Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Suni Williams will begin a 6.5-hour spacewalk from the station at about 9 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 31. It will be the first of a record four spacewalks planned during the next month.
Lopez-Alegria and Williams will conduct other spacewalks on Feb. 4 and Feb. 8. The first three spacewalks will originate from the station's Quest airlock, and the astronauts will use U.S. spacesuits. Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin will use Russian spacesuits for a Feb. 22 spacewalk originating from the station's Pirs airlock.
The three U.S. spacewalks will rearrange the station's cooling system, bringing online new portions of the system that were activated during a shuttle mission in December. The Russian spacewalk will free a stuck antenna on the ISS Progress 23 cargo craft docked to the aft end of the station, ensuring that craft can undock safely in April.
The crew began the week unloading some of the more than 2.5 tons of food, fuel and supplies that were delivered to the station on Jan. 19 by the ISS Progress 24 cargo craft. Supplies aboard the 24th Progress to visit the station included fresh produce, gifts from home, new clothing, spare parts, oxygen and water.
The crew's attention quickly turned to preparations for the upcoming spacewalks. On Monday, the crew began working with the U.S. spacesuits. Batteries for the suits were charged, and the suit cooling systems cleaned.
On Tuesday, Lopez-Alegria and Williams trained using an onboard, laptop computer-based simulation. The training refreshed their skills operating the Simplified Aid For Extravehicular Activity Rescue (SAFER) jetpack that is worn on spacesuits. The SAFER backpack allows spacewalkers to fly themselves back to the station in the event they become untethered and separated from the complex.
On Thursday, ground controllers in Houston commanded the station's robotic arm to maneuver into the position it will occupy for the start of the spacewalk. Aboard the station, the crew set time aside to review the plans for the first spacewalk.
Lopez-Alegria and Williams continued checks of their spacesuits and checks of the SAFER backpacks Friday. The SAFER backpacks are propelled by compressed nitrogen gas, and, during the checkout, the harmless gas was released, depleting the nitrogen in one unit below the usable quantity. Two other usable SAFER backpacks remain onboard, however, and the loss of the third unit does not affect plans for the upcoming spacewalks.
The crew took time out from their work on Monday to speak with television host Martha Stewart. Crew members also took time to field questions from two schools, one in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and another in Winnebago, Neb., by amateur radio.