Week 2 – Comings and Goings….

Hi Everyone!!!

Another exciting week in space! People always ask if it gets boring up here – well I can unequivocally say NEVER!  It seems like something is always happening.  We were cracking up the other day thinking about all the activities we do in one day and how they can range from vacuuming, to changing out the toilet can, to drawing blood, taking acoustic measurements, to ultra sounding your heart, to capturing an HTV, to unpacking and repacking, to doing a SPRINT exercise, to doing a spacewalk!  It seems busy when you put it all on paper, but it is really just a lot of fun.  This week we did lots of science while vehicles were coming and going – it doesn’t get much better!!!!

We left off last Sunday with 47 Progress leaving.  She was supposed to have returned early Tuesday morning.  However, her automatic systems were not acting correctly so she didn’t dock and we left her out in front of us for the rest of the week while we got ready for HTV to approach.  HTV came up from behind and below us to be in position for “capture” by Joe and Aki.  They “grabbed” her with the robotic arm Friday and then we got her bolted on.  Saturday morning we opened the hatch and starting emptying her out – it was like Christmas!!!!  We all got some treats, Aki got Japanese food and we even got some spiders (more on that later).  Then, early Sunday morning 47Progress came back again and made a perfect automated docking.  Although she is pretty much filled up with trash, the Russian boys had to go in there and take out a proximity system – I am sure it was sort of stinky. See the pictures:

The Grab – HTV

Luring her in – Gennady and Yuri monitor 47 P approach.

She still Loves us – Progress 47P docked again

Regarding She still Loves us – Progress 47P docked again,  I mentioned this saying – if you love something you let it go and see if it loves you back – well, 47P came back, she loves us.  We will “free” her again this week – we don’t want her back this next time..we want her sister, 48P.

Geo quiz –
Congrats to Mary Louise for correctly identifying the Hawaiian islands!  Yes, dad’s winter home is paradise!  I can’t wait to go back there for some R&R next year.  Kiha and company get ready!
This week’s quiz isn’t one of my best pictures.  We have been busy so I haven’t had much dedicated window time and I will confess, my space photography skills are not where they need to be – I am working on it but this darned planet turns and we fly over it so fast…excuses, excuses….

This week’s geo quiz

One hint about this one which should make it easy – as quoted by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister (in the new Olympic sport of verbal jousting) about this place.  It’s easy to hold an Olympics “in the middle of nowhere”.

Things we did this week –
SPRINT – exercise protocol which consists of sprinting workouts on the treadmill, 8 x 30 seconds sprints, 6 x 2 min sprints, or 4 x 4 minutes sprints.  These really kicked my butt and got my heart rate up in the 180s.  This protocol also involves heavy lifting, but we are still trying to figure out the right amount of weight to do these sets with.  The ARED is amazing.

I promised a picture so here it is in ARED above.  It can do bar exercises and rope exercises.  It is free floating so we don’t put loads into the ISS, just like the treadmill and the bike.  If they didn’t have vibration isolation systems associated with the exercise equipment, the ISS would feel lots of stresses, particularly on the solar arrays which are huge and “outboard.”  Hence a huge moment arm of force would cause them to be damaged.

Ultrasound and lots of it.  We ultrasound our hearts for ICV both resting and during exercise (Joe and I did this this week).  We ultrasound our legs to see muscle size and development for SPRINT (I did this this week).  We ultrasound our carotid artery, our portal vein and gall bladder, our kidney arterial and veins, our femoral artery and our tibial vein.  These are for an experiment  called vessel imaging where we take a sweep and the investigator can make a 3d image of parts.  Pretty cool to look inside ourselves!!!!  I didn’t see anything I wasn’t supposed to see…

Acoustic tests on us and different parts of the ISS to record the amount and types of noises we hear all day long.

General maintenance and organization of the ISS.  We had to clean house and organize (like mom does) before our we get a bunch more stuff – HTV is here so we have to make room for all of her stuff too!!!!

Reviewed of all emergency equipment and, just like in elementary school, we had a fire drill.  We went through all our procedures to make sure we know who was doing what and how the control centers would act and help us.

