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Sun, Mar 12, 2006

ISS Preparing For Visitors

2006 Report #10, 1 p.m. CST, Friday, March 10, 2006

The International Space Station crew's week included a robotic arm first and a docking communications test to prepare for a new European cargo ship set to launch next year.

Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev also repaired a cabin air analyzer and completed a scientific study of the effects of weightlessness on the muscles, joints and bones of the lower body.

For the first time, Mission Control, Houston, moved the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm by remote control from the ground for normal station operations. Previous remote operations of the arm had been done only as tests of that capability, but this week controllers used the arm to survey several exterior station components.

On Thursday and Friday, controllers used the arm's television cameras to view one of two integrated umbilical assembly mechanisms on the station's Mobile Transporter rail car. One umbilical was cut when an assembly malfunctioned in December 2005. They also checked a Destiny laboratory vent, used to dump carbon dioxide overboard, for contamination. Initial reports indicate the vent is clean. McArthur operated the arm for in-flight proficiency training on Wednesday.

McArthur repaired electrical connectors in the Major Constituent Analyzer, restoring the device to operation. The system is one of several used to monitor the composition of the station air, and it is needed to be used during an upcoming test of new spacewalk preparation procedures. With its successful repair, managers now plan to conduct the test of spacewalk preparations in early April. The test may be conducted while handover from the current crew to the Expedition 13 crew is under way aboard the complex.

McArthur wore specially instrumented cycling tights for a final session with the Foot-Ground Reaction Forces during Space Flight experiment (Foot) this week. The experiment investigates the differences in use of the lower extremities on Earth and in space. This week’s session completed the experiment, which began on Expedition 6. The data gathered will aid in understanding bone loss during long duration space missions and may help in developing methods to counteract that effect.

Tokarev performed a test associated with the automatic docking system for the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The European Space Agency unpiloted cargo carrier will have twice the capacity of the Russian Progress cargo craft. This week's test involved transmitting docking radio signals from the station to ground stations located in the Canary Islands and near Madrid, Spain.

Also this week, McArthur videotaped an educational demonstration of sleeping on the station and a typical morning routine.

The crew will soon begin preparing for a short trip away from their orbiting home. They plan to relocate their Soyuz capsule from the Earth-facing docking port of the station's Zarya module to an aft port on the Zvezda module. The flight will take about a half-hour on March 20 and will clear the Zarya port for the April 1 arrival of a new capsule carrying the next station crew.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/station

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