Expedition 14 crew members Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin, and Williams transferred space station systems to automatic control (in case they could not return to the station) in preparation for their short flight on Thursday (March 29) to move a docked spacecraft. Then, flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin piloted the Russian Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft for 24 minutes as it was moved from the Earth-facing Zarya module to the aft Zvezda module.
Earlier, on Tuesday, a Russian Progress 23 cargo ship had been undocked from the aft Zverzda port (so the Soyuz craft could later dock) and sent to de-orbit and disintegrate over the Pacific Ocean later that day.
The Progress 23 ship was the issue of quite a stir later that week when Chilean and New Zealand aviation officials thought it had come close to a Chilean commercial airplane while it was descending into the atmosphere. See ITwire article “NASA doubts falling Russian space debris was at fault for scaring Chilean plane”.
The Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft needs the Zarya module for its docking procedure when it arrives on April 9th.
Later that day, the crew re-entered the space station and reactivated its systems for regular control.
The space station crew also conducted the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) experiment. SPHERES was designed and built by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Space Systems Laboratory in order to provide NASA and the U.S. Air Force with a technology to handle missions involving the distribution and docking of satellites.
The experiment involves three 8-inch diameter spherical satellites (what are called microsatellites or spheres, which can be controlled with respect to their relative positions and orientations to each other. The battery-powered satellites use carbon dioxide as a fuel for 12 thrusters to control their flight as they fly within the space station cabin. The Saturday experiment was the first for the SPHERES project, and was deemed a success.
Expedition 15 Russian commander Fyoder Yurchikhin and Russian flight engineer Oleg Kotov, along with spaceflight participant and U.S. businessperson Charles Simonyi, are preparing for their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome onboard Russian Soyuz TMA-10 on April 7th.
For additional information about the Expedition 14 and 15 crew members, along with other facts about the space station, please visit NASA’s station Web site at: http://www.nasa.gov/station.