Week 6 – Fun and Space Games

Hi Everyone –

What another great week to be on or off the planet!  Lots going on down there I know as summer is wrapping up and the school year is rapidly approaching!  Likewise, we are finishing up one thing and starting another.  I can’t even imagine being bored – here or on earth!  So many people, places and things to see and do!  Life is too short!

Speaking of which, Saturday was a sad day for this planet.  I was thinking about it and I’ll bet practically every person on (and off) this planet knows the name Neil Armstrong.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you do a living, what kind of car you drive, or how many kids you have – most everyone here from school kids to the elderly know who Neil Armstrong was.  I was thinking about why we all knew him – he was a humble giant who took that first step and sparked the spirit of adventure again in all of us.  A true hero who we will all miss.  But, I am sure the next “Neil Armstrong” is out there today and will follow Curiosity’s tracks on Mars before long!

Geo Quiz:
Congratulations to lots of you guys – wow that must have been easy (kidding Peter)…and I can see the competitive spirit coming out in some of you.  It has become a race, and I like it!!!

This week’s winner, after years and years of studying Google Earth, was up very early to write in the correct answers, Persian Gulf and/or Straights of Hormuz and Dubai!!!!  For the most competitive and correct answer I award Peter Avila the refrigerator star!!!!  So the email registers at 5 am-ish my time?!?!?  That probably wasn’t too long after I sent it out!  Geesh.

Now, this week’s are also not that hard because they are pretty well known.  In fact some of my favorite people live in these areas.  A Buff Hoffman lives near the Geo Quiz, and I bet a lot of you have been there.

There are a bunch of people near and dear to my heart who live in the Night Geo.  I can’t mention their names, except one because it/she is loud anyway.  Tricia Mack – how are you “surviving?”

Things we did this week:  Play, play, and more play….is this really a job?  We had a ton of fun this week!!!

Monday of course was EVA day!  It is sort of interesting to compare the Russian and American methods of getting ready and going EVA.  One of the biggest considerations is breathing enough Oxygen to get the Nitrogen out of your blood to we don’t get the bends.  There a couple ways to do this.  There are a couple of methods of doing this that have been used in the spacewalking business.  First you get locked up (in your suit) in an 100% O2 environment for a while – called in-suit protocol, second you breath 100% O2 on a mask and do some exercise and then get suited up at lower pressure – called exercise protocol, thirdly you sleep in a depressed (airlock at 10.2psi so the O2 concentration is higher) environment the night before – called Campout, what I did last time, or lastly you get in the 100% O2 environment in your suit and exercise a little, and spend less time hanging out in your suit waiting to breath down the nitrogen – called In –Suit Light Exercise and what we are doing this time.  The Russians do the simple In Suit Protcol and started this after lunchtime.  So, we all had a normal morning for the most part, but after that we started to get ready!

Like I mentioned before, the Russian EVA left our crews separated.  Aki was the hatch master to get the all the hatches closed and ready to go.

See Hatch boy above.  That space in front of him is the backup airlock.  Just in case the real airlock has any issues, the Russians use the next small part of the space station as a second airlock.  Aki’s task was to ensure that it was ready to go, by closing the 3 hatches and doing a leak check.  Joe and Sergei were on the other side of the top hatch.  There was a little too much air leaking thru the hatches initially, so Aki had to open them all back up, clean them with a silk-ish scarf and then close them again and check again.  All worked well second time around, so Gennady and Yuri went “outside” just a couple minutes late.  Their spacewalk went flawlessly and our friend, “Sphera” was thrown excellently!  The goal was 2 m/s and I think the calculations came out to be something like 1.8 m/s…without any gauge, Genna’s arm is pretty accurate.

See Space football and gone above – Yuri took these pictures and that is pretty amazing the focus he was able to get on Sphera with his big gloves on!  She is on her way back to earth now.  It will takes weeks for her to reenter based on her mass, angle throw, velocity thrown, etc.  They are tracking her every movement!  Gennady and Yuri of course also moved the crane and installed the micrometeorite shields.  No easy tasks – their suits are at a higher pressure than ours, around 5.0 vs. 4.3psi, so I am sure their hands were tired after about 6 hours out there!!!!

For us inside it was a long day, but totally interrupted by flying to the cupola, checking out where Gennady and Yuri were, flying back in and doing work.  It was fun to listen to the Russian communications all day long and think about where they were.  Joe and Sergei were the closest to them, but they had no windows.  However, they could certainly hear them clunking around on the outside of the space craft.  I remember that from last time – when you hit the outside of the space station with your metal tether, etc, the folks inside can certainly know where you are…Joe and Sergei were in their “prison” for about 8 hours…they must have “changed activities” a number of times (this is Yuri’s way of telling us he is bored and came from our ride in the Soyuz after launch – it’s a great phrase).  They were both very  happy when the EVA finished around 2100 our time,

see Freedom above.  We still had a bunch of reconfiguration things to do before we could go to sleep, so we didn’t stop working that evening until around midnight.  Long day, but totally fun.  Yuri was grinning ear to ear when I saw him thru the hatch.  Genna was cold for a while, and seemed to keep flying back and forth getting something warm on and drinking something warm.  Maybe it is the “mom” in me, but it was a great feeling to get them back inside (safe and sound) and to see them so happy!

Luckily we didn’t have to wake up the next day until 1000.  They plan an 8 hour night for us all the time and keep it even if “activities” shift it for the most part.  It was certainly needed Monday night.  Because of this “sleep shift”, Aki and I have been subjected to the Reaction Self test continuously.  Okay, I’m not complaining, but it is, let’s say trying.  Within 2 hours of waking up and going to sleep we need to do this.  So, when you are sleepy, potentially a little grouchy/grumpy, you need to stare at the black computer screen and press the space bar as soon as you see the milliseconds number whizzing by.  You get a “score” at the end to record if you were “too slow” or had false starts.  I am beginning to not care about false starts…

The rest of the week flew by as we had to get ready for our space suit fitcheck on Thursday…

From the science side:
I got to perform probably the last BASS (Burning and Suppression of Solids) for our increment.  It was the last time we can play pyro for a while.  We do have a combustion chamber, but we don’t get to peer in like we did for BASS and watch with our own 2 eyes.  This time we burned acrylic and then wax.  In fact the acrylic seemed to burn better than the wax.  I’m looking forward to hearing some of the results from these tests.
We replaced the BASS set up with a new experiment called INSPACE (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions)in the MSG (microgravity science glovebox).  I needed to change out the cameras on the INSPACE experiment, tear down BASS and install INSPACE.  Lots of tool work, which is fun.  We have a tool box that is almost as good as Mike’s or Don Pettit’s garages.  I know this because Mike was impressed with my knowledge and use of a right angle drive a couple years ago – I learn stuff up here…We also have both English and Metric tools.  That is sometimes annoying and wasn’t the way it was supposed to be – just like how the US tried to go Metric some years ago…we just can’t get away from those darned English measurements.  They have left their mark on so much of industry, that changing over is practically impossible.  In other words – we have a lot of tools!

