran of three shuttle missions; and Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy, who are both on their first missions.
All nine crew members will participate in a joint crew news conference Friday Nov. 8 at 8:50 a.m. during their very busy four days together. The crew will talk about the upcoming 15th anniversary of the space station's construction (the station has been continuously occupied for 13 years).
They will also discuss the spacewalk that takes place the very next day when Kotov and Ryazanskiy carry the Olympic torch outside the station. The torch, delivered by Expedition 38 and returning home with Expedition 37, will light the flame at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Some of the cargo flown aboard this Soyuz TMA-11M will be used in research investigations that are either ongoing or planned aboard the International Space Station. Questionnaires for the Space Headaches investigation will be delivered to obtain in-flight data about the prevalence and characteristics of crew members' headaches in microgravity. Space Headaches researchers use this data to assess crew member headache episodes and provide the basis for developing future countermeasures. The effect of the medication that the crew takes to counteract space headaches helps determine what medication could be effective in treating intracranial pressure change related symptoms on Earth.
Hardware will also be delivered for the Microbiome investigation, which studies the impact of space travel on the immune system and on human microbiomes – microbes living in and on the human body at any given time. Samples from crew members’ bodies and the space station environment will be taken periodically to monitor changes in the immune system and microbiomes. The results of this study may add to research on health impacts to people who live and work in extreme environments on Earth, and help with research on early disease detection, metabolic function and immune system deficiency.
One other delivery will contribute to the Myotendinous and Neuromuscular Adaptation to Long-term Spaceflight (Sarcolab) investigation. Since microgravity is known to lead to loss of muscle mass, function and motor control, Sarcolab studies the skeletal muscle fibers of crew members on the space station. This research will help create measures to combat loss to crew muscle mass, which may lead to measures for aging individuals or people with medical conditions on Earth in the form of new pharmacological, dietary or exercise-based interventions.