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Sun, Dec 25, 2005

ISS: Christmas In Space 2005

Report #63, 2 p.m. CST, Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

A holiday delivery arrived at the International Space Station Friday as an unpiloted Russian cargo ship linked up to the Pirs Docking Compartment filled with almost 3 tons of supplies and gifts for the Expedition 12 crew.

Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev will open the hatch to Progress once leak checks are completed later today. They plan to begin unloading its contents this weekend.

Automatically guided by its computers, the ISS Progress 20 cargo craft docked to Pirs at 1:46 p.m. CST as Progress and the station sailed 220 miles above the Atlantic off the east coast of South America. The Progress was launched Wednesday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The supplies include food, fuel, oxygen and air, clothing, experiment hardware, spare parts and holiday presents from the crewmembers’ families. The new Progress joins an older Progress 19 supply ship that arrived at the station’s Zvezda Service Module in September and will remain docked until early March, allowing its oxygen supply to be fully depleted and its cabin to serve as a trash receptacle.

Progress 20 holds 1,940 pounds of propellant for the Russian thrusters, 183 pounds of oxygen and air in tanks as a backup supply for the oxygen generated by the Russian Elektron system and 463 pounds of water to augment the supplies already on board. More than 3,000 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware, life support components and holiday gifts round out the cargo.

On Christmas Eve Saturday, McArthur and Tokarev plan to document various experiments in both the U.S. and Russian modules of the station. They will celebrate Christmas Sunday conversing with their families, viewing Earth from orbit and dining on packaged Russian foods, including fish and meat dishes, vegetables and pastries.

Earlier in the week, McArthur and Tokarev conducted routine servicing of environmental systems and filters and continued biomedical experiments. McArthur inspected seals around the hatches of the U.S. modules and downlinked educational videos demonstrating the differences between U.S. and Russian spacesuits, how to recycle materials on orbit and how the principles of Newton’s Laws of Motion affect life and work in the absence of gravity.

McArthur also operated the Capillary Flow-Contact Line and Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-3 (BCAT-3) experiments this week. Capillary flow is the key process used to move fluids in a microgravity environment. The Contact Line portion of the experiment examines the interface between the liquid and solid surface of the container. The experiment investigates capillary flows and flows of fluids in containers with complex geometries. Results could be used by designers of low-gravity fluid systems in future spacecraft. BCAT-3 examines the behavior of particles suspended in liquids in microgravity with potential commercial applications for the future.

The Elektron oxygen-generation system in the Zvezda module remains up and running on its primary pump. It will be deliberately shut down on Dec. 28 at which time the crew will burn Solid Fuel Oxygen Generation candles for two days to recertify that system. On Dec. 31, the remaining 43 kilograms of oxygen in the Progress 19 cargo craft’s tanks will be used for cabin repressurization until the tanks are empty.

McArthur discussed life and work on the station with newspaper reporters from his home state of North Carolina this week and answered questions about his mission with students at the Carman Park Elementary School in Flint, Mich.

On Christmas Day, Tokarev will conduct a ham radio discussion with operators at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, to pay homage to the memory of cosmonaut Gennady Strekalov, who died on Christmas Day 2004 at the age of 64. Strekalov was a veteran of five spaceflights.



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