Joe pulled out his dear friend Robonaut and we had fun watching him do his stuff.  He is programmed and controlled thru the ground, so we really just need to set him up, make sure everything around him is clear and then watch him to his stuff!  He is really cool actually.  Sort of like our dogs though…you wish you could teach them to change the toilet liner, empty the trash, restock the food, find stuff…not quite there yet.  But he does have a busi-board and it is fun to see his hands and fingers work!  They actually work like a human!  Maybe you can see them in

Dancing Queen above.  His board is behind him.  He can swivel 180 deg to get to his board.  His eyes work too!!!  I will try to get a picture of his head motion this week.  We break him out of his “closet” again tomorrow.  In the meantime – Aki wanted to play Rockem’ Sockem’ robots with him after we put on his protective gloves!

See kung foo fighting above.

Speaking of putting stuff together, Joe and Aki worked on the Japanese airlock platform this week too.  It was the first time I saw the inside of this little payload airlock.  It isn’t so little, in fact probably the size of 2 person tent or a really big dog house.  I think Aki was trying to go EVA early…we will use it later to deploy some satellites.  The table slides outside when the exterior door is open, and then the Japanese robotic arm will pick the satellites up off the table to be deployed…more to come on all that!!!!

Somehow I got out of all the medical tests this week…not sure how that happened, but I am keeping my mouth shut!  Poor Aki and Joe had fitness evaluations on the CEVIS.  They were all hooked up this week for fitness EKGs and blood pressures.  I assisted tightening Joe’s Blood Pressure Cuff…and not getting in the way.

Thursday was awesome since we actually got Aki in his suit and started it up!!!!

See It Fits above! Step by step it really feels like we are almost ready to go outside for some “fresh air!”.  Earlier in the week we got all our tools (I love tools) tied up to our Mini-Work stations (MWS – tool belts) and all our Orbital Replaceable Units (ORUs or stuff we have to take outside and change out) ready to go.  We practice all of this stuff with semi-real stuff at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL or big pool) near Johnson Space Center so we are totally familiar with all of this.  However, there is army of folks at the NBL on earth – the suit engineers, suit technicians, the tool technicians, the divers, the doctors, the guys who make sure we are breathing the right air, the test conductors and safety who are watching out for our health…they provide us with all the practical knowledge so we can get all this stuff physically ready ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong – there is another army of people on Earth who are feeding us all the information on what we need to do and how to get the stuff all ready to go for the real EVA.  But I have to thank all of those people at the NBL who have worked with us for years to make sure we know what we are doing.

See space NBL above.  Being in the airlock all day is like a day at the NBL – one of my favorite places to play, I mean work!

As you can see, we use a lot of acronyms…NASA is almost as bad as the Marine Corp – did you know the Marine Corp has a GOAT – glossary of acronyms and terms?!?!?  So, in keeping with that tradition, we present to you HELDA!  She is the cover which we will put on PMA2 (pressurized mating adapter2) on the front of the ISS.  It is where the shuttle used to dock. It is in the “velocity vector”, in other words at the pointy end of the ship, so she has the tendency to get hit with micro meteorites.  To protect her, we are putting on HELDA – the High Energy Load Dissipating Apparatus or Assembly (we haven’t decided).  Why you ask would we ever come up with that name…well, that is REALLY the name of the lady who sewed this thing together.  So of course it is named after her.  We just needed some good old NASA “rationale” for naming her that!!!!  Thanks Joe for your creativity, and thanks Helda for your handiwork – it will soon be on the front of the ISS!

See HELDA above.

No rest for the weary!  Even though he have an EVA this week –which is generally physically demanding, but still have to work out every day.  You can’t get away from the lack of gravity up here!  And luckily the biggest effect is on your hips, legs and feet.  So those are the exercises that we really concentrate on.  I say luckily, because the word spacewalk isn’t that appropriate in this context.  We don’t “walk” anywhere.  We go hand over hand to the worksite on the outside of the space craft to do our work.  There are “handrails” that we use to move from one place to another.  You will be able to see this pretty clearly it you watch on Thursday.

Sunday Brunch!  Just when you think it is all the same, something surprises you!  I was wondering what to eat and was thinking something light because I need to get on the treadmill.  So, I thought of a scone, but then, I found a Maple Muffin Top !  How cool is that.  It is awesome!  Sort of tastes like a pancake smothered in maple syrup.  Yummy!  So, I decided to go big and have brunch.  I got my Kona Coffee with cream and sugar out, hydrated some vegetable quiche and floated on over to the table to chillout and eat breakfast.  That was a nice find.  Like finding 10 bucks in the pocket of the jeans you just took out of the dryer.  Needs to be spent or eaten!!!!

I was once told something about expedition behavior in regards to food.  But let me explain. We open about 9 containers at a time.  Each of them have in them a different type of food ie drinks, eggs and fruit, meats, sides, snacks, breads, etc.  We need to keep this container open for about 9 days before we can open another one.  There are a variety of the items listed in each of the boxes.  Inevitably there is stuff in there that you personally don’t like, and then stuff that everyone doesn’t like.  So, what to do….Well what I heard and believe to be true is that you eat the best thing you find.  Then the next day, there will have to be the next best thing you find, and so on, and so on.  You never save something, because the other guys will then eat it, and then you will be mad.  So, just eat what you like, they eat they like and then we end up eating the yucky stuff at the end.  It works!