And finally, lots  of preparations for HTV.  Cleaned up the cupola and installed computers, reviewed our procedures and practiced on our simulator we have here as a crew of three.  Everyone has a role and responsibility and it is best to make sure we all know what we are expecting.  We practiced all this on earth before we came up here, but the real robotic arm and the real vehicle make you want to practice a little more before it all happens.

HTV!!!!  She came in close and just stopped!  It was amazing!  JAXA is awesome.  The vehicle is beautiful.  Joe drove the arm perfectly over the grapple pin and we grabbed her.  It was awesome.  Then, the ground “flew” HTV with the robotic arm close to the docking port.  Aki took over from there and “mated” the HTV to the docking port.  Me and the ground drove the latches and bolts (thru computer commands ) to connect the HTV to the ISS.  Next we had to pressurize the vestibule between the docking port hatch and the HTV hatch so we could open them both and get in.  Lots of pressure checks and time to make sure there isn’t any leaks!   See The Grab above.

All was good on Friday night, no leaks!  So right away on Saturday we opened the hatch to HTV and started unloading.  One of the first things we unstowed was a payload which was the winner of a contest put on by YouTube, Google and Spacehab.  Kids from all around the world submitted experiments in a 1 .5 minute Youtube video.  There were thousands of submissions.  Two were lucky enough o come to the ISS and be tested by US!  So, we pulled out the first one (which had to be pulled out rather soon because…) which was jumping spiders.  We have 2 up here in their habitats.  One Zebra and one Red Backed.  The spider-nauts did a great job thru launch and their first days in space.  They seem to be adapting (like I know what that feels like for a spider).  But their food, the fruit fly-nauts inside seemed to be having a slightly more difficult time.  “flying” by flapping your wings doesn’t quite work up here.  They were flapping around like crazy and just floating.  They were sort of bouncing off the glass, but could cling on to the wood which makes up the wall of the habitat.  Very interesting to watch.  I was thinking if this is what they had planned for their lives…”I was happily sitting on a rotten banana, then someone grabbed me, put me in a box, launched me on a rocket (in the dark I might add), and now I am floating around trying to fly.  Not only that, I see a huge spider in the other chamber just waiting to eat me! I had a different version of my life in mind when I was on that rotten banana…”

See Pretty Spider above.

Okay, really, – now finally – this morning we all got up to see our long lost friend 47P come back to us.  Gennady and Yuri were ready at the controls just in case they needed to fly it in manually.  You can do that remotely from the ISS which is pretty cool.  In fact on Yuri’s first flight to MIR he had to do this for another Progress.  Both Gennady and Yuri are pros at this stuff.  It was fun watching them!  See Luring Her in and She loves us above.

Exercise –
In the meantime, Aki and I have ramped up our exercise and are doing our now regular 2 times a day of workouts – one aerobic, one resistive with “weights”  The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, ARED, allows us to really get a good workout for things like squats and dead lifts.  These are most important because we immediately start losing bone and muscle mass up here.  This device has been awesome since it got here. It works on the concept of pushing against a vacuum and it is very effective.  I have been really sore, like a good workout in the gym with this device.  See picture ARED above.

Food –
Last time I mentioned that space food is space food and it is good up here.  Well, I must be getting used to it because I didn’t lose any weight these first two weeks.  In fact, I think I gained a little…wondering why???

See picture above Gaining Weight.  This is how we measure ourselves.  I know I showed you guys a similar picture last time.  It is essentially measuring the momentum of our mass and telling us our “weight”.  This is a Russian machine that was worked for years and is pretty reliable.  We have a version on the US side as well.  I will show you that one for a comparison next week since take it for a “ride” in the upcoming week.
I must also be getting used to space food and HOW to eat it again, because I am getting more and more comfortable with mixing things.  This isn’t always an easy proposition in space,  Yes, stuff sticks together, but it isn’t like you have these things on a plate, you have to meticulously and tenderly put stuff together so it doesn’t fly away.  It is Sunday, we had most of the day off, so I had time to work my magic and imitate a Sonic Breakfast Burrito.  Not as good as a greasy breakfast from Sonic or Starlight (in Moscow), but not bad either.

That, along with some Kona coffee with cream and sugar (in a bag) was quite satisfying this morning!

