Image: Flight Engineer Suni Williams works with water tanks in the Progress 24 spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
The Expedition 15 crew members completed their first full week alone aboard the International Space Station since the departure of the previous crew on April 21.
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Suni Williams performed medical exams, science experiments, emergency drills and station maintenance.
Williams, who has been working aboard the space station since December, was informed Thursday that she will return to Earth with the STS-117 crew on space shuttle Atlantis, targeted for launch June 8. That shuttle mission will carry her successor, astronaut Clay Anderson, to the station to begin his duty as an Expedition 15 flight engineer.
The exchange of Anderson and Williams was originally planned for the STS-118 mission, now targeted for launch in August. However, that flight, first set to fly in June, had to be postponed after an unexpected hail storm damaged Atlantis' external fuel tank and delayed STS-117.
The Zvezda Service Module's engines were test fired on Wednesday in the first of a set of scheduled reboost maneuvers to optimize the station's docking opportunities with the ISS Progress 25 cargo craft in May and Atlantis in June. It was the first firing of the service module's main engines since Zvezda arrived in 2000.
The station's former occupants, Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, returned to Earth along with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi aboard their Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft on April 21. Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin will remain at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia for several weeks of post mission debriefing and rehabilitation.