Commander and NASA Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov rang in the New Year Saturday to a special rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" offered from Mission Control. They also received greetings from Russian space officials in Moscow.
Today, the crew took time from its activities to observe the Russian Orthodox Christmas. They have a light weekend planned with only a few routine maintenance tasks scheduled.
The crew conducted a variety of biomedical experiments throughout the week, including the NEUROCOG experiment which studies how the body's sense of balance, or neurovestibular system, adapts to weightlessness. During the experiment, the crew member subject moves around the cabin wearing a virtual reality headset.
Chiao and Sharipov also offered a message of condolence to the victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia. Today Chiao and Sharipov took some time to discuss the progress of their mission with students at the Central Park Middle School in Schenectady, N.Y.
On New Year's Day, the Station's Elektron oxygen-generation system shut down. The crew has had some success in recovering the operation of that system this week. The Elektron, which separates water into hydrogen and oxygen, is one of several systems that can be used to replenish oxygen in the Station cabin. Almost five months of oxygen reserves are aboard the Station in other systems.
With help from Russian technical experts, the crew early this week tried to purge gas from the Elektron lines, using both a manual pump and an electrical pump. The gas bubbles were believed to be causing pumps in the Elektron to shut down. As troubleshooting continued, the crew on Thursday replaced the electrolyte in the Elektron with that from a spare unit. The Elektron was then successfully restarted, although later that day the system was switched from a primary pump to a backup pump. The Elektron has continued to operate intermittently since.
While the Elektron was out of service on Tuesday, oxygen was added to the Station atmosphere from tanks on the Progress cargo craft.