Of course you figure out that someone has a favorite, so maybe you don’t eat all of that thing.  Save that for them to eat and find your next best favorite.
Food could potentially be one of those expedition triggering issues – something that gets people mad at each other – so being semi-conscious of all this is important.

General thoughts and questions:
What I loved this weekend is getting action/party photos from a bunch of you.  Our spirit and party ratio must be catching on!!!  (after our increment got shortened, if you remember last spring because of a vehicle problem, we decided we would be known as the crew with the most parties:days on orbit.  I love that people on the ground are keeping up our tradition.  We are there with you vicariously and electronically!
That was the way it was this past week since it was a 100 day on orbit celebration in Houston for Gennady, Joe and Sergei –

see shot-ski above.
That was the way it was for Waclaw Mucha’s Silver Snoopy Presentation too this past week!!!  Congratulations  Waclaw! –

see Waclaw above.
Thanks to everyone for sharing!

A couple more very important things to mention!!!
Happy Belated birthday Corey from last week!
Happy Belated Birthday Tarah Castleberry from last week!
Happy Birthday Shivani  and Greg this week!
And finally,
A slightly belated official space Congratulations on Tim Corrigan’s retirement from the US Navy after a whole lot of years a week and 3 days ago!!!!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s


Week 5 – Calm Before the Storm…

Hi Everyone –

Almost routine up here this week…I hate to say that.  But we are all getting so used to living here that it feels like a little routine.  It’s calm and that ain’t too bad.  We all know where all the food is, the toilet paper is, the trash bags, the trash, etc without looking it up in our data base.  Of course there are things we have to find that are uncommon, for example a new experiment or if something breaks and we didn’t plan on changing it.  We have a stockpile of supplies that are “hidden” all over the station.  So, we have an inventory management system that helps us find stuff.  In other words, most everything has a barcode on it, we have barcode scanners so we use them to indicate when we move something or use something.  That way we can keep track of all the pieces and parts up here.  It is pretty good, but again, only as good as the users.  I am totally qualified to be a checkout girl at WalMart with my scanner skills now!

I titled this email the “calm before the storm” because operations start again tomorrow fast and furious.  Tomorrow is the Russian EVA.  Gennady and Yuri will go “outside”  Yuri told our program manager that it is nice to get some “fresh air” now and then.  He is right – doing an EVA is one of the most rewarding things up here!  They have a bunch of tasks to move a crane, install some meteorite shields and even deploy a satellite that looks like Sputnik!  It is actually going to provide data for a math model to predict entry of objects coming back into the atmosphere.  It is pretty cool!  It is only 7 kg, so unfortunately, there was no beer in it

– see Satellite keg above.

In preparation for their EVA they did a suit check out on Friday.  This is the only time we will see them in their suits since the hatches were open – they didn’t depress to vacuum, just got in their suits to make sure everything is working.   Tomorrow when they get in, they will already be “behind closed doors” since the hatches will already be closed to the main living space.

See Getting In above to see how the Russian “Orlan” suits work.  There is a “door” on the back so you get in from there and shut the door behind you.

See We’re in now, above to see what the Russian suit looks like in the their airlock.  It is a lot different (and similar) to the US EVA suits.   We started working on our suits to get them ready for the 30th.

See Caught with my pants down above to see Joe working on the suit.  We get our legs in first and then connect the upper body to the suit.  More on that next week from our fit check coming up this week.

A quick word on hatches regarding tomorrow’s space walk.  The station will be split in half for the EVA.  Joe and Sergei will be in one section of the station and Aki and I will be in another.  We won’t see each other all day – the Russian airlock is between us.  The main principle/reason for this is because you don’t want to be on the other side of the hatch than your rescue vehicle, the Soyuz. Joe and Sergei will be in semi-solitary confinement – doing hard time on the ISS.  They only have the Soyuz toilet, and maybe no computer connection – not sure if the Wifi works with the hatches closed and will have to bring food and water in with them.  Aki and I will be in the US segment with all the comforts of home, including a nice toilet and plenty to eat and drink.

Geo Quiz:
How about that Ken Loy, coming in quick with a correct answer to both of the quizzes.  And, honorable mention to Larry McGlynn who came in a close second (because he work up early!!!)
And, I know, this last one was sort of easy, Crete in the day, Sicily in the night.  Could you guys see Mt. Etna on Sicily???  Look at it again if you missed it.  Pretty cool.  Mt. Vesuvius on mainland Italy looks similar – a dark circle.  No one is living directly on the sides of the volcano!

So, it is time for something a little harder (not much).  This week we go a little farther east.  The day shot should give you a hint to where the night shot was taken.  I am sorry if they are both not crystal clear.  I am noticing that that northern hemisphere is hazy this time of year.  Last time I was on orbit it was winter in the northern hemisphere and the pictures were a lot clearer because of less moisture in the atmosphere.   Plus, that is a good excuse for my pictures to be blurry….Hint – Jay, I was thinking about you this week…

Things we did this week:  Routine week, but some unique tasks!

From the science side we did some of the same from before – a lot of these experiments need multiple runs with different samples and at different times to observe the effects of Microgravity over time.  So, for example we did some more Cardio vascular ultrasounds, more leg muscle ultrasounds, more urine and blood samples.

Some of the unique new tests we did to take hair samples, DNA, and freeze them.

See Aki’s prize above.  We took water samples and analyzed them.

See colored water above.

Joe did some more BASS and lit stuff on fire.  The picture shows how we work in the Microgravity Glove Box – remember fire needs to be really contained in this environment.

See hands occupied above.

New on the medical side was checking out our eyes.  Some folks have had some eye issues in the past when staying in microgravity for a while.  There is a thought that the intracranial pressure from the fluid shift to our eyes may have an impact on how the eye works.  There are lots of theories out there to the contributing factors, so we don’t really know what causes this stuff.  In the meantime, we are taking ultrasounds of our eyes and doing something called a panoptic look at our eyes.

See what’s inside above.  We look into our pupils and see our optic nerve with these tests.  Hopefully nothing changes, but the folks on the ground compare the “pictures” we take with the ultrasound and panoptic to our preflight data.  Then if there are vision changes maybe they can find some correlation.

