It is a busy weekend as three new crew members are adjusting to life aboard the International Space Station. A pair of cosmonauts is also getting ready for a Saturday morning spacewalk. Finally, three other station residents are packing up for their return home Sunday.
Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio took a six-hour trip to the station Wednesday after launching in a Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. They arrived at the Rassvet module Thursday at 5:27 a.m. EST carrying the Olympic torch that will light the flame at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
All nine crew members got together inside the Destiny laboratory for a joint crew news conference Friday morning. This is the first time since October 2009 that nine people have resided on the station without the presence of a space shuttle.
Meanwhile, science is always ongoing with an array of international public and private experiments. Time is also set aside every day for maintenance of systems to keep the station and its crew in tip-top shape.
European astronaut Luca Parmitano worked inside the Columbus laboratory module swapping sample cassettes and repairing a BioLab microscope. The BioLab is a science facility that enables the study of microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants, and small invertebrates in a microgravity environment.
During Friday morning, NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins partnered up to install a wireless access point inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Later, Hopkins collected station water samples for microbial analysis. Nyberg spent her afternoon packing for her return home as well as continuing handover activities with the next crew.
Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy are getting ready for a six-hour spacewalk as they review their procedures and check spacesuits and equipment. The highlight of Saturday’s spacewalk, which begins at 9:30 a.m., will be the duo carrying the Olympic torch outside the station. NASA TV coverage begins at 9 a.m.
Sunday will be the last day for the nine-member station crew when Expedition 37 crew members Nyberg, Parmitano and Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin return to Earth bringing back home the Olympic torch. They will undock at 6:27 p.m. from the Zvezda service module inside a Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft and land in Kazakhstan 9:50 p.m. ending a 5-1/2 month stay in space that began in May.
Expedition 38 officially begins and the station returns to six-member operations when Expedition 37 undocks. Kotov, a veteran cosmonaut, will command the orbital laboratory for the second time since 2009.