Crew Unloads Cargo, Preps for Next Cargo Craft
The Expedition 34 crew unloaded cargo from a recently arrived cargo craft Wednesday while preparing for the arrival of another and conducted a number of science experiments in the unique microgravity environment of the International Space Station.
All three crew members on the U.S. side of the station - Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Chris Hadfield -- began the morning with the Reaction self test, a short reaction time task that allows the crew to track the effects of fatigue on performance, before moving on to the day's activities.
Ford spent the remainder of his morning refilling cooling loops in the Internal Thermal Control System in the Tranquility module. He then transferred the Fluid Servicing System to the Columbus module for the final day of this maintenance activity scheduled for Thursday.
Marshburn meanwhile replaced two manifold bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack. This facility, which includes an optics bench, combustion chamber, fuel and oxidizer control and five different cameras, allows a variety of combustion experiments to be performed safely aboard the station.
Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn services the Combustion Integrated Rack in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Hadfield worked throughout the day on several physics experiments focusing on the behavior of colloids -- microscopic particles suspended in a liquid. The Canadian Space Agency astronaut first set up a new sample in the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test science payload, homogenizing the sample and photographing the results after mixing.
Next, Hadfield operated the InSPACE-3 experiment, which examines colloidal fluids classified as smart materials, transitioning to a solid-like state in the presence of a magnetic field. The InSPACE-3 team believes the knowledge gleaned from this investigation may contribute to new technologies and new manufacturing processes based on the idea of having these nanoparticles act as self-assembling building blocks for larger structures.
Hadfield and Marshburn also packed various items into stowage bags for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, set to launch and rendezvous with the station in early March. The two flight engineers later joined Ford for an onboard training session to practice the robotic grapple and berthing of Dragon. When Dragon arrives at the station, the crew will use the 57.7-foot Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple the Dragon spacecraft and guide it to its docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module.
Meanwhile on the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineers Roman Romanenko and Evgeny Tarelkin spent much of their day unloading some of the 2.9 tons of cargo that arrived at the station Monday with the docking of the ISS Progress 50 cargo vehicle.
With the docking of the Progress completed, Romanenko removed the TORU control panel used to monitor Progress dockings and replaced it with a control panel for the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle, which is set to launch and dock to the aft port of the Zvezda service module later this year.
In the Zarya module, the first piece of the station launched in November 1998, Flight Engineer Oleg Novitiskiy spent his morning replacing a power supply system. Later he performed routine maintenance on the Elektron oxygen generator and the life-support system in Zvezda.