An unpiloted Russian Progress cargo craft linked up automatically to the station's Pirs Docking Compartment at approximately 2:46 p.m. EST. The Progress was launched Wednesday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev will open the hatch to Progress, when leak checks are completed later today. The crew begins unloading cargo this weekend.
The Progress holds 1,940 pounds of propellant for the station's Russian thrusters; 183 pounds of back up oxygen and air for the Russian Elektron system; and 463 pounds of water to augment onboard supplies. More than 3,000 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware, life support components and holiday gifts round out the cargo.
The Progress that arrived Sept. 10 will remain docked until early March. The crew will stow trash in it, and on Dec. 31, use the remaining 43 kilograms (94.6 pounds) of oxygen in the craft's tanks to replenish station cabin pressure.
On Saturday, McArthur and Tokarev plan to document various experiments in both the U.S. and Russian station modules. They will celebrate Christmas talking with their families, viewing Earth from orbit and dining on packaged Russian foods. The meal includes fish, meat dishes, vegetables and pastries.
Earlier in the week, McArthur and Tokarev conducted routine servicing of environmental systems and filters and continued biomedical experiments. McArthur inspected seals around the hatches of the U.S. modules and down linked educational videos.
The videos explained the differences between U.S. and Russian spacesuits; demonstrated how materials are recycled on orbit; and how the principles of Newton's Laws of Motion affect life and work in the absence of gravity.
McArthur also operated the Capillary Flow-Contact Line and Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-3 (BCAT-3) experiments. Capillary flow is the key process used to move fluids in a microgravity environment. The Contact Line portion examines the interface between the liquid and solid surface of the container. The experiment investigates capillary and fluid flows in containers with complex shapes. Results could be used by designers of low gravity fluid systems in future spacecraft. BCAT-3 examines the behavior of particles suspended in liquids in microgravity with potential future commercial applications.
The Elektron oxygen-generation system in the Zvezda module remains up and running on its primary pump. It will be shut down on Dec. 28, and the crew will burn solid fuel oxygen generation candles for two days to recertify the system.
McArthur discussed life and work on the station with newspaper reporters from his home state of North Carolina. He also spoke about his mission with students from the Carman Park Elementary School in Flint, Mich.
On Christmas Day, Tokarev will have a ham radio discussion with operators at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. The purpose is to honor cosmonaut Gennady Strekalov, who died on Christmas Day one year ago at age 64. Strekalov was a veteran of five spaceflights.