On Wednesday, Station managers reviewed preparations for the upcoming launch of the unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 16 resupply ship from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They confirmed that work is progressing well for the scheduled liftoff at 4:19 p.m. CST Dec. 23.
The spacecraft will bring 2½ tons of food, fuel, clothing and other supplies to the complex. Almost 70 food containers have been added to the craft's manifest to replenish onboard supplies. Progress 16 is scheduled to arrive at the Station at about 6:05 p.m. CST Christmas night. Along with food, water, spare parts, science gear and equipment, the craft will carry Christmas gifts and other personal items for Commander and NASA ISS Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov.
ISS Progress 15, currently attached to the Station, will be undocked from the rear of the Zvezda Service Module at 1:32 p.m. CST Dec. 22, clearing the aft port for the new vehicle.
Throughout the week, Chiao prepared the U.S. laboratory Destiny for the arrival of additional science experiments. He helped with several tests of the Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) in one of the payload racks that will be used to house investigations. Ground controllers at the Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center commanded the rack to move. Chiao removed guides before the tests and reported the movements he observed to the controllers.
The ARIS includes actuators that allow the rack to move slightly to protect delicate experiments it houses from vibrations caused by Station systems and the crew's movement. Destiny houses five payload racks. Three, including one with ARIS, house active experiments. The other two, including the one tested this week, are used to store experiments.
Today, Chiao took photos of the Binary Colloidal Alloys Test. Researchers are using the experiment to study fluids like milk or paint that have particles suspended in them. The experiment samples are shaken initially and then photographed periodically to document how the particles settle in microgravity. Researchers hope to use this data to develop new technologies ranging from rocket propulsion to cable television.
Chiao and Sharipov participated in a Russian experiment to test the human cardiovascular system in space. The test included Sharipov wearing a special suit called the Chibis, which simulates forces on the musculoskeletal system using suction. It also provides information for researchers to evaluate the human body's adaptation to living in space without gravity for long periods.
Last weekend, Chiao did the fourth of five scheduled sessions of the In-Space Soldering Investigation. The experiment studies the behavior of soldering equipment in space so techniques can be refined for future spacecraft development and repair.
Maintenance work this week included conditioning of U.S. spacesuit batteries, gathering inter-module air duct measurements, collecting water and air samples for analysis, and installing cables in the Russian segment. Crewmembers also held a fire drill, which included the procedures they would use if they had to leave the Station in an emergency.