Commander Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov will count down to 2005 on their own as they watch the onboard clock reach midnight Greenwich Mean Time -- the official time of the International Space Station. As they start their day, they'll watch for fireworks from orbit and try to capture images with onboard cameras. After watching the world celebrate, they'll have New Year's Day off-duty, with only light routine housekeeping tasks planned. The crew spent the last five days hard at work unloading the more than two and a half tons of supplies that arrived on the unmanned Progress 16 cargo ship Christmas Day. Working with the ground team and the Inventory Management System, the crew systematically transferred items into long-term stowage locations. On the Progress manifest were 560 kilograms (1,235 pounds) of propellant, 420 kilograms (926 pounds) of water and 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of air, plus other hardware and science equipment. The vehicle also brought 69 food containers, enough to feed two people for about 112 days.
Included in the science materials are student experiments from 11 schools and organizations. The experiments include a variety of materials and seeds packaged in 20 small, clear vials that will be returned to Earth on a future Space Shuttle flight. After receiving the space-flown samples, the students will compare their development to that of ground samples.
Flight controllers and Earth observation specialists in Houston are working to identify opportunities for the crew to capture photographs of coastal changes caused by recent Indian Ocean earthquakes and tsunami. Experts hope to bring down electronic images early next week after the Station passes over the affected areas while the crew is awake and the affected areas are in daylight.
Other tasks throughout the week included calibration of the onboard gas analyzer, a test activation of Atmosphere Purification System Emergency Vacuum Valves and cable replacement and calibration for the Resistive Exercise Device. Chiao also conducted a routine inspection of the portable breathing apparatus, fire extinguisher and emergency lighting power supplies on the U.S. modules.
The week also included a number of video and audio conferences for the crewmembers including two press conferences, management and planning discussions and time with their families.