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Robonaut Testing and Departure Preps for Station Crew

Robonaut performs a few finger motion and sensor checkouts aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Robonaut operations

Robonaut's built-in camera system captured this image of the humanoid robot opening an insulated panel cover. Credit: NASA TV

The Expedition 35 crew of the International Space Station supported a variety of science experiments and technology demonstrations Tuesday while continuing preparations for homecoming of three of its six crew members.

Shortly after the crew awoke at 2 a.m. EDT, Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA took part in the Pro K experiment as nutritionists evaluate dietary changes to lessen the bone loss experienced by astronauts in space.

› Read more about Pro K

Afterward, Marshburn joined Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA in the Destiny lab to assemble and power up Robonaut for another round of ground-commanded testing. Once the astronauts configured Robonaut, the robotics team at Houston’s Mission Control put the first humanoid robot in space through its paces, commanding it to open an insulated panel cover similar to the ones found on many systems and payloads throughout the station. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually taking over tasks deemed too dangerous or mundane for astronauts and even venturing outside the complex someday to assist spacewalkers.

› Read more about Robonaut

While Robonaut testing continued, Cassidy spent much of his day working with the Capillary Flow Experiment. Results from this experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment, will improve computer models used to design fuel tanks and water recycling systems on future spacecraft. These systems are crucial as NASA develops technologies that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

› Read more about the Capillary Flow Experiment

Astronaut Tom Marshburn

Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn addresses the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space. Credit: NASA TV

Marshburn meanwhile addressed the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space and spoke with Sens. Bill Nelson and Ted Cruz and other members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee.

Hadfield performed a firmware upgrade on a special camera system known as NightPod, which enables astronauts to capture images of the Earth at night with greater clarity and control than previously possible from orbit. He later photographed some ground sites during a night pass to assure that all the new and existing functions were working properly.

› Read more about NightPod

Flight Engineers Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin spent much of their day unloading cargo from the ISS Progress 51 cargo craft docked to the rear of Zvezda. That Russian resupply ship delivered 3.1 tons of food, fuel and supplies when it dock to the station on April 26.

With their return to Earth only six days away, Hadfield and Marshburn joined Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko for a Soyuz descent drill to review procedures. They also spent some time packing personal items for return home. After nearly five months in space, the three are scheduled undock their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft from the station at 7:08 p.m. Monday and land in southern Kazakhstan at 10:31 p.m.

JSC2013-E-028656: Expedition 36 crew members

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 36/37 prime crew members check in for another round of qualification exams Monday as they prepare for launch to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The departure of Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko will mark the end of Expedition 35 and the beginning of Expedition 36 under the command of Vinogradov, who will remain aboard the station with Cassidy and Misurkin until September.

Meanwhile, the three new crew members who will return Expedition 36 to its full six-person complement are continuing preparations for their May 28 Soyuz launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Karen Nyberg of NASA, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin wrapped up their qualification simulation exams Tuesday at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Overnight the engines of Progress 51 will be fired to boost the station into the proper phasing for these upcoming activities. The 14-minute, 18-second burn beginning at 2:51 a.m. will raise the station to an orbit of 258.7 by 255.4 statute miles.

› Read more about Expedition 35
› Read more about Expedition 36