Some general thoughts and questions –
I know this email is pretty long.  Sorry about that.  I am just making notes for myself as well as for all of you.  I want to remember everything we did up here.  What an experience to have.  Like I said last time – it is the same, but very different.  We have such a great crew – 6 is certainly different than 3.  I love hanging out with all of these guys.  We all have different personalities, but everyone has a great sense of humor.  That is essential to live in an environment like this.  No one is easily offended and everyone is upfront and straight forward.  It is a great team – and I am including our ground teams as well.  We have a great flight control team starting from our flight directors on down.  I couldn’t be in a better place!

I’ll work on questions in another email this week.  Again, please send them.  I am compiling them and will try to answer all of them for the group.

Thanks again for tuning in!!!

Ps we do having streaming video at times of the Olympics!  Joe is thinking about doing the ”iron cross”  from here and me and Aki are working on our synchronized swimming routine!


Something is following us . . .

We hope to “catch” it today.  It is HTV, the Japanese vehicle!!!!  Maybe it has sushi and saki!!!!

For my Navy friends, it reminds me of UNREP – underway replenishment.

She is 250 meters now…getting bigger…

Week 1 – We made it. Fun in the big hotel!!!!

Hi everyone!!!!!

We are here!  I can’t believe it sometimes.  I have to pinch myself.  Wow, what a ride here, what a place to end up.  I am so lucky and blessed to be doing the things I am doing, but you guys are why we are here.  I hope, and truly  believe, that what we are doing up here in space will eventually help all of humanity through exploration, innovation, education and to kindle the spirit of curiosity we all have to find out/figure out things we don’t know!

Although this is my second time living up in space, it is totally different this time.  Not only is the station bigger and there are more people, the activities are different – science is king, logistics are totally different with visiting vehicles, the core systems of the “laboratory” are built and stable allowing us to live and work with a little more regularity.  Some things remain the same – cleaning up, cleaning and working on the toilet, planning for trash, taking out the trash, restocking the “shelves”, computer maintenance – but these are things that are common to any business or organization as well – I guess you call it overhead.  There is lots of that, so we are a “jack of all trades” up here which is sort of nice.  Keeps us busy!

Cleaning on Saturday morning

Also, I wanted to thank everyone who went to the “launch parties” and especially to those who made them happen.  Bryan, Dan and the Admiral at Mass Maritime, thank you so much for Massachusetts..  David, John, Father Kumis, Bill Azman, Jeff Widmar, the ladies at the Church, Mike and Wheels, thank you so much for Cleveland  Tracy, Mike Fincke  and of course our LOVELY Suzanne – thank you for Houston.  I am psyched everyone had a good time!

Geography quiz:

Easy!  Of course I have swam here, surfed here, snorkeled here, tried to spear fish here…

Geography quiz

A big ALOHA to Kiha and all our friends there!!!!!!  We were lucky to fly directly overhead and then later off to the side (earth is turning…).

Also had a great pass over Europe starting with England, France, Italy, southern Greece, Crete, Cairo, down the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, Somalia and southward.  Clear day today except the sand storm coming off of the African coast.  It looked like a bulldozing of sand flowing over the Arabian Sea.

Things we did this week:

It’s Sunday night on the ISS, HTV is coming toward us, we just released 47 Progress –it’s getting to be a traffic jam in space!

Getting ready for this upcoming week!!!!  Of course we arrived and that was exciting to see our awesome station from the inside.  Aki and I could see it thru our window in the Soyuz as we approached.  The Soyuz felt small at that time in relation to the ISS…

Tonight we let go of Progress 47 so we had to work late on Friday to get it closed up and ready to leave.  It will come back in 2 days…I will write about that in the next email, but it is a test of the a new KURS, promiximity system.

Joe and Aki did a lot of robotics practice to get ready for HTV, the Japanese vehicle, which will be here on Friday.   See picture of Robotic arm above, from the Cupola.

Robotic arm

HTV launched from Tanigashima, an island off of Japan, yesterday – Saturday and will be here on Friday for us to “catch” with the robotic are.  I am third wheel and have a lot less responsibilities in the actual capture than those two so I got to do other things this week.  We call these “free flyers” and it is a totally new concept for logistics delivery since last time – no more shuttles for logistics so “this is how we do it..”

