April 9, 2004
International Space Station Status Report: SS04-04
Three weeks remain in the six-month voyage aboard the International Space Station for Expedition 8 Commander Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri. The crew is preparing to return home this month and focused on wrapping up science experiments and tidying up for their replacement crew, Expedition 9.
Yesterday, NASA managers conducted a Flight Readiness Review. No issues were found for the planned launch of Expedition 9 at 11:19 p.m. EDT April 18. Commander Gennady Padalka, Flight Engineer Mike Fincke and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands will arrive at the Station April 21. Kuipers returns to Earth with the Expedition 8 crew April 29.
The Expedition 9 crew completed a dress launch rehearsal earlier in the week at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The crew will rest this weekend in Moscow before returning to Kazakhstan Tuesday for final launch preparations.
While the on orbit crew completes its work, flight controllers and engineers reviewing video of the outside of the Station found a black mark on dish antenna. It was determined, over time, as the antenna moves to track NASA's communications satellites; it very lightly has been brushing against a locking pin and handrail. Changing the software slightly to "tell" the dish to stop before gimballing that far easily solved the problem. Neither the mark nor the rubbing has effected the operation of the antenna.
Foale focused his attention on wrapping up two major experiments conducted during his mission. The Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation (PFMI) successfully finished its last sample. PFMI has run 21 samples since the first sample was processed on-orbit in September 2002. The experiment melts materials at elevated temperatures, so it is operated inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox.
As the sample is processed, a video system allows scientists working at the telescience center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. to watch as bubbles form and move around in the transparent modeling material sample. Bubbles that become trapped in metals or crystals can form defects that decrease the material's strength and usefulness.
By studying bubble formation and the defects they cause in metals in microgravity, scientists will gain insights to improve solidification processing on future space experiments and similar processes on Earth.
Foale wore a special pair of Lycra cycling tights for his final session with the Foot/Ground Reaction Forces during Space Flight (FOOT) experiment. It measure how much stress his legs and feet endure on a typical day. FOOT will provide a better understanding of bone loss and muscle mass loss experienced by astronauts in microgravity. The theories being explored in this project also have significance for understanding, preventing and treating osteoporosis on Earth.
Both PFMI and FOOT experiments were completed and stowed.
Kaleri spent some of the week fixing a cooling fan that helps control humidity in the Soyuz spacecraft in which he and Foale will return home. The two also reviewed the inventory of items that will be brought home as well.
Information about crew activities aboard the Space Station is available on the Internet at:
Details about Station science operations are available on the Internet at:
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