We also did a lot of maintenance both on the station and on some of our experiments.
-I changed out cameras to get ready for the next tests, INSPACE, in the Microgravity glove box.

See done above,
-We changed out a urine hose in our toilet.

See masked woman above.  The urine pretreat is dangerous stuff – so we take precautions.
-We changed out a computer on the window camera that takes pictures remotely for school kids.
-We opened the hatch to the mating adapter for the shuttles.  We did this to get out a camera we will install during our EVA.  The mating adapter is now a storage closet since we won’t have anything docking to it for a while.  Lots of stuff in there so sorting through the sea of equipment was time consuming, but we like to organize, so it was a chance to clean house.

See where’s aki above.

Finally, we finished unpacking HTV.  We put a lot of the storage from HTV in our other big closet.  It was a transfer module that the shuttle would bring up empty out, fill up with trash/spare or broken parts and return to earth.  One of the last shuttle missions brought one of these modules up to stay on the ISS.  It really is our supply closet and temporary trash container.  I dropped off the last piece we got from HTV in storage here, and you can see all the “common trash”, ready to be transferred to HTV, floating.

See last piece above.

Since we had a routine, but busy week, we also decided to take the opportunity to take a picture of all 6 of us.  Time will start to fly soon with the RS EVA, the US EVA and the Soyuz 30 crew getting ready to go home.  We all had the same idea at the end of the week – we need to capture this moment of all of us relaxed together.  It was a fun evening of photos and sitting around the “campfire”, well Node 1 eating and chatting.    We have a great crew!

See the team above.

This is also getting a little routine.  It still is hard, but I am getting used to the routine.  In case I didn’t explain it, it goes like this:
Day 1 – ARED 6 reps high weight, T2 30 minute jog
Day 2 – T2 2 minute intervals, upper body ARED only
Day 3 – ARED 12 reps low weight, Cevis 30 minute ride
Day 4 – T2 30 second intervals, upper body ARED
Day 5 – ARED 8 reps medium weight, T2 30 minute jog
Day 6 – T2 4 minute intervals, upper body ARED
Day 7 – off T2 or CEVIS  leisurely

I feel like I am getting stronger.  The bike seems a lot easier than it was last time.  So, I hate to admit it, but I think all these leg weight work outs have been paying off.  Lots of squats, heel raises and deadlifts.  These are the places/muscles we lose the most up here, so we need to do this.  I can tell my butt is getting bigger…but my pants feel a little looser.  I hope that is all a good thing.

Thinking about home and the food from home that I miss.  I inadvertently, maybe subconsciously, made a meal that totally reminded me of my mom’s stuffed peppers!!

It was great – mashed potatoes, tomatoes and artichokes and some Russian canned pork.  It was great as I ate a little of all three together.  I could manage to spoon out the mashed potatoes and the tomatoes together.  But then had to let that sit in my mouth as I gathered up a spoonful of the pork.  Then all the flavors were together in my mouth and it seriously tasted like mom’s peppers.  I felt like the obnoxious girl on Willy Wonka who was chewing the gum and got all the flavors, before she blew up into a giant blueberry…

And then, I had dad and his food on my mind – so I had creamed spinach on wheat bread – not very appetizing looking, but that was good.

Felt like a Sunday afternoon at home with all this comfort food.

To top off the favorite foods, I finished the week thinking of Mike and had Chocolate Pudding Cake.  Now that is some heavy stuff.  Sort of like really heavy mousse.  Not as delicious as Thomas’s authentic French chocolate mousse, more like cakey pudding.  If only we had some milk up here!!!  That is certainly the one thing that is lacking right now.  I had to substitute green tea for the milk, which wasn’t bad either.

So, I send a copy of the foods I am eating to our doctors and the people who are running the ProK experiment.  They are great because they come back right away and tell you what types of things we are lacking.  I am laking a little potassium so I am trying to drink more Grapefruit drink and eat more “fruits” – dried and fruit in a bag.  Hmmmm.  Can’t wait for our orange tree to ready in November!  That will be better.

General thoughts and questions:

I am missing the beach this summer.  August always brings back memories of camping on Martha’s Vineyard to me.  Bike riding around the island, Jumping off the bridge and laying on the beach.  I am very happy to hear that mom and Gorby have been frequenting the beach.  Mom made a really nice observation the other day that I have to share.  She noticed the clouds when she was on the beach and thought of us in the cupola looking down on the clouds.  It is a similar view, but a little different.  Blue behind the clouds is sky on earth, but if you can imagine that is the water of the ocean, you can get a feel for what we see most of the time.  It is pretty special!  The only thing really between us and you are the clouds!

One last very important thing:
Happy Birthday Alexandra and Duncan, and his new baby sister!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s

Week 4 – Mixed Bag

Week 4 was busy with all sorts of stuff.  This week sort of defines long duration space fliers.  We certainly don’t do the same thing every day and this week every day was different with different types of activities for all of us.  There is an awesome group of people on the ground – the planners –  who know what all the constraints are for all the activities we need to do and somehow they make it all work.  For example, I had to wear an device which would hinder the use of my left hand for 24 hours, but first I had to fly the robotic arm and work out,  and then I had to make sure I had it off in time for me to do a weight lifting exercise the next day.   That is just one example of the puzzle these folks on the ground solve every day.  WE just stick to the schedule up here and somehow it all seems to work.  These folks are amazing.

There is a little red line on the computer’s daily schedule which marches across the page with time.  So we know if we are ahead or behind schedule.  If we are behind, we all seem to pitch in and help each other out to get all of our stuff done.  If we are ahead, well that is a good time to take a break, check in with each other, and then see if there are “task list” (extra stuff) we can do to fill the time.  We manage to squeak in taking photos of each other and outside for “historical documentation” (that is from Galaxy Quest but we actually had photo documentation with that name on it for some of our tasks this week – that made me crack up!).    But usually by 8pm, we don’t work any more and just get dinner ready and relax – no more watching the line after 8pm.

