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Dragon Ops and Departure Preps

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Dragon Cargo Ops Continue as Crew Prepares for Departure

After successfully capturing the Dragon cargo capsule Sunday morning, the Canadarm2 is getting ready to ungrapple the vehicle and move to the Harmony node. The International Space Station’s robotic arm will be in position to grapple gear from Dragon’s external trunk on Wednesday.

Dragon delivered numerous science experiments and gear for NASA and its international partners. Dragon’s manifest consisted of 1,268 pounds of cargo. Two GLACIER science freezers were delivered one of which will come back aboard Dragon after being filled with experiments and biological samples for study on Earth.

› Read more about GLACIER

A total of 2,668 pounds of gear will be returned aboard Dragon, the first commercial cargo vehicle to visit the space station. Dragon will splashdown about 300 miles off the coast of Baja California for recovery by a SpaceX crew.

› Read more about the second SpaceX Dragon mission

As Dragon unpacking continues, the six-member crew is simultaneously pursuing science, maintenance and exercise aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn assisted Commander Kevin Ford as he participated in a periodic fitness evaluation to measure his cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health and performance. Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield configured the Microgravity Science Glovebox so he could set up the Coarsening in Solid Mixtures-2 experiment.

› Read more about Coarsening in Solid Mixtures-2

While Dragon resides at the station, three Expedition 34 crew members, Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, will be preparing to return to Earth March 14. When they undock in their Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft Expedition 35 will officially begin. Chris Hadfield will become station commander staying behind with Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko.

Cosmonauts Novitskiy and Tarelkin spent some time Monday preparing for their departure. Earlier, Novitskiy had some time for the Typology experiment which measures crew performance in space. Tarelkin also joined Romanenko as they recorded video for their home space agency, Roscosmos. All three cosmonauts continued their routine maintenance chores in the station’s Russian segment.

› Read more about Typology


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Departure Preps and Dragon Cargo Ops Aboard Station

With the removal of cargo from the pressurized section of the recently arrived SpaceX Dragon vehicle now complete, the International Space Station’s Expedition 34 crew turned its attention Tuesday toward mapping out a plan to refill Dragon’s cargo hold for the return to Earth.

Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn, who wrapped up unloading around 1,200 pounds of science cargo, station hardware and crew supplies from Dragon on Monday, tagged up with flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston to discuss the process for reloading Dragon with more than 2,600 pounds of experiment samples and equipment. Dragon is scheduled to depart the station on March 25 for a parachute-assisted splashdown 300 miles west of the coast of Baja California.

The three astronauts also participated in a debrief to evaluate the training they received for Sunday’s successful grapple of the Dragon spacecraft with the station’s 57.7-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2.

› Read more about the grapple and berthing of Dragon

Meanwhile, the robotics team at Mission Control maneuvered Canadarm2 for a survey of Dragon’s “trunk” -- its unpressurized cargo area – to prepare for the robotic extraction of grapple bars from the trunk Wednesday. The grapple bars will be removed and stowed on a payload attachment point on the Mobile Base System, which is a Canadarm2 work platform that moves along rails covering the length of the station.

The station’s crew also conducted science experiments and prepared for next week’s departure of three of its six crew members.

Marshburn performed an ultrasound scan on Hadfield’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.

Marshburn later donned medical monitors for an extended data collection session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. Researchers are studying the atrophy of the heart muscle that appears to occur during long-duration spaceflight in order to develop countermeasures to keep the crew healthy. The research may also have benefits for people on Earth with heart problems.

Ford joined Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin in the Russian segment of the station for a leak check of the Sokol suits as they continue to prepare for their departure from the station. The three are scheduled to land northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft at 11:57 p.m. EST on March 14 (9:57 a.m. Kazakhstan time, March 15), wrapping up 143 days in space, 141 days on the station.

The undocking of the Soyuz TMA-06M marks the end of Expedition 34 and the beginning of Expedition 35 under the command of Hadfield, who along with Marshburn and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko will remain on the station until May.

Three additional Expedition 35 flight engineers – NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin – are scheduled to join their crewmates following their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 28 on an accelerated, six-hour journey to the space station. The launch of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft will mark the first time this four-orbit flight profile has been attempted with a manned vehicle, but it has been used without issue for ISS Progress cargo vehicle launches since August 2012.

Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are currently at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where they continued their qualification simulation exams Tuesday in Soyuz and Russian segment trainer mockups.

› View video of Expedition 35 Soyuz qualification exams


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