[image-51][image-94]The Expedition 37 crew aboard the International Space Station focused Thursday on preparations for the upcoming departure of two cargo ships. The robotic unberthing of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus resupply ship on Tuesday will mark the start of several weeks of unusually busy vehicle traffic at the orbiting complex.
Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg spent much of their day in space conducting a round of on-board training to review the procedures for using the station’s robotic arm to detach Cygnus from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node on Tuesday and release it for a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere. The two astronauts used the arm to capture Cygnus back on Sept. 29 when it delivered around 1,300 pounds of cargo during this inaugural demonstration flight.
With Cygnus’ cargo of crew supplies and experiments having been fully unloaded, Nyberg and Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins spent some time Thursday refilling it with trash and other unneeded items for disposal.
Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov installed and connected a control panel to monitor the departure of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4), which is set to undock from the aft port of the Zvezda service module on Oct. 28 after more than four months at the station. Like Cygnus, the ATV-4 will be de-orbited for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.
The departure of ATV-4 will clear the way for Nyberg, Parmitano and Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin to relocate their Soyuz 35 from its docking port on the Rassvet module to the newly vacated Zvezda port on Nov. 1.
Less than a week later on Nov. 7, three new station crew members -- NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency – will launch aboard their Soyuz 37 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dock to Rassvet about six hours later.
For four days, nine astronauts and cosmonauts will live and work together aboard the station before Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano make their final farewells and board their Soyuz for the return to Earth after more than five months in space. Their departure will mark the end of Expedition 37 and the beginning of Expedition 38 under the command of Kotov.
The Expedition 37 crew members also tackled a number of scientific experiments Thursday, continuing their support of station research as they had throughout the recent U.S. government shutdown.
Hopkins performed an ultrasound on Nyberg for the Spinal Ultrasound investigation. Medical researchers have observed that astronauts grow up to three percent taller during their long duration missions aboard the station and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation seeks to understand the mechanism and impact of this change while advancing medical imaging technology by testing a smaller and more portable ultrasound device aboard the station.