Geo Quiz:

Congratulations to Miguel (day) and Kent (night)!   You guys were the first to submit the correct answers of Mount Kilimangaro in Tanzania, and the boot of Italy!!!!  Lots of folks got them, but you guys were the first.  Woohoo!

Now, staying sort on theme, I present to you 2 islands in the Mediterranean.  Again, one day and one night!  Geo quiz day, Geo quiz night!

Geo quiz day

Geo quiz night

Things we did this week:  Lots of science, some operations, some maintenance…and a little relaxing!

Not quite Pro K, but with all the “benefits!”  So there is something about a controlled diet which is good – you don’t have to choose.  That makes life easy and quick.  This week instead of having a controlled diet, I just had to write everything I had down, including the times that I ate them and approximately how much water I was drinking.  To be able to use that data, the entire urine collection process had to be repeated – pee in a bag for 24 hours, along with the blood draw – I get to do that first thing tomorrow morning!

Integrated Cardio Vascular – ICV involves wearing the blood pressure cuffs on your fingers – actually really cool technology which can essentially estimate your cardiac output of your heart by measuring the blood pressure in your fingers and a light sensor in the cuff.   There is a computer attached to it which puts pressure into the cuff of a finger to counter the blood pressure.  So, you get this continuous pressure pulsation on your fingers and the associated motor noise.   We wear this for 24 hours and power the pump by Makita drill batteries.  They last only about 3 hours, so battery change out are required during the night…not so fun, but lucky in space this stuff doesn’t weigh much so it isn’t that big of a pain.

ICV also involves wearing a holter monitor for 48 hours with Actiwatches.  No big deal, just get wired up for a couple days.  The biggest issue here is the sticky stuff that holds the electrodes on.  After a day – which should involve some exercise – they start to itch.  Maybe I just have sensitive skin, but it seems to leave us red and blotchy at times.  Actiwatches are used to sense motion and light.  These watches and their data shows when we are doing some activity.  All three of these devices are used together to accurately depict what we are doing to make our heart work.

Biorhythms – a Japanese experiment which is also looking at what is going on with us inside and out.  This one involved wearing another Actiwatch for motion and light for 72 hours.  Then another type of cardiac monitor similar to the holter monitor.  However, this is Japanese technology, so it is much smaller, lightweight and can even be worn in the shower.  Pretty reliable!  However, I had these experiments one after another this week.  It is Sunday night and I am finally free of all the electrodes!  I sort of forgot about them – but like I said, working out with all this stuff on gets a little yucky!  I was happy to finally get a good wash down of all that sensor, sticky stuff this evening – after the Falmouth Road Race!

More reaction testing – Again.  Not sure what  why exactly we keep doing this, but it is getting a little fun in a weird way.  Essentially you have a black screen on your computer.  You need to hit the space bar as soon as you see numbers counting.  I am generally around 200 milliseconds.  I was watching swimming and running during the Olympics and they were talking about the importance of getting a good start at the gun.  I think this test can identify who can start quick and who just can’t start quick!

A little Spider feeding.  All the doors are open for the fruit flies to come out and be prey to  Cleopatra and Nefertiti.  Nefertiti has been still quite active and eating away.  Our little Cleo is still shy…we haven’t seen her.  However, for both of them, I fear their destiny.  I see next week Joe is tasked with taking them out of the “rack” where we have them stowed – not sure where he is taking them.  I think the ground may not want me to do it because it might mean their existence as Spider-nauts may be coming to an end…not sure though.  You know, they don’t need to drink water since they liquefy the fruit flies and can use their body water as water…but I don’t think this can last forever….maybe more to follow.

Second YouTube winners were Sara and Dorothy from Michigan.  They are just too smart for me.  They came up with the idea to test  the growth a bacteria which is used for getting rid of stuff like mold, etc on plants which we use for food in space.  I think this idea to see how these bacteria do in space is really cool – especially in light of the landing on Mars.  If we do end up growing our own food on the way to Mars, we might need something like this to make sure it remains good during the growth cycle.  If the bacteria grows better in space than on earth, then we might be able to produce it up here  – endless possibilities.  These teenage girls are smart!

See You Tube GAP, above.

BCAT  – More for Joe!!!  He has a lot of patience and very good camera skills.  He set up an intervelometer to take pictures of the colloids for the next 4 days!  One picture an hour.  Science takes time!  Check out the pink samples –

see BCAT, above.

CFE – Centrifugal Flow experiments – more pink fluid samples.  I loved this experiment last time.  Watching fluid flow on different surfaces in space.  No gravity to hinder the flow, so we are investigating how different surfaces (shapes, perforations, etc) make fluid flow.  Looks just like a lava lamp – but has really great spinoffs for making new types of fuel tanks, for example, for space travel.  Pumps can fail – natural phenomena like this won’t for the long trip to Mars!

BASS – more burning stuff in the Microgravity Glove box!  Brings out the pyro in all of us!  It is cool to see these types of materials burn!  We burned a little 2 cm sphere and it looked like the sun whizzing through the air.  It was bright orange like the sun with flowing flames behind it  – thankfully all contained in the glove box!  We also burned different fibrous materials at different airflow speeds to understand how much of that 3rd leg of the fire triangle is needed to sustain a fire.  Cool science!

Speaking of fire – we also have a combustion chamber.  Joe did work on that to reinstall some very small fuel lines.  Like the microscope – the ground will run the experiments in here.  We again are like the technicians.  But that stuff is fun!

HTV unpack is almost done!  Will be done this next week.  But in the meantime – we got to load some trash.  This place is shaping up and we are getting rid of lots of “common trash.”  You know we recycle the urine for drinking water, but we don’t recycle number 2!  Getting rid of all that stored up stuff is awesome.  We only get rid of that stuff  about every 2 months, so any opportunity to get rid of “it” is golden.  We are getting happier and happier.

JEM Robotics!  Joe and Aki used the Japanese robotic arm – and entirely different arm than the Canadian SSRMS (big arm) which we used to “grapple” the HTV – to unload external payloads from the External Platform that HTV brought up.  This is such a cool idea!  Not everything needs to come inside the ISS.  Some experiments and replacement boxes for outside can just stay stored outside.  So with the External Platform, we can carry these large things in an unpressurized part of HTV and them transfer them to the ISS.

