Ready to take over is the Expedition 8 crew, which has spent the last week in space "cramming" for its role as prime station crew effective Monday afternoon when the hatches close between the station and returning Soyuz spacecraft, signaling the official change of command. A ceremonial "Change of Command" ceremony took place Friday afternoon.
Flight controllers in the U.S. and Russia have been closely monitoring the predicted effects of the recent solar activity and anticipate no change to any of the landing plans. NASA flight control personnel have determined that no additional radiation exposure to the ISS crew is expected as a result of the solar activity. Increased solar activity is forecast for the next few weeks, and the control team will continue to monitor the progress of events with support from the NOAA Space Environment Center.
Since arriving early Monday morning at their home for the next six months, Expedition 8 Commander Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri have spent the week familiarizing themselves with real-time station operations from departing Expedition 7 Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu.
Among the handover activities conducted this week were robotic training for Foale on the station's remote manipulator system, called Canadarm2. He will serve as the incoming NASA ISS science officer also, and spent a great deal of his handover activities in the Destiny laboratory where most of the experiment work will take place during his six months aboard. Meanwhile, Kaleri and Malenchenko devoted their attention to operational handover in the Russian segment of the station, which will be overseen by Kaleri throughout the increment.
The weekend will be devoted almost exclusively to Soyuz stowage activities for the Expedition 7 crew's return to Earth along with European Space Agency astronaut Pedro Duque, who has spent the last eight days conducting a host of science experiments in support of a commercial contract with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency.
The station crews will wake up Monday about 1 a.m. CST and the hatch to the Expedition 7 crew's Soyuz is set to be closed around 2 p.m. Undocking is planned for 5:18 p.m. followed by the deorbit burn at 7:47 p.m. and landing at 8:41 p.m.