Aug. 18, 2006

Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington

James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston



The astronauts aboard the International Space Station spent much of
their week preparing for the arrival of the Space Shuttle Atlantis,
set for launch Aug. 27 on the STS-115 mission.

Commander Pavel Vinogradov, Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer
Jeff Williams and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter of
Germany prepared for Atlantis to deliver a new section of the
station’s girder-like truss. During Atlantis’ mission, astronauts
will attach the new P3/P4 truss, a segment that includes a huge new
set of solar arrays and a giant rotary joint that allows the arrays
to track the sun. The mission will mark the resumption of station
assembly by delivering the first large new component to the station
since late 2002.

During the shuttle flight, Atlantis’ crew members will perform three
spacewalks to complete the installation and setup of the new segment.
The spacewalks will begin from the station’s Quest Airlock. Complex
robotics work is involved as the 17.5-ton, bus-sized truss section is
handed from the shuttle arm to the station arm for installation.

In preparation for Atlantis, the station crew trained on the robotic
Canadarm2 and packed items for return to Earth on the shuttle. They
also reviewed Atlantis’ mission timeline and trained to photograph
the shuttle’s heat shield as the orbiter does a backflip while
approaching the station. The crew also did several physiological and
psychological tests and experiments designed to learn more about how
humans react to long periods of weightlessness.

Early this week Williams worked with flight controllers and the
Dynamic Onboard Ubiquitous Graphics program on robotic arm
activities. The program simulates the arm’s operation for training.

Williams moved the arm from a base on the U.S. Destiny Lab to a power
and data grapple fixture on the mobile transporter, enabling the arm
to work at different sites along the main truss railway.
Subsequently, in an inchworm-like maneuver, the arm was moved to a
different grapple fixture on the transporter and used to inspect the
outboard end of the P1 truss, where the new segment will be attached.
The crew also reviewed installation procedures for the new segment
and Williams did spacesuit maintenance.

Throughout the week Vinogradov and Reiter worked on the Russian-German
Plasma Crystal experiment. The experiment examines the behavior of
tiny particles excited by high-frequency radio signals in a vacuum
chamber and functions by itself most of the time. It requires a crew
member to work with it, however, at some intervals during the day.

The EarthKam experiment was activated this week. EarthKam allows
students to request photos from space of specific locations on Earth
via email and later receive those photos electronically. The
remote-controlled camera has been used since October 2001.

The next station status report will be issued on Friday, Aug. 25. For
more about the crew’s activities and station sighting opportunities,