See JEM arm and Japanese arm ops, above.

At the end of these operations we need to reinstall the External Platform into HTV with the big arm, to be disposed of with the HTV.  That part was my job – a bit intense flying with a feature called FMA – force management accommodation.  Essentially I drove the platform in it’s guides and then sensors in the arm sense force (when the wheels contact the rails) and drive the arm to relief the force.  It is pretty cool to see it work, but a little unnerving since the arm seems to have a mind of its own and you have to sort of trust it to work well…be got it attached not problem so HTV will be ready to go after we finish filling her up with trash.

See EPready and Flying in, above

Saturday cleaning of course. But we also need to do some maintenance.  Aki replaced an air  duct associated with cooling pump.  I added some electrical amplifiers for a video unit for an experiment.  I installed some new filters on the toilet urine processing system.  They need some time to get “primed” before all the lines can be connected in their final configuration after the priming.  So, Joe was later tasked with finishing up the connections – note I am watching and critiquing like any good woman should do!!!!!

See plumber, above.

Finally – getting closer and closer to August 30th  when Aki and me will do an EVA.  So, we had to start really cleaning out the airlock!  Even got to open up our suits and test the “positive pressure relief” system in the suit.  Remember the suits are essentially little space craft so they have all the valves, tanks, cooling, heating, that we have on ISS to keep us alive.  These suits haven’t been used for a while, so we are starting to our “preflight” on them to get them ready!  More coming this next week!!!


It has been an exhausting week for exercise.  Of course we are doing our SPRINT aerobic workouts – which get my heart rate way up there.  We are also doing max rep exercises on the ARED now.  This is different from last time, because we only lift every other day with this protocol.  I was a little wary, but after this week, I think I understand, I need some recovery from this type of workout.  I am getting that 2nd day onset muscle soreness with these maximum repetition routine.  I like doing a lighter aerobic workout on the lifting days to try to get rid of some of that lactic acid.  That seems to help.

Also this week in exercise, I had my Maximum VO2 test.  Now that isn’t too much fun I will admit.  We are again wired up, and the equipment measures the difference in what you breath in and what you breath out as the exercise intensity increases until you can’t take it anymore.  We do this on the CEVIS.  We have to do this with a nose clip – which is annoying –  to make sure they can account for the all the air exchange.  Of course we are breathing in and out thru a mouthpiece.  Lots of mixing bags, hoses, sample catheters, etc in this contraption…but in the end, I think my VO2 max is pretty good!  I should find out about it later this week.


See VO2 max above.

Finally to wrap it all up, I ran alongside a lot of friends today during the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts!   I had a video conference with my folks and Dina yesterday at their house.  Some of the runners and friends were there to say hi, including the race director Dave McGillivray!  He sent me my number via email and I had it printed out and ready for today.  We tuned into the prerace festivities and starts thru our communication system, I was hoping to wish everyone good luck as well, but we lost comm..  However, I started on time (well, 10 minutes late, because of the torrential rain in Falmouth –no rain up here) with the rest of the runners.  I finished in around 1:03:52.  I had a couple of “water breaks”, but made it thru the 7.2 miles no problem.  The first half of the run was my SPRINT protocol and the second was a nice consistent pace until that final “hill” and downhill to the British Brewery at the end.  Obviously, there was something missing here post race- no brewery onboard ISS!!!!

See first half, second half above, for the way I measured my run.


Pesto Pasta dinner last night to go along with the pre-race theme.  I had to dig deep to find it in the side dishes container, but I found itI   We also have oranges from 48P.  So, I had one last night and got one peeled and ready for me for the “race” today.  Nothing better than fresh fruit!!!

Pre-race breakfast, something light – I had vegetable quiche.  Only ndeds to add hot water and it is ready.  Even some bits of broccoli inside – not bad!

See race breakfast above.

General thoughts and questions:

I mentioned that we were flying close to the “Terminator” last week.  I got a picture of our daily plan so you could see how that works.  But more importantly, look at the black and white boxes at the top.  The black is night and the white is day.  This is how much night and day we have each orbit.  As you can see, it is not an even 45 minutes of day and 45 minutes of night.  I learned from Carolyn and Joe Pascucci that this situation has indeed made us really visible to folks on the ground.  Essentially we are illuminated (because of our altitude) all the time.  We see night on the earth, but it is quick and we are hardly ever dark.  Finally we are getting out of this situation and our nights are growing a bit now.

See short nights above.

I say it like this, because we are all working on our nighttime photography and you can’t get a night shot of the earth if you are illuminated.  The earth is then too dark and our eyes can adjust from the bright sun to the dark earth.  We were only getting about 15 minutes maximum to take any good pictures but we were all trying…

see night shots above.

So, instead, we watched a lot of the Olympics in our down time.  We all got in our “space sofas”, got something to drink and hung out.  Not such a bad coincidence!  We have had a lot of fun cheering for our home teams up here, comparing scores, times, medal counts, etc.  These games make everyone stop and take note.  Good friendly competition is great!  It makes us all better in what we do, and better people.

See Olympics above.

One last very important thing:

Happy Birthday Freddy, Pierre, Aunt MaryAnne and any more of you Leos out there I forgot!

Thanks again for tuning in!

Smiles from space, s

Week 3 – Laboratory in Space!

Week 3 ALREADY!  Time is flying.  It seems like yesterday we arrived.  Hopefully by the time you read this, Curiosity has landed on Mars!!!  We are getting up a little early tomorrow to hear the results.  I wonder if she has had as nice a view of the red planet as we are having of our planet?  Tune into NASA TV to see how the landing goes!  Our fingers are crossed for this new technology!!!  Go Curiosity!

Life has been fast and furious this past week.  We had a little break from “dynamic” operations so we jumped into the science this week.  It has been fun and filled with all sorts of stuff.  We are by no means expects in all the science that we do up here – luckily there are many people on the ground ready to support us when we are doing the experiments.  Experts on the science and systems which perform the science are located all over the world.  They get “patched” into our communications loops so at times we get to talk to them WHILE we are performing the tasks.  We usually have a video camera set up over our shoulder so they can “watch” we are doing and how the experiment is going.  We have experiments that need our eyes on them to watch for changes and report.  Remember stuff up here acts differently than it would on earth.  We all think we know what will happen, but the beauty of science is that sometimes we get surprised, especially when this is really the only place to do this type of stuff.

