The first Station component, the control module Zarya, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on Nov. 20, 1998. Thirty-seven launches later, the Station now has a mass of more than 412,000 pounds and an interior volume of 15,000 cubic feet, as large as a three-bedroom house. More than 100 different space travelers from five space agencies and nine countries have visited the complex.
To assist planners as they evaluate a potential spacewalk early next year, Expedition 8 Commnader Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri spent the first part of this week working with Russian Orlan spacesuits. They evaluated how to get into the Soyuz spacecraft docked to the Station's Pirs compartment while wearing the bulky suits. Such a procedure could be necessary if they were unable to repressurize Pirs, which is used as an airlock to begin and end Russian spacewalks, and had to board the Soyuz.
The potential February spacewalk would exchange samples in exterior experiments and prepare an aft Station docking port for the European Space Agency's Automated Transport Vehicle, a new, uncrewed station cargo vehicle targeted for launch late next year.
In anticipation of the crew's first use of the Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm, Foale spent time Friday going through a computer-guided refresher on arm operations. Their first use of the arm, a training session, is planned for early next week.
On Friday, Foale completed alterations to an instrumented suit for use in next week's work with the Foot/Ground Reaction Forces During Spaceflight (FOOT) experiment. The Lower Extremity Monitoring Suit (LEMS), a customized pair of Lycra cycling shorts outfitted with 20 sensors, will measure forces on Foale's feet and joints and gauge his muscle activity while completing his normal activities in the Station. The experiment's researchers hope to learn more about the reasons for bone and muscle loss by astronauts in orbit, insight that may lead to better countermeasures for astronauts.
Engineers are analyzing the effects of a possible gyroscope failure in the Station treadmill's vibration isolation system. The analysis began after the crew reported hearing unusual noises from that system. While the analysis is under way, the crew has been asked not to use the treadmill and instead to use a stationary bicycle and other exercise equipment.
The Expedition 7 crewmembers returned to Houston this week after more than three weeks of medical checkups and debriefings with Russian specialists. Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu, who completed a 185-day spaceflight with a landing in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 27, will continue their postflight operations with checkups and debriefings at the Johnson Space Center.