Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev spent the last two days updating the Station's computers which keep track of all of the hardware used on board as part of an "inventory management system" designed to maintain files on where all of the crew's equipment is located.
Now in their 50th day in space and their 48th day aboard the ISS, Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev also conducted routine maintenance on environmental systems and communications gear as they near the midway point of their planned four-month mission.
The Elektron oxygen-generation system, the Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system and the air conditioning system are all working in excellent shape in the Zvezda living quarters to maintain a comfortable environment for the three crew members. Work is underway to determine how many spare parts for key Station systems will be delivered aboard the Shuttle Atlantis next month on the STS-98 mission to install the U.S. Laboratory Destiny to the ISS. Other spare parts are scheduled to be launched aboard the next Progress resupply ship to the Station, currently targeted for blastoff around February 10th.
The Expedition crew plans a quiet Christmas celebration in orbit next Monday, opening presents delivered on the last Progress vehicle and by Endeavour's astronauts earlier this month on the STS-97 mission. They will talk to their families in private conferences and enjoy a dinner of rehydrated turkey. Shepherd said yesterday the crew plans to spend a lot of time on Christmas simply looking out of the ISS windows at the Earth below.
This week, U.S. and Russian managers formally approved a plan for the redocking of the second Progress resupply ship to the ISS at around 5:00 a.m. Central time (1100 GMT) on December 26th. The Progress will be manually guided in by Gidzenko for its linkup to the Zarya module's nadir, or downward facing, docking port. Gidzenko will be operating a joystick at the Zvezda module's command post, which is part of the TORU, or telerobotically operated navigation system, as he flies the Progress in for its second docking to the Station.
Earlier today, Russian flight controllers executed the first is a series of engine firings on the Progress to begin drawing the vehicle back toward the ISS for its linkup. The firing occurred with the unmanned craft about 2300 kilometers in front of the ISS and was designed to raise the orbit of the Progress so that its closure rate on the Station would slow to about 40 kilometers per orbit, placing the Progress just 600 kilometers in front of the orbiting outpost this weekend. Additional engine firings are planned on Christmas Day and again in the morning on December 26 to refine the Progress' path to the ISS, ultimately placing the craft about 200 meters below the Zarya module's docking port, where Gidzenko will take over manual control of the approach of the Progress.
Once docked, the Progress will be used as a trash receptacle by Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev until it is undocked a final time the day after Atlantis' launch on the next Shuttle assembly flight to the ISS. The Progress was launched on November 16th from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and was manually docked to the ISS on November 18th By Gidzenko after its automated navigation system encountered a software problem. The Progress was undocked on December 1st after the launch of Endeavour and was placed in a parking orbit to allow Russian engineers time to devise a software patch to the automatic guidance system which will be tested during next Tuesday's rendezvous and redocking.
An Expedition One Mission Status Briefing is scheduled for Thursday, December 21 at 4 p.m. EST at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX to discuss the progress of the flight and upcoming activities for Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev. The briefers will include Lead Expedition One Flight Director Jeff Hanley and ISS Flight Director John Curry, who is overseeing the plans for the Progress redocking. The briefing will include a multicenter question and answer capability and will be broadcast on NASA Television, which can be found on GE-2, Transponder 9C at 85 degrees West longitude, vertical polarization, with a frequency of 3880 Mhz and audio of 6.8 Mhz.