Geo Quiz:
This week we have two, day time and night time.  These  should be pretty obvious…the first one is near and dear to my heart and Dina’s heart.

I’m just learning how to take night time shots, so this one is wide enough to be sort of obvious.  Hint, it is looking south.

Congratulations to Chris Gerty for being the first to submit an answer, and I will say a complete answer!  And thanks for all the submissions.  Many folks were right when they said the great Salt Lake.  Pretty interesting place.  Chris provided this info below about its weird color:

Info about the redness of Salt Lake (beta-carotene, wow!):
The planktonic algae are dominated by a variety of pennate diatoms in early spring and late autumn when they are apt to reach bloom proportions in numbers. In summer and occasionally in winter two species of Dunaliella (green algae) dominate. In the less saline south arm of the lake, Dunaliella viridis dominates, imparting a green cast to the water, whereas in the more saline north arm of the lake, Dunaliella salina dominates and this species produces beta-carotene in such large quantity that the water Qbecomes quite red in color. However, even the north arm is not saline enough for this species to reach maximum populations. This they do in the solar evaporation ponds of various companies that extract salts from the lake by concentrating brines. You may have noticed the brilliant red color of the solar evaporation ponds of GSL-Minerals & Chemicals as you fly over the lake in summer. Even the entire north arm develops a reddish color in summer due to this alga. Contributing somewhat to the red color of the north arm is the presence of Halobacterium, a bacterial species that accumulates a rhodopsin-type of pigment.
Source: http://faculty.weber.edu/sharley/aift/GSL-Life.htm

Things we did this week:
Again, lots of fun and interesting science with one quick break for the arrival of 48 Progress – that was the one that arrived in a “fast way.”  That means even fresher fruit and care packages for us, as well as lots of supplies (including our EVA cables…more on that in a later email!)

First of all Pro K.  This is a controlled diet experiment.  It is interesting when you can’t choose for yourself…immediately you start feeling deprived.  I think this is why diets don’t seem to work in the end.  You just can’t wait to get off it and then go crazy!  At least that is my personality.  The idea here is to see if a high animal protein diet contributes to bone loss.  This is not as important on the ground as it is here in space. Living in space immediately starts to change the body, and one of the unfortunate side effects is bone density loss because we don’t need a skeletal structure to hold us up.  Immediately the body starts to redistribute calcium.  That is why we do weight baring exercises up here – to help prevent it.  Well, an additional theory is that the acid created in breaking down animal protein also leaches calcium out of the bones as it is used as a neutralizing agent for the acid.  So, we are testing out a high animal protein diet versus a low animal protein diet.  Associated with the menu is how to test it.  Of course there is sampling after 4 days of these diets – that means 24 hours continuous of taking urine samples

(see sampling above – not so easy in space – stuff seems to float…ughhh) and then a blood draw (I might be a vampire, I don’t mind doing this to myself!?!?  Weird, I know, it is just fascinating to draw blood!)  after the last day.  We freeze all that in the Melfi

– see freezer ops above.

More reaction testing – seems like we do this a lot.  Nothing has hit me on the head, so my reaction times seem pretty good to me.  Seems like I am little faster in the evening than the morning.  One morning I put moisturizer on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste…I am not really a morning person in space…

Spider feeding!!!  Cleopatra and Nefertiti are our two spiders.  Cleopatra, the zebra spider seems to be either very clever or very shy.  She has disappeared.  She was the first one I met and was pretty active when I first saw her.  She is sort of small, like the size of the holes where the fruit flies live…so, we think she was maybe really hungry and went into one of the holes.  If so, she was having a buffet in there.  There are cameras on them in the habitat so the ground can watch and they saw evidence that there was webbing in one of the fruit fly holes.  My only worry about her is that she will eat too much, grow a lot and get stuck in there…the life of a spider-naut!!!

Nefertiti on the other hand is too big.  She is sort of scary in fact

– see her picture above.  I am so glad I am not a fruit fly.  I opened up the habitat and actually saw her running around at full speed looking for something to eat.  I was difficult to even get a steady picture.  Then a fruit fly came out, she stopped, she stalked and then she pounced.  It was amazing to see with my own two eyes.  Apparently they inject some acidic fluid in the fly body which liquefies the insides and then she sucks everything out of the fly.  The only thing left is the carcass…and I saw many carcass-es floating around in her twisted web.  Note her 4 eyes and the fruit fly in her mouth!  I was told she has excellent vision.  Again, I am so happy to not be a fly – reminded me of that futuristic movie Starship Troopers (I think that is the name) – Yikes!

More Cardio-vascular testing.  The ultrasound and our ground teams who remotely guide us are getting a workout.  Last week Joe and I did cardiac imaging and this week Aki was the victim.  We found it is easier to scan yourself and have an operator run the machine – again sort of fun to see what is inside

…see It’s a boy! Above.

BCAT  – Colloid formation in space.  There are many different types of samples that potentially form colloids differently here than on earth.  We get them ready, place them somewhere on the ISS in a certain orientation, let them sit for a while and then photo document them.  This is pretty difficult photography with micro lenses to try to take a picture of the potential crystals.  The depth of field is small with crystals, making it hard for the camera to “see” them.  It is like trying to take pictures of a prism.  I need more photography work on this small scale!  Very interesting though how they crystals vary from sample to sample.

ACE – Working with a high powered microscope to look at samples here in space.  I was essentially a technician.  We mix samples with a magnet, install samples that we have here, change out lenses for the microscope and get it all ready for the ground teams to run sessions to look at and analyze the samples.  Pretty meticulous work, but fun to see how we can work together with the ground teams.

Installed a jumper to get ready for one of the external payloads on the Japanese Exposed Platform.  This week the “boys” will robotically install the payloads from the External Pallet, after the ground teams extract the pallet from the HTV.  I ran some cabling to get the data from the experiment.

