Because inclement weather would hinder recovery efforts at the landing zone northeast of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federal Space Agency has decided to postpone Thursday's landing of Expedition 34 and its Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft. The crew now will depart the International Space Station on Friday, March 15.
Russian meteorologists continue to monitor the weather across the Kazakh steppe.
Commander Kevin Ford of NASA, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Russian Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin are now scheduled to undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the station at 7:43 p.m. EDT on Friday, heading for a landing in Kazakhstan northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 11:06 p.m. They will have spent 144 days in space since launching from Kazakhstan Oct. 23.
When the Soyuz undocks, Expedition 35 will begin aboard the station under the command of Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency. On Wednesday, Ford ceremonially passed the helm to Hadfield, the first Canadian commander of the station. Hadfield and his crewmates, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, will tend to the station for two weeks until the arrival of three new crew members: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin.
NASA TV coverage of the Expedition 34 crew departure begins at 4 p.m. as the crew members bid their farewells and close the hatches between the vehicles at about 4:25 p.m. NASA TV undocking coverage begins at 7:15 p.m. Deorbit and landing coverage begins at 9:45 p.m. and will continue until the crew is safely in the medical tent at the landing site.
Ford spent his morning aboard the station performing an ultrasound scan on Marshburn's spine. It has been observed that astronauts grow up to three percent taller during their long duration missions aboard the station and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation is studying the impact of this change on the spine and advancing medical imaging technologies.
Afterward, Marshburn worked with the Capillary Flow Experiment. Results from this experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment, will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft.
Hadfield deployed two new air quality monitors to keep track of the station's atmosphere for the Environmental Health System. Later he will perform maintenance on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, which is a machine that allows the crew to perform weightlifting exercises in a weightless environment.
Hadfield will round out his day downloading data from experiments aboard the station to send the information to researchers back on Earth. First he will retrieve data from two smartphones that were paired up with a set of free-flying, bowling-ball sized satellites known as known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. Next, Hadfield will transfer data from the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures experiment, which investigates the rates of coarsening of solid particles embedded in a liquid matrix. Results from this study will give scientists new insight into the factors controlling the properties of all casted materials, from those used in jet turbine blades to automobile engine blocks.