On Thursday, Station managers conducted a Flight Readiness Review and found no issues for the planned launch at 10:19 p.m. CDT April 18 of Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mike Fincke, along with European Space Agency astronaut André Kuipers of the Netherlands.
This next crew completed a dress rehearsal for its launch earlier in the week at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and will rest over the weekend in Moscow before returning to the launch site Tuesday for final launch preparations.
While the Expedition 8 crew completes its work, flight controllers and engineers reviewing video of the outside of the station found an unusual black mark on the station's dish antenna. It was determined that over time, as the antenna moves to track NASA's communications satellites, it has been brushing very lightly against a locking pin and handrail. Changing the software slightly to "tell" the dish to stop before gimballing that far easily solved the problem. In any case, the phenomenon has had no effect on the operation of the antenna.
Foale this week focused his attention on wrapping up two major experiments conducted on his increment. The Pore Formation of Materials Investigations (PFMI) and the Foot/Ground Reaction Forces during Space Flight (FOOT) experiments were completed and stowed. PFMI studies the formation of bubbles in metals that could lead to better ways of preventing that occurrence in manufacturing on Earth. FOOT is studying countermeasures to bone mineral loss that occurs in space travelers rapidly in the microgravity environment of space. The same bone mineral loss occurs in postmenopausal females over the course of a year or so.
Kaleri spent some of the week fixing a cooling fan that helps control humidity in the Soyuz spacecraft in which he and Foale will return home. The two also reviewed the inventory of items that will be brought home.