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Robonaut Powered Up; New Crew Awaiting Launch

Commander Kevin Ford sets up Robonaut 2 in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

JSC2012-E-241580: Tom Marshburn and Karen Nyberg

Expedition 34 Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA (right) is assisted by his backup, Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg (left) as they raise the U.S. flag outside their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan Dec. 9, 2012. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 34 crew aboard the International Space Station kicked off the workweek Monday with robotics and science, while awaiting the Dec. 19 launch from Kazakhstan of three additional crew members.

Commander Kevin Ford began his day performing maintenance for MOST, short for the Medaka Osteoclast experiment, which takes a look at the loss of bone density in Medaka fish living within the Aquatic Habitat facility aboard the station. Astronauts experience a loss of bone density during long-duration spaceflight, and Japanese scientists are using the Medaka fish as a model animal to understand the causes. The commander measured the nitrates and ammonia in the habitat’s water and performed a routine water exchange.

Ford also assembled and powered up Robonaut 2 in the Destiny laboratory for two days of remote testing for the first humanoid robot in space. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually taking over tasks deemed too dangerous or mundane for astronauts, perhaps even venturing outside the complex someday to assist spacewalkers. Robonaut’s form and dexterity allow it to use the same tools that astronauts currently use and removes the need for specialized tools just for robots.

In the Russian segment of the station, Flight Engineers OIeg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin conducted an inventory of tools and hardware. Afterward, Tarelkin inspected windows and performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module.

Novitskiy meanwhile conducted another session with the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment, which gathers data about charged particles in a weightless environment. He rounded out his day unloading cargo from the ISS Progress 49 cargo craft that has been docked at the aft end of Zvezda since Oct. 31.

Monday also marks a milestone of sorts for the station: the four-year anniversary of the U.S. segment’s toilet, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment. According to flight controllers it has now been used more than 26,400 times.

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the three flight engineers who will restore Expedition 34 to its full six-person complement are preparing for their Dec. 19 launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft. Following Sunday’s traditional flag-raising ceremony on the grounds of their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko spent Monday brushing up on their launch-to-docking flight plan.

The trio’s Soyuz spacecraft will be encapsulated in the upper stage of its Soyuz booster Wednesday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Integration Facility preceding the crew’s final unsuited fit check dress rehearsal inside the Soyuz on Friday. The three stages of the Soyuz will be mated Sunday and rolled out to the launch pad the following day for its launch Dec. 19 at 7:12 a.m. EST (6:12 p.m. Baikonur time).