BASS – burn experiments in the microgravity glove box – checking out how combustion and fire work with different materials in space.  Pretty intense photo documentation which is done in conjunction with the investigator in Cleveland Ohio.

Revesible Figures – ESA experiment on how one perceives shapes and motions in space while floating.  I looked sort of funny with a 3d looking headset on floating in the Columbus module with a mouse…but it is pretty neat.  It is like the picture of the pretty lady and the old lady in one – depends how and what your brain picks up on.

Reaction Self Test – done pretty soon after we get here to check our reaction times.

WINSCAT – another reaction type test.  But this one is to see differences in motor skills, perception, reaction time in case we bump our heads.  Gives us a good idea if we are functioning okay.

Integrated Cardio Vascular – intense monitoring of our cardio vascular system with Holter monitor and Cardio Press – you can see it on the CEVIS photo.  I was wired!!!

General moving in.  We had to find our clothes, get our computers started up with email, etc,   And There is a new toilet!!!  It is pretty similar to the Russian one that is still here, but has that added feature of turning pee into water.  It is great!!!!  Surely better than the Soyuz toilet in which it is best to moderate your “flow” – suction on that vehicle is a little less than here.  It is simply amazing how much fluid you (well, maybe just me) lose right away.  We simply don’t need it, so I peed quite a bit for a couple days.  I think I am evened out now.  You can also see the fluid shift in peoples faces.  We get rounder and rounded for a while until we are all evened out.  The sleep stations are pretty cool too.  4 of us sleep in Node 2, all adjacent to each other – remember you can use the floor and the ceiling too.  I am on the floor – it is sort of like a coffin.  2 sleep in the Russian segment sleep stations.

We are just starting out getting used to everything again.  It is amazing how much your muscles change in just a couple days.  I knew this so I quickly jumped on the treadmill, T2 aka COLBERT on the second day I was here.  Wow, that felt funny, even my feet felt funny.

The lifting maching ARED is awesome.  I got warmed up on it on the third day and did a full lifting session today.  IT is just like working out at the gym at home.  It iis right below the cupola and we have a laptop with iTunes on it nearby.  I got up early this morning, cranked the tunes, looked out the window and had a great lift.  Pictures of it will be next week.


CEVIS, an Old Friend pictured above, or the bike, is the same one that was here when I was here last time.  It is an old reliable friend.  I got on it yesterday and a little today to go thru the exercise test and see how my leg  strength is.  Not to bad for an old lady – I made it thru the protocols without too much effort.  As Wingnut knows, Biking is the weakest part of my triathlon, so I think I will work on it when I am here.   IN the picture I  was wearing ICV, integrated cardio vascular, equipment that we will download this week for the investigators to look at.  I have a Holter monitor on as well as a Cardio Press on my left hand.  I think my heart is in pretty good condition – at least that is what one of the Russian managers said during our welcome to the ISS (very interesting comment and I was told about it by a couple different people – I guess I was pretty calm during the launch).

Space Food is good in space!  Eating it on the ground is torture since there are so many good things to eat at home, but here, it is great.

I just ate standard menu things.  As I get more creative, or if you have questions about food, I will elaborate more.

I’ve been hungry and I I have been eating like a horse!

Last thoughts and questions:
The cupola is awesome.  I was hanging out in there yesterday evening and I felt like I was in 20,000 Leagues under the sea with the sea of stars and the glow of the earth below.  Remember how Capt Neemo had great windows in the movie, that is what it felt like.  I had been there in the day and I kept looking around at the bottom of the ISS, because it is really cool too, but at night you can’t help but look out!!!  What an awesome set of windows.

Earlier in the week Joe pointed our the southern Lights.  I had seen a lot of “flashes” before going to sleep on the Soyuz and since I have been here.  No wonder there was some solar activity just recently and that made the flashes and the intense Southern lights.  Pretty cool to see.  To me they seem a little more flowing than last time when I saw Northern Lights.  I remember Northern Lights as more active and intense, the Southern Lights seemed to flow.  I don’t know enough about magnetism and solar activity to make anything out of my observations and memory.  If anyone knows anymore about this chime in.

Working a lot, you forget where you are…Friday was a full day and I sort of didn’t even remember we were in space, just getting stuff done, one thing after another.  Having a real weekend has been nice.  It reminds me of where I am and what we are doing – not just going to work without a commute.  This is real space stuff and it is cool!

