The six-member Expedition 37 crew is ramping up for a busy week ahead on the International Space Station. A Soyuz rocket will deliver three new crew members Thursday morning. A spacewalk will take place Saturday. Finally, another three crew members will return to Earth on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a full array of international science experiments, sponsored by both public and private organizations, is continuing.
Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins worked throughout Monday on the SPHERES-RINGS experiment that studies relative station-keeping, maneuvering, and attitude control between two satellites. SPHERES-RINGS (Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) seeks to demonstrate wireless power transfer between satellites at a distance for enhanced operations.
A new trio of Expedition 38 flight engineers will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 11:14 p.m. EST Wednesday aboard a Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft. They will be on a trip to the International Space Station that will take just over six hours.
After four orbits they will dock to the Rassvet docking compartment at 5:31 a.m. Thursday. The Soyuz and station hatches will open about two hours later when they will be greeted by six station crew members. New station crew members Mikhail Tyurin, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio will join Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano, Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy.
A spacewalk will take place Saturday 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.
The cosmonaut spacewalkers on Monday reviewed the paths they will translate outside the station to get to their work sites. They also pressurized their Russian Orlan spacesuits and transferred them to the Pirs docking compartment where they will stage their spacewalk.
Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will end their stay on the space station Sunday, the day after the spacewalk. They will undock from the Zvezda docking compartment aboard the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft. When the Expedition 37 trio returns home they will have completed a 5-1/2 month stay in space. They moved their spacecraft from the Rassvet module last week to make room for the arrival of Expedition 38.
The home-bound crew members prepared for their departure Monday by packing personal items and gathering trash for disposal on Earth. A part from a U.S. spacesuit suspected of causing a water leak during a spacewalk in July also has been carefully packed for inspection by engineers on the ground.