Flight controllers in Houston and Moscow began inserting about an hour a day into the crew's timeline to concentrate on preparations for their return to Earth on Oct. 28. Malencheno and Lu will ride home in the Soyuz that delivered them to the Station and is docked to a port on the Zarya control module.
Thursday, the duo put on their Sokol launch and reentry suits and measured how well they fit into their custom seat-liners, which help absorb shock during the reentry and brake rocket-aided landing. The fit check is required because astronauts gain additional height during long-duration stays on orbit as the absence of gravity allows their spines to stretch slightly.
Similar fit checks were under way at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, for Expedition 8 Commander and Science Officer Michael Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri. Along with Spaniard Pedro Duque, who is flying to the Station under a commercial contract between the European Space Agency and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency. The trio is making final preparations for launch aboard another Soyuz at 12:37 a.m. CDT Oct. 18 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Friday, the two crews had an opportunity to converse by teleconference about the upcoming week of joint operations, handover activities and scientific investigations. The Expedition 7 crew also reviewed computer training lessons on the operation of the Chibis lower body negative pressure device that will be used by Malenchenko as part of his Russian protocol for return to gravity.
Lu spent time inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory checking out acceleration sensor systems and monitors, and making electrical connections as part of the In Space Soldering Investigation, or ISSI. That experiment is designed provide information useful to future Station assembly and maintenance work, as well as fundamental scientific information about the role surface tension plays in soldering on Earth. He also exchanged ideas with Dr. Joshua Zimmerberg from the National Institutes of Health about a Fluid Dynamics Investigation, about how to alleviate problems with mixing samples for tissue growth experiments in the Station's bioreactor, which allows three-dimensional tissue cells, like those in the human body, to grow.
Late in the week, one of the remote power controller modules that is used to route electricity and data throughout the station experienced a failure in one of its circuits. The affected circuit is for the Destiny Laboratory's video switching unit. The failure poses no serious obstacles for the crew or the upcoming Soyuz rendezvous and docking, but does disable a camera port in Destiny and eliminate some redundancy on board. Flight controllers are working on a plan to troubleshoot the failure and possibly replace the module.