The Expedition 40 trio aboard the International Space Station worked advanced science while awaiting a new set of crew members due next week. After the new crew arrives, the station will be set for a busy season of spacewalks and cargo craft departures and arrivals.
Commander Steve Swanson worked botany science Thursday morning investigating gravity resistance in plants. He was inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory using the Saibo Rack’s microscope to observe samples from the Resist Tubule plant experiment.
Saibo is a life sciences experiment rack that can be divided into smaller payload segments. It also includes the Clean Bench that contains the microscope and the Cell Biology Experiment Facility that houses an incubator and centrifuges.
In the afternoon, Swanson worked on more science switching out sample cartridges inside Europe’s Columbus module’s Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) which is part of the Materials Science Research Rack. The MSL is a facility that enables the study of the effects of microgravity on the chemical and thermal properties of different materials under various conditions.
The commander wound down his day on a few quick but important tasks. First, he inserted more ice bricks into a science freezer to keep the device at ultra-cold temperatures to preserve scientific samples. Then he continued more regeneration work with the metal oxide canisters which bake out carbon dioxide in the U.S. spacesuits. Finally, he checked lights and water levels for the VEGGIE crop harvesting experiment.
The other two Expedition 40 crew members, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, spent Thursday morning working on Russian maintenance on their side of the orbital laboratory. Skvortsov checked the Zvezda service module’s ventilation system. Artemyev transferred fluids between environmental control and life support system tanks.
After lunch, the duo was back at work on more maintenance tasks. Skvortsov, a veteran station resident, replaced condensate removal lines. First time space flyer Artemyev continued more ISS Progress 53 cargo transfers preparing the vehicle for its June 9 automated departure.
On Wednesday next week a new trio of Expedition 40/41 crew members will lift off to join the three orbiting residents of the International Space Station. Soyuz Commander and cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European astronaut Alexander Gerst will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft at 3:57 p.m. EDT (1:57 a.m. May 29 Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Their launch precedes a summer filled with spacewalks and visits by four different space freighters.
A trio of U.S. spacewalks is tentatively planned for July to be conducted by NASA astronauts Swanson and Wiseman and European astronaut Gerst. Skvortsov and Artemyev are also scheduled for a pair of Russian spacewalks targeted for June and August.
Orbital Sciences, the second private company to send a resupply ship to the station, will launch their Cygnus commercial craft June 10 for a berthing to the Harmony node three days later. In July, the ISS Progress 56 cargo craft will arrive to replenish the crew. SpaceX will launch its fourth Dragon returnable cargo craft in August to occupy the same port Cygnus will leave vacant when it departs in July. Finally, the European Space Agency will launch its fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle, nicknamed the Georges Lemaître, for the Belgian astronomer, in mid-August for a docking to Zvezda’s aft end port.