People have emailed me and asked a couple questions already!  That is totally cool!

1)      How does it feel to be in space again?  Does it seem familiar?
Overwhelming yes!  It feels like I never left.  People had told me in the past that your body somehow remembers this state.  I didn’t know that last time since it was my first flight.  But this time, it felt like I as at home immediately.  Even in the Soyuz where we coast in a “solar spin” which is sometimes “provocative” (no, not that type of provocative, the medical type that means you can easily get sick) I felt fine.  During those days on Soyuz people recommend that you sleep with your head toward the hatch between the descent module and the living module since that is closer to the center of the spin that the walls.  I slept like that the first night, but after that, Aki and I hung out on the walls in the living compartment – the part that spins the most – and we both felt fine.  Coming into the ISS was like coming home, although there had been a couple additions since I was here last.

2)      How was the Soyuz ride?  Was it cramped?  Can you go into the bulb thing on the top?
The Soyuz ride was really fun and yes, the bulb thing in the  “living” compartment.  There is a “sofa” there – but you don’t really need to sit and it was full of equipment we were bringing to the ISS.  There is also water, food and a toilet.  We try not to go number 2 in the Soyuz if possible. That is garbage that you have to live with for the 2 days that you are in orbit…hmmm…not so nice.  The food is all Russian; cans of meat and fish, cheese, cookies and juice in little juice boxes.  It was like camping.  We had a lot of time between “burns” for our rendezvous, so we slept a lot, eat our food and used the toilet.  Of course we chatted and laughed.  Luckily Dina brought me a Suduko book, so I ripped out a couple pages, put them in my flight books and did a couple puzzles in my free time.

Lastly – just a reminder that there is no beer up here!!!!!  We are working out and not drinking until the end of November.  I am challenging all of you to join us!!!  We promise to have a huge party when we get back to sort of make up for all these months!

Thanks again for tuning in to the space commentary.

Loving life!


About 24 hours from now…

We should be in space!!!

Tradition toast with the heads of agencies after the final commission in which they “bondafide” us and the rocket.

Agat is loaded.  She’ll be tanked soon and we arrive at her doorstep in hours.

Over and out from the Cosmonaut hotel.  Next time you hear from me via email, we’ll be on the  International Space Station.!!!!


The business end

Today we had our final fit check!!!  Next time we see the vehicle it will be on the launch pad!

We got to go into the space craft one last time to check it out, see where are stuff is stowed and make sure everything is where we want it.  “Agat” is beautiful.  I refer to her as Agat since that is Yuri’s call sign.  If you watch the launch on NASA TV you will most likely hear using his callsign on the radio.  Yuri is Agat 1, I am Agat 2 and Aki is Agat 3.  Right now the capsule (and covering)  is not mated to the booster and she is standing upright.  They will turn her on her side to be moved and mated.  The picture attached is “our” booster – the business end!  You can see it is on it’s side and is ready for the capsule.  The entire stack will stay on its side and be “rolled out” to the launch pad on Thursday!

“Our” booster – the business end!

Next we visited the museum which is inside the cosmodrome.  Wonderful people there with just amazing facts about the space program and it’s history.  The homes built for Korolev and Gagarian still stand and are as they were when they were here.  Certainly a must see with old Russian record players and telephones.  I love it!!!!

Lastly we started a new tradition today.   We raised our Soyuz flag at the museum.  We were the very first crew to do this!  Pretty neat tradition we started today – second picture!!!  I think you guys know, I love this place with steeped in tradition.  We are very thankful for those who came before us and paved the road we are ready to take!!!!

New tradition — raising Soyuz flag.

Mike, Dina, Kurt, Kathy, Al, Gwen, Larry, Patty, John, Val, Sharon, Grace and Evelyn arrived yesterday.  They are touring around  in Moscow today and will be here in Baikonur tomorrow.  They will arrive in time to get some sleep and be ready for “roll out” on Thursday.  Time seems to be accelerating now!!!!

In case you want to see some really nice photos, please check out Victor’s picasa webpage.  He is the official photographer for NASA here.  He updates the website pretty much each day as events are occurring.

The link stays the same:

Thanks for being part of this experience with me,