Departure Preps and Dragon Cargo Ops Aboard Station
With the removal of cargo from the pressurized section of the recently arrived SpaceX Dragon vehicle now complete, the International Space Station’s Expedition 34 crew turned its attention Tuesday toward mapping out a plan to refill Dragon’s cargo hold for the return to Earth.
Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn, who wrapped up unloading around 1,200 pounds of science cargo, station hardware and crew supplies from Dragon on Monday, tagged up with flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston to discuss the process for reloading Dragon with more than 2,600 pounds of experiment samples and equipment. Dragon is scheduled to depart the station on March 25 for a parachute-assisted splashdown 300 miles west of the coast of Baja California.
The three astronauts also participated in a debrief to evaluate the training they received for Sunday’s successful grapple of the Dragon spacecraft with the station’s 57.7-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2.
› Read more about the grapple and berthing of Dragon
Meanwhile, the robotics team at Mission Control maneuvered Canadarm2 for a survey of Dragon’s “trunk” -- its unpressurized cargo area – to prepare for the robotic extraction of grapple bars from the trunk Wednesday. The grapple bars will be removed and stowed on a payload attachment point on the Mobile Base System, which is a Canadarm2 work platform that moves along rails covering the length of the station.
The station’s crew also conducted science experiments and prepared for next week’s departure of three of its six crew members.
Marshburn performed an ultrasound scan on Hadfield’s spine. It has been 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 is studying the impact of this change on the spine and advancing medical imaging technologies.
Marshburn later donned medical monitors for an extended data collection session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. Researchers are studying the atrophy of the heart muscle that appears to occur during long-duration spaceflight in order to develop countermeasures to keep the crew healthy. The research may also have benefits for people on Earth with heart problems.
Ford joined Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin in the Russian segment of the station for a leak check of the Sokol suits as they continue to prepare for their departure from the station. The three are scheduled to land northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft at 11:57 p.m. EST on March 14 (9:57 a.m. Kazakhstan time, March 15), wrapping up 143 days in space, 141 days on the station.
The undocking of the Soyuz TMA-06M marks the end of Expedition 34 and the beginning of Expedition 35 under the command of Hadfield, who along with Marshburn and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko will remain on the station until May.
Three additional Expedition 35 flight engineers – NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin – are scheduled to join their crewmates following their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 28 on an accelerated, six-hour journey to the space station. The launch of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft will mark the first time this four-orbit flight profile has been attempted with a manned vehicle, but it has been used without issue for ISS Progress cargo vehicle launches since August 2012.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are currently at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where they continued their qualification simulation exams Tuesday in Soyuz and Russian segment trainer mockups.
› View video of Expedition 35 Soyuz qualification exams