The all-Asian crewmembers commemorated a New Year as they passed their four-month mark in space. Commander and NASA ISS Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov delivered a special message in honor of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrated Tuesday. The message included greetings in Russian and Mandarin, which Chiao speaks fluently.
Chiao and Sharipov began the workweek with a checkout of the onboard defibrillator as well as continued preparation and packing of items to be transferred to Space Shuttle Discovery's Multipurpose Logistics Module during the Shuttle Return to Flight mission scheduled for May or June. The preparations included several hours early in the week with stowage and audit activities of spacesuit equipment in the Quest Airlock, including inventory of tool and maintenance kits.
Other technical tasks completed during the week included installation of a Navigation Receiving Module in the Russian segment for Station attitude determination. Chiao continued work in the Quest, regenerating two Metal Oxide or METOX canisters for use in U.S. spacesuits. Those canisters "scrub" air exhaled into the spacesuit system of carbon dioxide and recharge the oxygen.
The crew also deactivated the Russian Elektron oxygen generation system Wednesday. The planned deactivation allows the use of oxygen from the docked ISS Progress 16 cargo vehicle. It also reduces Progress to the weight necessary for its undocking scheduled for Feb. 27. Two repressurizations are planned. The first repress, of about 10mmHg, is scheduled for Feb. 15, and the second, about 15mmHg, for Feb. 25. The Elektron is scheduled to be reactivated in early March.
After a successful preplanned attitude transition maneuver Tuesday, return of attitude control was interrupted when one of the Control Moment Gyroscopes (CMG) became saturated and lost its ability to control the Station's orientation.
Attitude control was automatically taken over by the Russian Attitude Control System thrusters for about one orbit, using about 14 kilograms of propellant. The CMG saturation was the result of an incorrect ground command. The ground team recognized the source of the error and issued the command to properly reposition the CMG. The CMGs then resumed control and the thrusters were turned off. The crew's workday was unaffected by the events.
Along with their technical tasks and maintenance activities, the crewmembers supported nearly 14 hours of science and medical experiments. Sharipov worked on the Cardio-Cog experiment and Plasma Crystal, a Russian experiment that studies plasma dust crystals and fluids in microgravity. Chiao captured still photos documenting the progress of the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test, which looks at the long-term behavior of colloid particles suspended in fluids, such as ink, paint and milk.
Both crewmembers participated in continued studies as part of the ADUM, or Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity, experiment. After some computer-based proficiency training earlier in the week, on Friday, they performed scans with Chiao serving as the test subject. This experiment could have applications on Earth by assisting in the diagnosis of patients in rural or remote areas.
Also highlighting the crew's week was a live education event with Crossroads Elementary School, a NASA Explorer School in Saint Paul, Minn. Tuesday the crew also had a special conference call with Anatoly Perminov, Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Edelhard Bulman, the German Minister of Education and Science, who were discussing future German/Russian space cooperation ventures.