The International Space Station's Expedition 34 crew wrapped up its last full workweek together Friday supporting scientific research and station maintenance as three of its six crew members prepare to return to Earth Thursday, March 14.
Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn spent most of their day focused on the continuing overhaul of one of two Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) units aboard the station. The two NASA astronauts removed the bulky CDRA from its rack in the Tranquility module Thursday and moved it into the much larger Kibo module where they had more elbow room to begin replacing the carbon dioxide scrubbing beds with spares that arrived Sunday aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo ship. Ford and Marshburn also replaced some of the CDRA's valves and components and scavenged one of its used scrubbing beds for installation into the Destiny laboratory's CDRA at a later date. On Saturday they will reinstall the refurbished unit back into its rack inside the Tranquility module and return it to service.
While Ford and Marshburn focused on maintenance Friday, Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency supported the station's research mission, working with a number of science experiments throughout the day. Hadfield began his day swapping out samples cartridges inside the Material Science Laboratory's Solidification and Quenching Furnace for an experiment studying the process of solidification of alloys in a weightless environment. This metallurgical research furnace is part of the Materials Science Research Rack, a highly automated facility capable of processing samples at temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
› Read about the Materials Science Research Rack
Later Hadfield restocked supply kits for the Human Research Facility before moving on to the Columbus laboratory where he swapped out a video management hard drive for the Fluid Science Laboratory.
› Read about the Fluid Science Laboratory
Hadfield rounded out his day downloading data collected earlier in the week from medical monitors worn by Marshburn for 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.
On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko worked with the Identification experiment, which examines the station's dynamic loads during events such as dockings and reboosts. Later he collected some data from the Matryoshka experiment. Named for the traditional set of Russian nesting dolls, Matryoshka analyzes the radiation environment onboard the station. Romanenko rounded out his day analyzing microbial samples collected from various surfaces for the Biodegradation study.
Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin performed the Vizir Earth-observation experiment, conducted an audit of lights in the Russian modules and performed routine maintenance on the life-support equipment inside the Zvezda service module.
Romanenko and Tarelkin's fellow cosmonaut, Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy, focused on readying the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft that he, Ford and Tarelkin will board Thursday night for the journey back to Earth after 143 days in space. Their Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the station's Poisk Mini-Research Module 2 around 8:30 p.m. EDT, landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk about 3 ½ hours later.
[image-76]NASA TV will provide live coverage of all the departure events, including the change of command ceremony on Wednesday when Ford passes the helm to Hadfield, the first Canadian commander of the station.
› View schedule for NASA TV's Soyuz landing coverage
Hadfield and his crewmates, Marshburn and Romanenko, will tend to the orbiting complex as a three-person crew until the March 28 launch and docking of three new flight engineers - NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin – aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin and their backups conducted the traditional pre-launch news conference at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia on Thursday. Afterward they visited Red Square in Moscow where they laid flowers at the Kremlin Wall where Russian space icons are interred.
› Read more about Expedition 35