2012-022A May 15, 2012
Pad, 1 Site 5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Republic of
September 17, 2012
85 km north of Arkalyk, Republic of Kazakhstan Soyuz-FG (serial number Л15000-041),
Soyuz TMA-04M (serial number 705) 30S
124 da 23 h 51 min 30 s
ISS resident crew transport (ISS-31/32)
PADALKA, Gennady Ivanovich, 54, Russian Federation Air Force (Retd.), RSA Soyuz TMA-M commander, ISS-31 flight engineer, ISS-32 commander, fourth flight
Previous missions: Soyuz TM-28 (1998), Soyuz TMA-4 (2008), Soyuz TMA-14 (2009)
REVIN, Sergey Nikolayevich, 46, civilian, RSA Soyuz TMA-M flight engineer, ISS-31/32 flight engineer
ACABA, Joseph Michael, 45, civilian, NASA Soyuz TMA-M flight engineer, ISS-31/32 flight engineer, second flight Previous mission-. STS-119 (2009)
Arriving at the station on May 17, which also happened to be Acaba’s 45th birthday, the Soyuz TMA-04M brought three new residents to supplement the three-member ISS-31 crew already on board the complex. Less than four hours after docking, the six astronauts and cosmonauts of the ISS-31 phase were together inside the station, progressing through the welcoming routines and ceremonies. They soon began concentrating on the more formal work schedule, which included receiving the first SpaceX Dragon unmanned supply vehicle on May 25.
By the time this mission flew, the Shuttle had been retired for about a year and media coverage of major launches and events had become sparse at best, coupled with the shift in emphasis of the program away from the “drama” of assembly to the more “mundane” scientific operations and resupply. True, there remained some further Russian components to be delivered to the station, but science and research now moved to the forefront. Even the promotional science
The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by Canadarm2.
material for the mission emphasized a “beehive of activity” for the crew, with delivery of new research facilities and testing for a new microsatellite deployment system.
There were over 240 experiments planned (over 80 of which were brand new), supported by over 400 investigators across the globe. In the Russian segment, there were to be 303 sessions covering 38 experiments, with cosmonauts planned to work on the experiment packages for over 350 hours across the ISS-31 and 32 phases. The experiments included human research, biological and physical sciences, technology development, Earth observation, and education. The NASA press packs included explanations of overlapping science studies beyond ISS-32 into the ISS-33 and 34 expeditions. For ISS-31/32, there were 201 separate investigations planned, of which 123 were brand new and 82 were NASA led. A further 118 were internationally supported research investigations.
On May 31, after 9 days 23 minutes docked with the station, the Dragon spacecraft was unberthed using Canadarm2 to begin its return to Earth. While the new spacecraft was docked with the station, the crew had unloaded over 1,1001b (499 kg) of fresh supplies and then refilled the vessel with over 1,3001b (590 kg) of hardware. This time, however, it would be returned to Earth rather than burned up in the atmosphere as with the other types of resupply craft.
On June 21, there was a double birthday celebration on board the ISS, as Padalka celebrated his 55th birthday in space and Kononenko his 48th. For
Padalka this was a very special celebration, as it was the third time he had marked his birthday in space (previously celebrated in 2004 and 2009). It was also the second such occasion for Kononenko, having previously celebrated his birthday in space in 2008.
During the final two weeks of June 2012, the ISS crew was accompanied in space, if in different orbits, by the first Chinese space station crew aboard Tiangong-1. This milestone was noted in the press, though there would be no direct communications between the two crews.
Padalka took over formal command of the station from Kononenko during June 29. A couple of days later, during the early hours of July 1, Soyuz TMA-03 undocked from the station, at which point Expedition 32 officially began. Following a light-duty weekend, the remaining station crew of three resumed their schedule, although there were further light-duty shifts for the July 4 U. S. Independence Day and the weekend of July 7/8.
On July 17, Soyuz TMA-05M docked with the Rassvet module bringing the three Expedition 33 crew members. For the first two months of their mission, they would serve as Expedition 32 flight engineers under the command of Padalka. With the crew readjusting to six-person operations again, the Japanese HTV-3 was launched on July 20, carrying almost 4 tons of supplies for the station. The latest cargo craft was grappled on July 27 by Canadarm2 and attached to the nadir port of Harmony.
