The first plant tissue samples were taken from the Advanced Astroculture experiment inside the U.S. laboratory Destiny. Air, water, soil and plant samples will be brought back to Earth for scientists to study and will be compared to crops grown on Earth. The EarthKAM experiment completed its observations for this expedition and was deactivated Saturday after the digital camera took 425 pictures last week. The experiment has allowed middle school students on the ground to remotely take about 2,271 pictures of the Earth's geographical features from a vantage point 240 statute miles high. The last reading for the Hoffmann Reflex experiment was taken this week. This experiment measures the ability of the spinal cord to respond to a stimulus after being exposed to microgravity and may provide input to improve exercise during long spaceflight missions. Eight crewmembers from expedition crews have participated in this experiment. Only post-flight observations remain for the current station crew.
The crew began packing used and unneeded equipment into the Progress resupply vehicle docked to the aft end of the Zvezda service module. The Progress spacecraft will be jettisoned from the station Tuesday and will burn up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. A new Progress resupply vehicle will launch from the Baikanour Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan March 21 and will arrive at the station three days later.
An audit is taking place on board the station in preparation for the next space shuttle visit in April. Using an electronic inventory management system, station crewmembers are organizing equipment to enhance efficiency. When the space shuttle Atlantis docks to the space station next month, there will be a total of 10 crewmembers working throughout the spacecraft, now the size of a three-bedroom house, for almost a week.
Walz and Bursch also operated the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, to observe the exterior of the station via cameras located on the arm. The cameras focused on the claw-like latch cradle assembly mounted on the Destiny module. The crew also used the cameras to inspect the station's radiators and solar arrays. During STS-110 next month, Canadarm2 will be used to move the S-zero truss segment from the shuttle's payload bay to the latch assembly on Destiny to be installed during four planned spacewalks. Flight controllers on the ground continue to monitor the arm's operation after it experienced difficulties with the primary avionics system last week. The arm functioned successfully on the secondary system this week.