Throughout the week the crew prepared the Pirs docking compartment for the Nov. 22 spacewalk by Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin. The astronauts gathered tools and equipment they will use on the nearly six-hour spacewalk.
Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin next week will prepare the Russian Orlan spacesuits they will wear for the excursion. During the spacewalk they will relocate a communications antenna, install new experiment hardware and photograph a Kurs rendezvous system antenna on the Progress supply ship that docked last month to the Zvezda module's aft docking port. Tyurin also will conduct a Russian commercial demonstration by hitting a golf ball teed up on the exterior of Pirs.
A top priority for Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter this week was packing material destined to return to Earth on the Space Shuttle Discovery in December. Lopez-Alegria completed a routine checkout of the Mobile Servicing System that moves the station's robotic arm up and down the truss, in support of that shuttle assembly flight.
On mission STS-116, targeted to launch Dec. 7, the shuttle crew will deliver another component of the station's girder-like truss structure and perform spacewalks to rewire the station's electrical system. The shuttle crew includes astronaut Suni Williams, who will relieve Reiter on board. Reiter will have spent six months on the complex.
Lopez-Alegria, the NASA International Space Station Science Officer for Expedition 14, collected his third set of blood and urine samples for the Nutritional Status Assessment experiment. This experiment measures physiological indicators of the changes in the human body during spaceflight.
The samples are stored in the Minus-Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer aboard the station. Once returned to Earth the blood and urine samples will be analyzed to understand a wide variety of bodily systems, including hormonal changes and how they relate to stress, bone and muscle metabolism. Scientists will also look at markers to measure bone metabolism, oxidative damage, and vitamin and mineral status.
These findings are expected to give researchers a better understanding of what happens to crewmembers in space and when it happens. It also will help to define nutritional requirements and develop food systems for future missions to the moon and Mars.
Working hundreds of miles away from home didn't stop Lopez-Alegria from participating in this week's general election. Texas law permits residents who happen to be in orbit on Election Day to cast a ballot from space. This was first done by David Wolf from the Mir space station in 1997. Lopez-Alegria made his choices on an encrypted computer ballot that was downlinked to Mission Control and forwarded to the county clerk's office in Houston for tabulation.