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:
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….
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…”
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.
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.
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.
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!