The ISS Progress 14 automated resupply craft undocked at 1:05 a.m. CDT today. Fincke filmed its departure, and Station exterior cameras captured rare footage of the Progress' fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. It had been filled with about a ton of trash and equipment no longer needed aboard the orbiting outpost. It was undocked to clear the area for the upcoming spacewalk and to make room for the next supply vehicle, Progress 15, planned to launch Aug. 11 and dock with the Station on Aug. 14.
Throughout the week, Padalka and Fincke prepared for their Aug. 3 spacewalk. Using Russian spacesuits and the Russian Pirs airlock, they will replace several materials exposure experiment packages and a thruster contamination monitor. They also will install reflectors and communications equipment needed for the docking of a new European Space Agency cargo ship, called the Automated Transfer Vehicle, to fly for the first time next year. NASA Television will broadcast the spacewalk live beginning at 1 a.m. CDT Aug. 3. Padalka and Fincke are set to exit the hatch and begin up to six hours of work outside at about 2:10 a.m. CDT.
This will be the 55th spacewalk in support of Space Station assembly and maintenance, the 30th from the Station and the 12th from the Russian airlock. Padalka will be making his fifth spacewalk, and Fincke his third. The Expedition 9 crew, which launched April 19, has a fourth spacewalk scheduled later in the year.
The Progress 15 cargo will include two spare water pumps that engineers hope to use in repairing two U.S. spacesuits with cooling system problems. Engineers are continuing to review detailed photographs downlinked by the crew during last week's troubleshooting.
Fincke spent part of his weekend working with the In Space Soldering Investigation. He used a soldering iron to melt solder on 18 experiment samples, documenting differences in the way the solder melted and solidified in weightlessness. Scientists hope to learn how such materials behave in orbit. The tests may help to verify in-flight repair procedures for electronics on the Station and for future space exploration vehicles and outposts.
Thursday, the crew answered questions from teachers gathered for a NASA Explorer School Workshop at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.