Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA Science Officer John Phillips also spent some time packing up for their own return home, readying their launch and entry suits. They checked out the Soyuz spacecraft that brought them to the station April 16 to make sure it is ready to take them back to Earth.
The 12th crew of the station, Commander and NASA Science Officer William McArthur and Valery Tokarev, flight engineer and Soyuz commander, are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tonight at about 10:55 p.m. CDT. NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 10 p.m.
The new crew is scheduled to dock with the station a little after 12:30 a.m. on Monday. NASA Television coverage of the docking will begin at 11p.m. Sunday.
With the Expedition 12 crew will be spaceflight participant Gregory Olsen, an American businessman traveling to the station under a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency. He will spend about eight days on the station and return to Earth with Krikalev and Phillips. Their landing is scheduled for about 8:10 p.m. CDT Oct. 10 on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Thursday managers at Mission Control Moscow said launch preparations were moving along flawlessly. Managers at Mission Control Houston said the station was ready to receive the new crew.
McArthur and Tokarev will spend the eight days they will share with their predecessors aboard the station in intensive handover briefings, learning about the spacecraft's systems, processes, procedures, scientific experiments, the location of equipment and supplies. In short, they will be trying to learn all they still need to know before they begin their months in orbit alone.
Krikalev and Phillips began the week with NASA flight controllers in Moscow exercising primary mission control. Mission Control Houston and the rest of Johnson Space Center were closed because of the threat of Hurricane Rita. Houston flight controllers resumed normal operations at 9 a.m. Monday.
On Tuesday Krikalev and Phillips each spent more than an hour familiarizing themselves with Olsen's scientific experiments. On Wednesday they continued preparations for arrival of the new crew, and on Thursday did predocking tests and more preparation for their own departure. Phillips regenerated METOX carbon dioxide absorbing cartridges for U.S. spacesuits. McArthur and Tokarev have a spacewalk scheduled in those suits in November.
Today's schedule includes maintenance of the Elektron oxygen generating system, functioning again after Krikalev replaced its liquids unit two weeks ago.