[image-83]The International Space Station’s Expedition 39 crew members spent Thursday conducting science experiments and performing routine maintenance to get their orbital home in shape for the arrival of three new crewmates set to launch Tuesday.
Commander Koichi Wakata got an early start on the workday as he conducted the Reaction experiment shortly after the crew’s regular wakeup time at 2 a.m. EDT. This experiment involves a reaction time task that allows the crew and researchers to track the effects of fatigue on performance.
Following a daily planning conference with flight control teams around the world, Wakata performed a series of data takes with a pair of high-rate dosimeters to measure the level of radiation aboard the complex.
Afterward, the commander set up the Interior Corner Flow test for Capillary Flow Experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft. These systems are crucial as NASA develops technologies that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.
[image-67]Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio meanwhile worked with the teams on the ground to track down a source of a leak in the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) inside the Tranquility node.
After a break for lunch, Wakata used the station’s ham radio to talk with students at Forest Knolls Elementary School in Silver Springs, Md.
[image-99]Wakata and Mastracchio also greeted students from Bay Area Christian School in League City, Texas, who were visiting Houston’s Mission Control Center. The students are participants in the High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, which is an instructional partnership between NASA and students to build cost-effective hardware and soft goods both for use on the station and for training of NASA astronauts and flight controllers.
Mastracchio spent much of the afternoon performing maintenance on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment – the station’s bathroom located in the Tranquility node.
Wakata rounded out his day cleaning one of the crew quarters, each of which is basically closet-sized compartments that serve as sleep stations and personal space for each of the astronauts. Wakata cleaned the air intake and exhaust ducts as well as the fan and airflow sensor.
On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin loaded hardware for disposal aboard the ISS Progress 54 resupply craft, which arrived at the station back on Feb. 5 with 2.8 tons of cargo. The vehicle is set to depart the station on April 7 for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.
Tyurin later performed the Albedo experiment, which takes a look at using the solar radiation reflected from the Earth to provide power for the station. He also monitored data for the Matryoshka experiment. Named after the traditional Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station.
[image-51]Meanwhile at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the three flight engineers who will return the station to its full six-person crew complement are in the homestretch of preparations for Tuesday’s launch . The Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev is scheduled to lift off from Baikonur at 5:17 p.m. 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.