The five crewmembers aboard the Station had a busy week of briefings for the new crew, preparations for the old crew's departure and preparations for the arrival of the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-114, the Shuttle's Return to Flight targeted for next month.
The 11th Station crew, Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA ISS Science Officer John Phillips, docked to the Station at 9:20 p.m. CDT Saturday. With them was European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Roberto Vittori of Italy. He is spending almost eight days on the Station working through 22 scientific experiments and activities.
Vittori is to return to Earth on Sunday with the two members of the Expedition 10 crew, Commander and NASA ISS Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov. They are scheduled to leave the Station at 1:41 p.m. CDT Sunday and to land in Kazakhstan at 5:08 p.m. Chiao and Sharipov will then travel to Kustanai, Kazakhstan, and on to Star City, Russia, about eight hours after their return to Earth, where they will be reunited with family.
The landing is about two hours before local sunrise. The area weather forecast calls for a chance of rain with near-freezing temperatures.
Sharipov will undock the Soyuz manually as a precautionary measure to conserve energy. Although the Soyuz' backup battery charge is thought to be adequate if it were required for the undocking, that battery has shown signs of a reduced charge since the Soyuz was relocated among Station docking ports in November 2004. The primary battery is healthy.
The manual undocking is a practiced backup procedure for Soyuz operations, and is being done to ensure adequate backup battery power is available if it were needed for deorbit and landing. The manual procedures allow Sharipov to reduce the amount of time the Soyuz is on internal power before undocking. The undocking is routinely performed automatically by the onboard computer. Landing will occur as is normal on the second orbit after undocking.
Extensive briefings by Chiao and Sharipov helped settle Krikalev, who was a member of the first station crew launched in late 2000, and Phillips, who visited the Station as a Shuttle crewmember in April 2001, in their new home. They also trained on the Canadarm2, the Station's robotic arm, and were briefed on science activities as well as locations of equipment and supplies.
On Monday, Phillips trained with the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity experiment. He conducted his first experiment with the equipment on Thursday.
Tuesday the crew activated the Microgravity Science Glovebox and later in the week certified its readiness for use. Wednesday's focus was the U.S. airlock Quest, with crewmembers flushing a cooling system and replacing a service and cooling umbilical, restoring the airlock to usable condition. Chiao and Phillips were back in the airlock on Thursday, resizing spacesuits to make sure the right equipment will remain aboard the Station after Discovery's departure from its future mission.
A three-hour Soyuz descent training session kept Chiao, Sharipov and Vittori busy on Friday. All five crewmembers later participated in a change of command ceremony that formally passed command of the outpost from Chiao to Krikalev.