Monday the Expedition crewmembers -- Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin, and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit-got into their Sokol launch and entry suits for a fit check in the shock-absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft docked to the station's Pirs Docking Compartment. Wednesday morning, taking advantage of their ability to look at the actual hardware on orbit, the crewmembers spent an hour answering questions from members of the flight control team in Houston about the details of several maintenance and repair tasks completed during the past few months. Packing of personal gear, and other preparations for departure and landing, continued all week.
Plans for the launch of the next crew to the International Space Station advanced this week, too. On Monday at the General Designer's Review in Moscow officials confirmed that the Soyuz TMA-2 vehicle is ready for launch. Today officials at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, certified the Expedition 7 crewmembers for flight.
Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu are due to depart Star City for the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan on Sunday to make final preparations for their launch April 26, at 9:54 a.m. Baikonur time (10:54 p.m. CDT on Friday, April 25). The new crew should arrive at the station early in the morning of Monday, April 28, to begin six days of handover briefings with the returning crew. Bowersox, Budarin and Pettit are scheduled to land in the old Soyuz on May 4; Bowersox and Pettit will be the first American astronauts ever to land in a Soyuz spacecraft.
While spending more time on departure preparations this week, the station crew continued their science operations. All three participated in biomedical experiments looking into lung function and kidney stone formation in microgravity, and each day Pettit oversaw experiment runs of the InSpace investigation in the Destiny Laboratory's Microgravity Sciences Glovebox. Pettit has been applying and removing magnetic forces to particles and clumps of particles suspended in paramagnetic fluids for the benefit of investigators looking to develop better fluids for brake and vibration damping systems.
All three crewmembers also continued their participation in several research protocols to learn more about how the human body reacts to extended periods in a weightless environment.
Thursday the Expedition 6 crewmembers participated in another educational event, answering questions about their mission and about living in space posed by students from Mountain Park Elementary School in Roswell, Ga., who have been participating in a year-long celebration of the Centennial of Flight.