After a New Year's Day holiday, Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Suni Williams spent most of the week installing the U.S. oxygen generation system activation kit in the Destiny laboratory. The parts had been delivered on shuttle mission STS-121 in July 2006. The new generator will supplement the Russian Elektron oxygen system on the station. The additional oxygen generating capacity will be important as the standard station crew size increases to six as the complex grows. In their work with the new system this week, Lopez-Alegria and Williams installed a hydrogen vent valve and power, data and fluid hoses and cables. The system will be activated and tested later this year.
Meanwhile, Expedition 14 Flight Engineer and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin worked in the Russian segment of the station, where he upgraded soundproofing of the ventilation system. Tyurin installed new fans, sound-deadening vibration isolators and air ducts with acoustic shields to reduce the noise they create.
This morning, Lopez-Alegria and Williams took time out from their work to share their mission with a group of students in the fifth through eighth grades from the Columbia Explorers Academy. From the Adler Planetarium in Chicago the students asked the astronauts about living in orbit and the goals of their mission.
Also this week, the crew finished unpacking and stowing supplies delivered last month on shuttle mission STS-116, and they marked milestones in two laboratory experiments. On Tuesday, Williams set up the hardware for the Test of Reaction and Adaptation Capabilities, or TRAC investigation. It is a NASA-sponsored experiment jointly managed by scientists from Germany and Canada. Crew members' hand and eye coordination are tested before, during and after missions. For the tests, subjects use a joystick to control a cursor on a computer screen and respond to audio and visual stimuli. The experiment gathers data about how, and to what extent, the brain adapts to weightlessness.
Crew members completed the final operations of a biological experiment on the impact of varying levels of light and gravity on plant root growth. The final images of samples in the European Modular Cultivation System were taken and downlinked, and the samples were stowed in a freezer for eventual return to Earth.