With only a week to go before the end of Expedition 34 and the return home of three of its six crew members, the International Space Station's astronauts and cosmonauts participated in a variety of research and robotics activities Thursday and performed maintenance on part of the station's air revitalization system.
Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn spent most of their day involved in the in-flight maintenance and refurbishment of one of two Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) units aboard the station. The two NASA astronauts removed the CDRA from its rack in the Tranquility module 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. The crew also will be replacing a valve and swapping out a scrubbing bed with the Destiny laboratory's CDRA before floating the refurbished unit back into the Tranquility module and returning it to service Saturday.
Marshburn rounded out his day inspecting test samples for the Advanced Colloids Experiment, which is designed to help researchers understand how to optimize stabilizers to extend the shelf life of products like laundry detergent, paint, ketchup and even salad dressing.
› Read more about the Advanced Colloids Experiment
[image-76]Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency spent his morning in the Destiny laboratory setting up Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, for another round of remotely commanded tests. The team at Mission Control in Houston checked out Robonaut's finger sensors as well as its infrared camera as they put it through its paces on a simulated task board. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually taking over tasks deemed too dangerous or mundane for astronauts, perhaps even venturing outside the complex to assist spacewalkers.
› Read more about Robonaut 2
Hadfield later mixed and processed samples for the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test, which takes a look at microscopic particles suspended in a liquid and may lead to finding innovative ways to form plastics and improving in manufacturing processes here on Earth.
› Read more about Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-C1
Afterward, Hadfield checked in on the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures experiment, which investigates the rates of coarsening of solid particles embedded in a liquid matrix. Results from this study will give scientists new insight into the factors controlling the properties of all casted materials, from those used in jet turbine blades to automobile engine blocks. This experiment was just one part of the 1,200 pounds of science, hardware and crew supplies delivered to the station aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft on Sunday.
› Read more about Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-3
› Read about science aboard Dragon
› Read about the grapple and berthing of Dragon
In the Russian segment of the station, cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, a flight engineer, replaced air filters in the Zarya module, which was the first segment of the station launched in November 1998. Romanenko also worked with cargo aboard the ISS Progress 50 space freighter attached to the station's Pirs docking compartment.
Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, also flight engineers, spent their morning conducting Soyuz descent training with flight controllers at the Mission Control Center in Korolev, Russia, just a week before their return to Earth with Ford. The three are scheduled to undock from the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft around 8:30 p.m. EDT on March 14, landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk about 3 ½ hours later to wrap up 143 days in space, 141 aboard the station.
› View schedule for NASA TV's Soyuz landing coverage
When the Soyuz undocks, Expedition 35 will begin under the command of Hadfield, the first Canadian commander of the station. He and his crewmates, Marshburn and Romanenko, will tend to the orbiting complex for two weeks 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.
› View video of Expedition 35 news conference and pre-launch activities
On Monday, ground controllers at Houston's Mission Control maneuvered Canadarm2 for the grapple and extraction of two sets of radiator grapple bars from the trunk of the Dragon cargo craft and moved them to a hard dock on a payload attachment point on the Mobile Base System. This summer Cassidy and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency will move those grapple bars to the S1 and P1 truss segments during the first of two Expedition 36 spacewalks. These bars can be used at a future date to replace a failed radiator on the exterior of the station should that become necessary.