Four astronauts working to swap control of the International Space Station (ISS) between their two crews said Thursday that the process is going smoothly as they hit the midpoint of their work together.
After nearly six months of spaceflight, Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips are now in their fourth day of handover operations with the station's new crew - Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev.
"There are no serious problems," Tokarev told SPACE.com from orbit via a communications link, adding that the space station is in good condition. "Sergei and John worked really hard and did a lot of work to maintain the station."
Tokarev and McArthur arrived at the ISS on Oct. 3 with U.S. space tourist Gregory Olsen, and will spend about eight days preparing to take the station's reins. Krikalev and Phillips will return to Earth with Olsen on Oct. 10, though it will be early Oct. 11 local time in Russia when their Soyuz TMA-6 space capsule touches down.
Olsen is paying $20 million for his 10-day spaceflight, during which he will spend a week aboard the ISS. He is the third fare-paying visitor to the space station and is conducting three medical experiments for the European Space Agency, as well as Earth observation.
"It's going to be a facility that's going to serve science for many years to come," Phillips said of the space station.
As part of their joint activities, Phillips and McArthur worked earlier today to prepare part of the station's new Human Research Facility rack - which arrived aboard the space shuttle Discovery in July - for full science operations.
"I got to roll up my sleeves just a little bit today," McArthur said of that work, adding that he looks forward to using the new research station.
Every bit of new science hardware and space station construction is vital to human exploration of space, Krikalev said.
"Our [space] station construction is the biggest technical experiment...where we learn how to build the space station and how to create something different," Krikalev said. "I think this experiment is still going, and going well."
- Gregory Olsen: Third Space Tourist Aims for Orbit
- Image Gallery: Space Tourist Greg Olsen prepares for launch
- Complete Coverage: ISS Expedition 11
- Complete Coverage: ISS Expedition 12