March 24, 2006

Joe Pally
Headquarters, Washington
(202) 358-7239

James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(281) 483-5111



The Expedition 12 crew members have the International Space Station
poised and ready for their replacements to arrive March 31.

Soyuz Commander Valery Tokarev and Expedition 12 Commander Bill
McArthur moved their Soyuz spacecraft from the Zarya module to the
Zvezda living quarters module early Monday. They will use the same
vehicle to return to Earth April 8. This week’s move opened the Zarya
docking port for the arrival of the Expedition 13 crew.

The Expedition 13 crew, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer
Jeff Williams, are in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, awaiting launch. They are
scheduled to lift off at 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, March 29. Coverage
of the launch will be broadcast live on NASA TV beginning at 8:45

Managers reviewed preparations for the mission and approved moving
forward with launch at the Soyuz Flight Readiness Review on Thursday.
Although no spacewalk is planned from the station until July,
managers also reviewed issues with spacewalking capability. They
approved a temporary solution to allow a spacewalk if needed.

The concern with U.S. spacewalks surfaced when engineers found
blisters on handrail bars during production work on the ground. The
finding led to an ongoing evaluation to ensure the handrails’
strength is sufficient. The evaluation is expected to be completed by
the end of April. Meanwhile, the approved procedure for spacewalks,
if one were to be needed, involves attaching crew safety tethers at
the base of the handrails rather than on the bar of the rails.

Tokarev and McArthur also are continuing to look for Russian lithium
hydroxide canisters on the station. The canisters are used to scrub
carbon dioxide from Russian Orlan spacesuits and would be used if a
spacewalk required using those suits. Regardless of the outcome of
their search, a new supply of canisters will be carried to the
station on a Progress cargo vehicle in April, and the next spacewalk
planned using Russian spacesuits is set for August.

Vinogradov and Williams are planned to dock to the station at 11:19
p.m. EST next Friday. They will be joined by Brazil’s first
astronaut, Marcos Pontes, for launch. Pontes will spend eight days on
the station under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal
Space Agency and return home with McArthur and Tokarev.

After a day of light duty and rest Tuesday, McArthur and Tokarev
resumed normal operations, focusing on packing and preparing for the
trip home. They packed personal items as well as hardware and science
supplies that will return with them.

They also continued several science experiments that study plants in
weightlessness and crystal growth in space. The studies included work
with the Russian Matroshka and PLANT experiments and two Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency experiments, the Granada Crystallization
Facility and the Photon Crystals Growth Facility. McArthur
disassembled and stowed components from the U.S. Foot/Ground Reaction
Forces During Spaceflight experiment. The crew recently completed
that study which investigated the effects of weightlessness on the
legs and feet.

McArthur took time to talk with students during two amateur radio
sessions, one with the Sir James Lougheed Elementary School in
Calgary, Alberta, Canada and a second with more than a thousand
students in Rutigliano, Italy. McArthur has conducted 34 such
sessions with students during his six months in orbit, more than any
other station crew member.

The next status report will be issued after the March 29 Soyuz launch
or earlier if events warrant. Information about the crew’s activities
aboard the station, future launch dates, as well as sighting
opportunities is available on the Web at:


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