Malenchenko and Lu powered up the Station's 60-foot Canadian robotic arm, named Canadarm2, on Tuesday for some in-flight training and tests. The conducted a series of maneuvers that moved part of the arm into sunlight to characterize how a force and moment sensor on the arm might work differently in sunlight than in shade. Later in the week, they performed systems checks and maintenance work on the two Russian spacesuits aboard the Station. The activities verified that the gear remains in good condition, although there are no plans for Malenchenko and Lu to use the suits. The next Station spacewalk is tentatively scheduled for the next crew, Expedition 8 Commander Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri, in late February or early March 2004.
Science activities this week included a final Expedition 7 run of the Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The experiment studied how air bubbles can weaken metals, crystals and other materials as they form in space. Lu also worked with the Fluid Dynamics Investigation to optimize operations of the Cellular Biotechnology Support System bioreactor equipment that grows three-dimensional tissue samples for biological research. Malenchenko participated in a Russian experiment to improve the equipment and routines used to stay in good physical condition during long-duration spaceflight. Biological readings were taken while Malenchenko exercised on a stationary bicycle and performed weight lifting exercises. For the third part of the experiment, Malenchenko provided blood samples for analysis.
In a separate task, Malenchenko used an ultrasound device in the Destiny Lab's Human Research Facility to take echocardiograph measurements of Lu while Lu exercised on a stationary bicycle. The operations were the first time such measurements had been attempted while exercising aboard the station and helped ground medical personnel verify that the equipment could be used for diagnostic purposes if needed.
Expedition 8's Foale and Kaleri, along with European Space Agency Astronaut Pedro Duque of Spain, will hold a prelaunch press conference next week at Russia's Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow. The press conference will be replayed on NASA TV at 8 a.m. CDT Wednesday. The trio is scheduled to launch at 12:37 a.m. CDT Oct. 18. Duque, who is flying under a commercial contract between ESA and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, will return to Earth Oct. 28 with Malenchenko and Lu.