As the Progress launched, Expedition 10 Commander and NASA Station Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov were a few minutes from the start of their sleep period. The Station was flying over western Chile at an altitude of 225 statute miles at the time of lift off.
Engine firings are scheduled overnight to raise and refine the Progress' orbit and its path to the Station for an automated docking at 5:31 p.m. CST Dec. 25. It will dock to the aft port of the Station's Zvezda living quarters module. This will be the 16th Progress spacecraft to dock with the Station. The Christmas Day docking will be broadcast live on NASA Television beginning at 4:30 p.m. CST.
The Progress is carrying 5,000 pounds of food, fuel, oxygen, water, spare parts and holiday presents to the crew. It's loaded with 1,234 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water, and more than 2,700 pounds of spare parts, life support system components and experiment hardware. The manifest also includes about a 112-day supply of food in 69 containers to replenish the Station pantry. Other items on the Progress include new laptop computers, replacement parts for the U.S. spacesuits and additional components for the arrival next year of the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, another type of automated cargo craft.
Chiao and Sharipov are scheduled to open the hatch to the Progress shortly after 12 p.m. CST Sunday to begin unloading the cargo.
The Progress spacecraft that had been at the Station since August was undocked yesterday by Russian flight controllers at 1:37 p.m. CST. Filled with discarded items, it was commanded to deorbit about four hours later and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.
The crew also continued their science research this week. Chiao and Sharipov conducted another in a series of tests of the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Micro-G experiment.
On the first day, they took turns performing bone and dental scans on each other. One day later, after six hours of fasting, Sharipov was the subject for abdominal scans. Chiao also performed an abdominal scan on Sharipov to recover from a previous session during which data was lost.
They also used the Crew Medical Restraint System for positioning the subject and electrodes for electrocardiogram recording. The scanning and post-scan activities were videotaped and photographed for downlinking to the ground for interpretation. The experiment tests the diagnostic capability of ultrasound for medical contingencies that could occur in a space environment
Later in the week, Chaio and the ground team conducted their post-session analysis to discuss the successful ultrasound scans and in particular the abdominal scan conducted on Salizhan. Conducting the scans repeatedly increases the proficiency of crewmembers.
The experiment has already demonstrated the capability of non-medical personnel to downlink diagnostic information for evaluation by medical specialists on the ground. This "telemedicine" technique has application to emergency medical care in remote areas of the earth, as well as for astronaut crews traveling beyond low earth orbit.