Commander Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov, a third of the way through their planned six-month mission, put the Station's 58-foot robotic arm through its paces. They also installed cables and a switching unit for the docking system that will guide the European Space Agency-provided Automated Transfer Vehicle to docking when it makes its maiden voyage next year.
Research activities focused on bone and abdominal scans for the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity experiment, which is evaluating the ability of crewmembers with minimal medical training to work with doctors on the ground and diagnose medical problems.
Chiao and Sharipov inventoried gear and loaded the ISS Progress 15 cargo vehicle with trash and unneeded equipment for disposal when that craft is jettisoned. At 1:34 p.m. CST Wednesday, a day before the launch of the next cargo ship, Progress 15 will be released from the rear of the Zvezda Service Module to clear that docking port. It will be commanded to deorbit and burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Preparations for the launch of the ISS Progress 16 resupply ship are on schedule at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Progress 16 is scheduled for liftoff at 4:19 p.m. CST Dec. 23, carrying 2.5 tons of food, fuel, clothing and Christmas gifts. The cargo ship is scheduled to dock with the Station at about 6:04 p.m. CST Christmas Day.
Due to the length of the crew's day on Dec. 25, the hatch to the Progress will not be opened until the next morning, when they will begin to unload their Christmas cargo.
Maintenance activities this week included turning off the Russian oxygen generation system so that remaining oxygen in the Progress 15 tanks could be used, preventive work on the Zvezda Service Module's ventilation system and charging the batteries of the heart defibrillator that would be used in the event of a medical emergency.
To prepare for the Space Shuttle's return-to-flight mission, STS-114, Chiao and Sharipov conducted the first full inventory of the Quest airlock module since Expedition 4. The top-to-bottom inspection was designed to account for all spacesuit components, tools and support equipment that will be needed for the three spacewalks planned during STS-114/LF-1. The full review will allow the Shuttle and Station programs to update cargo manifests with additional items if needed.