April 7, 2006

Joe Pally
Headquarters, Washington
(202) 358-7239

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



Camaraderie and hard work highlighted this week’s joint operations on
the International Space Station. Aboard the complex, one crew
prepared for a return to Earth while another focused on taking the
helm in orbit.

Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev
and Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes head home Saturday, closing
hatches as they leave the station at 1:35 p.m. EDT. They will undock
their Soyuz spacecraft at 4:28 p.m. EDT. That sets the stage for a
deorbit burn at 6:58 p.m. EDT to drop the 15,000-pound spacecraft out
of orbit. The Soyuz will parachute to a landing at 7:48 p.m. EDT on
the steppes of Kazakhstan. All landing events can be seen live on
NASA Television and

Expedition 12’s homecoming preparations began in earnest after last
week’s arrival of the 13th station crew, Commander Pavel Vinogradov
and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams, who arrived with Pontes, Brazil’s
first astronaut. Pontes will have spent eight days on the station
conducting experiments as part of a commercial agreement with the
Russian Federal Space Agency.

This week began with a partially completed “campout” by McArthur and
Williams in the Quest Airlock. The planned overnight stay in the
airlock tested procedures that can shorten the time needed to prepare
for future spacewalks.

Quest was sealed off from the rest of the station at 6:45 p.m. EDT
Monday with McArthur and Williams inside, and its air pressure was
later lowered to 10.2 pounds per square inch. The rest of the station
remained at the normal air pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch.
An overnight stay at the lower air pressure helps purge nitrogen from
the body, a necessary step to avoid decompression sickness. McArthur
and Williams were awakened four hours into their sleep in the airlock
by an error tone.

The tone was generated by software that monitors the composition of
air on the station. Flight controllers opted to end the campout test
Tuesday at 12:43 a.m. EDT, open the airlock hatch to the station, and
allow the crew to go back to sleep. Despite the glitch, all of the
test objectives were achieved. Engineers are reviewing data to
determine whether changes are needed to use the technique during the
STS-115 shuttle mission later this year. Engineers could decide to
repeat the test at another time.

On Wednesday, Williams trained with the station’s robot arm,
Canadarm2. Late this week, McArthur briefed Williams on payload
operations in the Destiny laboratory while Tokarev, the Soyuz
commander, stowed equipment and payloads in the Soyuz for the trip
home. Tokarev also reviewed procedures for the undocking, entry and
landing with flight controllers at the Russian Mission Control Center
outside Moscow.

NASA TV’s Public, Education and Media channels are available on an
MPEG-2 digital C-band signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72
degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical
polarization. In Alaska and Hawaii, they’re on AMC-7 at 137 degrees
west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal
polarization. For digital downlink information and links to streaming
video, visit:

Information on the crew’s activities aboard the space station, future
launch dates, and station sighting opportunities are available at:

The next status report will be issued Saturday night, April 8,
following landing of Expedition 12 and its Soyuz spacecraft.


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