Monday Commander Ken Bowersox and Flight Engineer Don Pettit conducted a successful test of the ability of two crewmembers to safely get into American spacesuits without the assistance of a third crewmember; that ability is a prerequisite to sending smaller crews to ISS while the space shuttle fleet remains grounded during the investigation of the Columbia accident. As Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin videotaped the activity and offered his advice, Bowersox and Pettit helped each other into their Extravehicular Mobility Units, donned jet backpacks called SAFERs, set up the necessary equipment for a pre-breathe of oxygen to purge nitrogen from their bloodstreams, and then got out of the spacesuits.
Through a series of meetings, ISS partners announced that near-term station crew rotations will involve two-person crews flying to the International Space Station in Russian Soyuz spacecraft, beginning with the previously scheduled launch in late April or early May. Expedition 6 will return to Kazakhstan in early May in the Soyuz currently docked to the station. Smaller crews will mean a reduced demand for on-board supplies, which can be delivered only on Russian Progress ships until the shuttles are cleared for flight. One Progress arrived at the station early this month, and the next is due to launch in June.
U.S. astronauts Mike Foale and Ed Lu, and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Alexander Kaleri, all of whom were previously named to various ISS expedition crews and who have many months of preparation for ISS missions under their belts, are training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
Specialists at the Payload Operations Control Center, at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., continue troubleshooting the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox in the station's Destiny laboratory module. The MSG, developed by the European Space Agency with scientists at MSFC, provides an enclosed space for experiments involving fluids or flames. This week Pettit did troubleshooting for the ground-based team looking for the cause of the failure of two power controller boxes on the facility last November, and this month's tripping of a circuit breaker on the facility shortly after the installation of new power boxes delivered on the recent Progress resupply ship. Additional hands-on tests are being planned for next week.
Tuesday morning the crewmembers answered questions about their mission and human spaceflight from middle school science students from Pettit's old junior high school, Mark Twain Middle School in Silverton, Ore. During the event -- staged at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Ore. -- Pettit spoke with the teacher, who was his own science teacher in junior high school. On Friday the crewmembers conducted interviews with USA Today and KPTV-TV in Portland, Ore.