While the crew brought the Japanese resupply craft in to the station successfully, they experienced difficulties in redocking the Progress M-15M spacecraft on July 24. M-15M had been undocked two days before and placed in a parking orbit and was due to attempt a redocking to test the new Kurs-NA system. The system failed at 9.3 miles from the station, so the unmanned resupply craft was “parked” a safe distance below the station while the failure was investigated. A second attempt was completed successfully, docking with the station in the early hours of July 29. The cause of the original failure was determined to be a fail-safe test which aborted the docking. Once the vehicle had been reattached to the station, Padalka dismantled the Kurs-NA avionics box and then stowed it aboard the Zarya module for later return to Earth for analysis. The Progress was undocked for a final time on July 30.
A new Progress, M-16M, docked with the Pirs module on August 2, delivering over 5,8001b (2600 kg) of cargo and propellant to the station. This was the 48th docking of a Progress to the station since August 2000. The difference with this flight was that the Progress took only four orbits (6 hours) to reach the station instead of the normal two days. This involved four very precise rendezvous maneuvers in the first 2 hours 40 minutes of flight, completed as a test for a proposed shortening of the journey to the ISS by Soyuz TMA-M flights in the hope of reducing the discomfort for the crew of two days in the cramped capsule. This new profile was not expected to be operational on manned flights for over a year.
For most of the month of August, the ISS crew kept busy with their science and preparations for the expedition’s first EVA. Performed by Padalka and Malenchenko, this took place on August 20 (for 5h 51 min) and featured the relocation of the Strela-2 cargo crane from the Pirs to the Zarya module. This was in readiness for the eventual undocking of Pirs to make room for the new Russian Nauka Multi-Purpose Laboratory. The cosmonauts also deployed a small TEKh-44 Sfera (“Sphere”) satellite by hand, which would be used for ground tracking tests over a two-to-five-month period to evaluate orbital debris and decay. The two cosmonauts also installed five micrometeoroid shields outside Zvezda, retrieved an exposure package, and installed support struts on the Pirs EVA ladder ready for relocation across to the Nauka module when it arrived. A second exposure experiment could not be retrieved, as the cosmonauts were unable to close the package enough for it to fit through the Pirs airlock hatch. It was left for a later crew to retrieve.
The Expedition 32 phase drew to a close in September, so while the three Soyuz TMA-04M crew members wound up their research and increased their conditioning routine for the return home, the other half of the crew prepared to take over prime command. They conducted two EVAs from the Quest airlock and supported the unberthing of Kounotori-3 from the station on September 12. The unmanned Japanese resupply craft, filled with 16.5 tons of unwanted material, performed a destructive reentry on September 14.
Five days after HTV-3 departed it was time to bid farewell to the TMA-04M crew, who undocked in the early hours of September 17 (Moscow time). They landed less than four hours later, after a 125-day mission. They had resided in the station for 123 days, of which they spent 43 days as part of the Expedition 31 crew and 78 days as the prime Expedition 32 crew. Formal handover of station command occurred on September 15 between Padalka and Sunita Williams.
By the end of the flight, Padalka had accumulated over 710 days in space, on three missions to the ISS and his visit to Mir in 1998/1999. This made him the fourth most experienced space explorer; he also had nine EVAs to his credit. During the post-landing press conference, Padalka (who is unlikely to fly a fifth mission) reportedly spoke openly about the condition of the Russian segment. He described the living conditions as sparse, noisy, cold, and overcrowded, with only one-seventh of the room afforded to the U. S. astronauts. It would not, he felt, be suitable for the proposed 1 yr missions that were being discussed for future expeditions. Some of these differences between the American and Russian segments, especially the noise levels, have been clearly revealed in recent video tours of the station. The noise levels differ noticeably as the guided tour passes from the American to the Russian segment and back again.
Clearly there remains much to do in creating a universal comfortable environment for a crew on long international expeditions. This needs to be addressed before we attempt to venture into deep space.
287th manned space flight 119th Russian manned space flight 112th manned Soyuz 30th ISS Soyuz mission (30S)
26th ISS Soyuz visiting mission 4th Soyuz TMA-M flight 31/32nd ISS resident crew
Acaba celebrated his 45th birthday (May 17—the day Soyuz TMA-4M docked with the ISS)
Padalka celebrates his 55th birthday (June 21)
Kononenko celebrates his 48th birthday (also June 21)
Padalka first three-time ISS commander