[image-94][image-51]As they near the flurry of activity that will mark the final week of Expedition 37, the International Space Station’s astronauts and cosmonauts spent Tuesday reviewing plans for a spacewalk, packing for the return home of three crew members and preparing for a Soyuz relocation to make way for the arrival of three new crewmates.
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano conducted an onboard descent drill inside the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft that will ferry them and Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg back to Earth on Nov. 10 after more than five months in orbit. Yurchikhin and Parmitano reviewed various emergency scenarios to make sure they were prepared for potential hazards during the journey home. They also spoke with flight controllers to coordinate the list of items being returned aboard the Soyuz.
Prior to their final departure from the station, Yurchikhin, Parmitano and Nyberg will board their Soyuz on Friday to relocate it from its docking port on the Rassvet module to the aft port of Zvezda, which was vacated by the Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4) on Monday. The short hop by the Soyuz to its new port begins with its undocking at 4:34 a.m. EDT Friday and is expected to take about 24 minutes. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the relocation.
The crew is relocating the Soyuz to make way for the launch and arrival of 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 – who will dock their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft to Rassvet on Nov. 7 about six hours after their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The new trio of station flight engineers is currently in Baikonur completing final preparations and training for launch.
[image-110]Mastracchio, Wakata and Tyurin will bring an Olympic torch to the station as part of the traditional relay leading up to to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, who will carry the torch outside the station during a symbolic spacewalk on Nov. 9, spent part of Tuesday reviewing procedures for that excursion. The torch will return to Earth aboard the Soyuz with Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano.
Meanwhile, inside the station’s Tranquility module, Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins spent much of his day focused on the replacement of an air selector valve within the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly. This device, which as its name implies removes carbon dioxide from the station’s atmosphere, is part of the station’s Environmental Control and Life Support System that provides clean water and air to the crew. Parmitano and Nyberg assisted Hopkins as needed throughout the day.
[image-67]Afterward, Hopkins took a break from his work to speak with students at his alma mater, the University of Illinois in Champaign. The NASA astronaut answered a variety of engineering and science questions regarding the challenges of living and working in space.
Nyberg checked in on the Ice Crystal 2 experiment to assist the ground team with troubleshooting an issue with the payload’s temperature control. This experiment, which studies the growth rates and stability of ice crystals in super-cooled water containing antifreeze, will help researchers develop new models to explain crystal growth processes normally cloaked by the effects of gravity.
Nyberg also participated in the Microbiome study, which takes a look at the impact of space travel on the human immune system and an individual’s microbiome -- the collective community of microorganisms that are normally present in and on the human body. In addition to providing data that will keep future crews healthy, findings from this study could benefit people on Earth who work in extreme environments and further research in the detection of diseases, alterations in metabolic function and deficiencies in the immune system.