The newly enlarged crew of Team ISS sends New Year’s greetings welcoming in 2010 to all earthlings over this holiday weekend. “We thank you for your support and interest in this current chapter of human exploration and discovery. We wish you a very fruitful and happy New Year”.
New Year’s is one of the few holidays in common to everyone aboard the International Space Station. The current multicultural Expedition 22 staff comprises five cosmonauts and astronauts; 2 Russians, 2 Americans and 1 Japanese. The last three crew members arrived bearing Christmas presents and Santa on Dec 22.
ISS commander Jeff Williams (NASA) explained the New Year’s celebration in a special holiday message from space; “New Year’s Day is somewhat unique from many other holidays celebrated on ISS. Because we are an international crew, the allotment of about 8 designated holidays per year are shared among the different nationalities. Most of the holidays belong to one nationality represented on the crew and the traditions are shared with the other crewmembers. Of course, that provides a great opportunity to get another glimpse into the different cultures and traditions among us. New Year’s Day also provides that glimpse into the traditions of others but is unique in that everybody represented on board celebrates it at home. It is a common holiday among all the crewmembers”.
Caption: NASA astronaut and current ISS commander Jeffrey Williams, Expedition 22 commander, services the Advanced Plant Experiments on Orbit-Cambium (APEX-C) payload in the Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for ISS-2 (MELFI-2) in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Williams sent New Years’ greeting to all Earthlings on behalf of the entire crew of Expedition 22
Williams elaborated, “We will incorporate elements of everybody’s traditions into our day, particularly around the dinner table”. They will also have some time for snapping a few pictures and the most precious tradition of all. Each will have time allotted to spend with their families via video conference.
Nevertheless, even on their ‘official’ days off the crew must still conduct certain minimal maintenance chores to keep the orbiting outpost running smoothly as well as an exercise regimen to keep their own bodies running smoothly in the never ending weightless environment.
2009 was a year of great accomplishment for the ISS in terms of achieving significant milestones for assembly and science which started 11 years ago back in 1998. The 800,000 pound ISS is now 86% complete and saw the full activation of the European and Japanese science laboratories, Columbus and Kibo. The crew size was expanded to its full complement of six for the first time and all the international partners were represented. The inaugural voyage of Japans HTV cargo freighter was flawless. The Russians added the new Poisk module, essential for docking of Soyuz and Progress vehicles. Four Space Shuttle missions brought up the final set of power generating solar arrays, the last segments of Kibo, and a massive stockpile of numerous spares parts, living supplies including the COLBERT Treadmill and science research equipment essential for maintaining crew life support and scientific activities after the shuttle fleet is retired by year’s end or early 2011.
The year ahead in 2010 will be equally exciting as the final five shuttle flights complete the assembly of the ISS and the outpost transitions to the full science utilization for which it was designed. There is no word yet from the Obama Admisistration on possibly extending the shuttle program with one or more flights (see earlier report).
Shuttle Endeavour is set to rollout to launch pad 39 A on January 6 in preparation for a February 7 blastoff with the Tranquility and Cupola modules (See my earlier story). Watch for my on site rollout coverage at the Kennedy Space Center, weather permitting.
The work schedule for Expedition 22 ramps up quickly after the New Year’s break. To make way for attachment of Tranquility and Cupola, the crew must move a NASA docking port (Pressurized Mating Adapter PMA 3) on Jan. 5 which is currently attached to their intended docking port on the Unity connecting module. PMA 3 will be relocated to the earth facing port using the Canadian built Space Station Robotic Arm. Cosmonauts Suraev and Kotov conduct a spacewalk on Jan. 14 to complete the outfitting of the Poisk module and retrieve science hardware. Then on Jan 20, Jeff Williams and Max Suraev will fly the Soyuz spacecraft (TMA -16) that brought them to the station from its current location on the end of the Russian Zvezda service module to the new Poisk module.
NASA has created a downloadable 2010 International Space Station Calendar that describes the historic milestones of the assembly and science work being done at the outpost. The calendar is filled with great photos of the construction and of the crews that have lived aboard and a graphic describing all the components.
Caption: Expedition 22 crew members take a break from training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to pose for a crew portrait. From the left (front row) are NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, commander; and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, flight engineer. From the left (back row) are NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all flight engineers
Lead Image Caption: The International Space Station at New Year’s 2010 photographed by the STS 129 crew of shuttle Atlantis