Expedition 7 overview
Posted: April 24, 2003

The next crew to live and work aboard the International Space Station is scheduled to launch 0354 GMT April 26, 2003, aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to replace two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut who have been living and working on the ISS since November.

Russian Commander Yuri Malenchenko, a Russian Air Force colonel, and NASA International Space Station Science Officer and Flight Engineer Edward Lu, will launch on the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft for a two-day flight to dock to the nadir port of the Zarya Control Module of the ISS. Once on board, Malenchenko and Lu will conduct up to six days of handover activities with Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and ISS Science Officer Don Pettit.

Malenchenko and Lu will assume formal control of the station at the time of hatch closure before the Expedition 6 crew undocks its Soyuz TMA-1 craft from the station's Pirs Docking Compartment. With Budarin at the controls of TMA-1, Bowersox and Pettit will become the first U.S. astronauts to land in a Soyuz vehicle in the steppes of north central Kazakhstan to wrap up more than five months in orbit. The TMA-1 craft was delivered to the ISS last November, just a few weeks before Bowersox, Budarin and Pettit arrived.

Bowersox and Pettit will remain at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, for initial physical rehabilitation and debriefings for about two weeks after landing and their return from Kazakhstan, which should occur about eight hours after touchdown.

Malenchenko and Lu are expected to spend about six months aboard the ISS. After the Columbia accident on Feb. 1, 2003, the ISS Program and the international partners determined that the station would be occupied by only two crewmembers until the resumption of shuttle flights because of limitations on consumables.

Malenchenko, a veteran cosmonaut, was commander of the Mir 16 mission in 1994 and served on Atlantis' crew on STS-106 in September 2000, preparing the International Space Station for its first permanent crew. Malenchenko performed a 6-hour, 14-minute spacewalk with Lu on that mission to connect power, data and communications cables to the newly arrived Zvezda Service Module. Lu, a research physicist, began his astronaut training in 1995, and has flown in space twice.

There are no scheduled spacewalks planned during Expedition 7, and no station assembly tasks scheduled until shuttle flights resume.

Once the Expedition 6 crew has departed, the Expedition 7 crew will settle down to work.

Station operations and station maintenance will take up a considerable share of the time of the two-person crew. But science will continue, as will science-focused education activities and Earth observations.

Experiments make use of the microgravity environment in the Destiny laboratory and the orientation of the station to conduct investigations in a variety of disciplines. Those fields include life sciences, physics and chemistry, and their applications in materials and manufacturing processes. The station also studies the Earth -- its environment, climate, geology, oceanography and more. Indeed, Earth observations are expected to occupy a relatively large share of this crew's time for scientific activity. The crew is scheduled to devote nearly 200 hours to U.S., Russian, and other partner research during its stay on orbit.

The science team at the Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will operate some experiments without crew input and other experiments are designed to function autonomously. Together, operation of individual experiments is expected to total several thousand hours, adding to the more than 100,000 hours of experiment operation time already accumulated aboard the station.

In addition, some Expedition 6 science activities will be continued. Many of the Expedition 7 Russian science experiments were delivered on Progress 10, which docked to the International Space Station Feb. 4.

Among Expedition 7's most important functions will be to provide motivation and inspiration for today's youth, the next generation of explorers. These young people will add to human knowledge using information space station science will provide, taking us further and further into yet uncharted scientific waters.

This crew will build on the education efforts of Expedition 6 NASA ISS Science Officer Pettit, whose explanations and activities from his "Saturday Morning Science" demonstrations focused on physical phenomena in microgravity, and became a popular part of NASA Television's portrayal of ISS activities during the increment. Lu is expected to continue those demonstrations, taking advantage of available time on orbit.

Malenchenko and Lu will oversee the upgrade of one or two new software packages on the station. This new ISS software is scheduled to be installed in early summer and later this fall. The first upgrade will bring the station to the configuration needed to accept new truss segments beginning with the STS-115/12A mission. The second will bring the station to the STS-116/12A.1 software configuration, and supports additional data flow from experiments to the ground. Performing these software upgrades now will allow bonus time to test the software before the assembly elements are installed.

Also on the crew's agenda is work with the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2. Robotics work will focus on observations of the station's exterior, maintaining operator proficiency, and completing the schedule of on-orbit checkout requirements that were developed to fully characterize the performance of the robotic system.

Two unmanned Progress cargo craft are scheduled to dock with the ISS during Expedition 7, bringing food, water, clothing, personal items, fuel and equipment to the station. Progress 11 is scheduled for launch in early June. Progress 12 is to be launched in late summer. Another ISS first will occur with the docking of Progress 11, placing three Russian vehicles at the station at the same time. Progress 10 remains docked to the aft port of Zvezda, while the Soyuz TMA-2 will be docked to Zarya, leaving the Pirs Docking Compartment available to receive Progress 11.

Periodic routine reboost of the station can be controlled with the Progress which is attached to Zvezda.

The first visitors Malenchenko and Lu will likely see will be their replacements, Expedition 8. That crew is scheduled to be launched aboard Soyuz TMA-3 in October. After about a week of joint operations, Malenchenko and Lu will return to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-2 that brought them to the station.

Flight Tasks (in descending prioritized order):
These tasks, listed in order of International Space Station Program priority, are to be executed during this flight. The order of execution for these tasks in the nominal plan may vary depending on timeline efficiencies.

  • Dock Soyuz TMA-2 to the Zarya nadir port
  • Rotate Expedition 6 crew with Expedition 7 crew, transfer mandatory crew rotation cargo, and perform mandatory tasks consisting of the safety briefing
  • Perform minimum crew handover of 12 hours per crewmember
  • Transfer critical items
  • Undock Soyuz TMA-1 from Pirs Docking Compartment
  • Return critical equipment on the Soyuz TMA-1 capsule
  • Perform Expedition Crew Station Support Computer (SSC) software loads
  • Perform experiments under the scientific and applied research program
  • Perform photo/video imagery of the ISS Russian Segment
  • Perform PAO events and commemorative activities
  • Perform an additional four hours per crewmember of ISS crew handover (16 hours per crewmember total)
  • Perform communications with the Russian MCC (Soyuz vehicle and ISS)