Lots of transfer of items from the HTV to ISS.  We are ready to load her up with trash and clean out the station.   I wouldn’t say I am a hoarder at home, but I don’t like to throw things away.  Living on ISS is turning me around – I love throwing things away here!  We are ready and finding trash and things we don’t need.  The ISS is 12 years old now and has been accumulating lots of stuff.  It is time to clean house.  We have HTV and the European module ATV to do that.  They are both big, so one of my goals is to really clean this ISS up.  The ground teams need to know where all the trash goes and approximately how heavy the stuff is.  Remember these vehicles have to fly under control for while to enter the atmosphere  precisely to burn up the trash.  We can’t just put stuff anywhere in the vehicle because the control algorithms need to know the center of mass to control the trajectory.  So, the process for loading a vehicle is meticulous.  That is one of the reasons the return of 47P was also interesting.  The Russians loaded that up with trash –precisely  – for the navigations systems to work accurately for it to be able to come back and dock to the ISS.  Lots of work by many people on the ground!!!  Thank you!

Interview with Mindy Todd (NPR, Cape and the Islands) and Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN).  Getting ready for the Falmouth Road Race next weekend.  And then, the triathlon with Sanjay in September.  Watch out Sanjay – I’m getting stronger!

Saturday cleaning – not only wiping up the spots and dusting, but also vacuuming….that is sort of fun in space

– see Nooks and crannies above.  Joe looks like a natural!

Finally – started charging batteries and putting some of the “final touches” on our space suits.    By that I mean our mission patches and our flags and getting our helmets with valsava device installed.  EVA is scheduled for us 30 August.  The Russians have one on the 20th.  We have a lot more work to do to get the airlock and the suits ready – that will be coming up very soon!!!

Another experiment, Treadmill Kinematics was run this week.  This is to see the difference with running in space and running on the ground.  We sort of assume that it is the same when the folks on the ground have us do exercise up here.  But in fact, with the harness and microgravity, we aren’t even sure we are working the correct parts for bone density  and muscle mass deficits. By videotaping ourselves at different speeds, with dots on ourselves, the folks on the ground can figure out the differences.  I saw a similar thing on training Olympic swimmers when they push off the wall – you’ve seen the dolphin kick thing they do now.  Folks analyze the position of the ankle, knee and hip to record and see the motion and see what the result is – speed in that case.  Maybe proper position in our case.

See fast running above.

I am into SPRINT now.  So the interval running workouts are getting intense.  Weight lifting workouts have been difficult with 12 repetitions per exercise.  This week we decrease the reps and increase the weight….should be fun?!?!?!?

After all that working out, and finally not having to eat “what I am told to eat”, it was time to really EAT!  Friday, after all of us were off the “diet” we opened some of our Bonus containers and had a smorgasbord while watching the Olympics together.  We had chips (corn tortillas broken in pieces) with bean dip from Joe, nacho cheese spread from me, fish in miso sauce from Aki.  Gennady, Yuri and Sergei joined in and we had fun all eating together and cheering for our teams.

I felt like continuing the Mexican theme and had beef fajita’s the next day on a flour tortilla with spicy corn.

See starving above.  Notice our “table” in the background.   Really just consists of a place to Velcro your food, stick it down with duct tape, and a place for huggies for cleaning our silverware.  We got some grapefruits and apples from 48P which arrived in the middle of the week.  Crunchy and REAL!

General thoughts and questions:
We have been flying along the line between night and day for a couple days now.  That line is called the Terminator.  It is where we see the darkness of night coming across the earth.

See picture above.  I took this picture in the middle of the week when we could see it pretty good.  Now we are flying even closer to it which does funny things.  It lights up the ISS while the ground is still dark.  This may be allowing for lots of sightings of the ISS, not sure about that, but it is my hunch.  It is making taking pictures for us pretty difficult.  I will show graphically what is happening in the next email since we will almost lose all of our night very soon (time of the year).  Parts of the ISS will be illuminated for an entire 24 hour period – our orbit and the earth tilt.  The left side of our station will always be in the sun.

I was asked about showering and shaving.  No showers, just a sponge bath.  We just ran out of wash cloths and now have new towels, stored like hockey pucks until you get them wet.  Should be interesting to see how these work…more to follow.  I see that the boys shave all the time –maybe except weekends.  I shave once a week.  If the razor is wet, the stuff sticks to it, and then I just wipe it off with a tissue and throw it away.  Not really sure why I am doing this, just seems like the thing to do since we do it on earth…yes we do have deodorant and shampoo up here too.  Doesn’t seem like I need moisturizer that often.  In fact, I don’t like that it makes my hands slippery when I have to use them to work on cables, etc.  Seems like we need chapstick every now and then – it is a lot less humid here than Houston.

Another question was about free time.  Yes, we do have some free time on the weekends.  Saturday morning we clean the station.  Both Saturday and Sunday we still need to work out.  But those are really our only commitments.  Sometimes we do get ahead tasks, or science.  But the free time allows us to talk to friends and family at home – video conference.  We can’t do this all together, so there is separate times allotted for each of us –luckily the US, Russia and Japan are different time zones so that helps deconflict time slots.  This time also allows us to get some “window time”.  I spent a good portion of Saturday evening in the Russian segment with the Ruskie boys learning how to take night photos.  They are really good.  We had a fun time drinking tea in between night photo sessions.  And today, I did a little in house filming for India Independence Day (15 August), and even took a little nap – sort of like weekends on earth!

One last very important thing:

Happy Birthday Dina,  Colleen, Chris W.,  and John!!!!  Quite the bday week and I hope it was a good one for all of you!

Thanks again for tuning in!

Smiles from space, s

2a – It was a full moon in Kazakhstan…

To launch 48 Progress.  We flew over about 3 minutes before launch of 48P.  We could see that launch platform since it was about midnight there and it was all lit up.

She will come to the ISS “in a fast way”.  Meaning, it should only take about 5 hours from launch until docking.  Our Russian crewmates slept in today to be ready to fly here to dock if needed tonight around 1am.  Remember our Soyuz took 2 days to get here.  This is a new “profile” that the Russians are checking out and it may be used for people in Soyuz in the future.  That would mean being in your space suit for a long time – really no getting out of it, until you are docked.  On the good side, you get to the “big hotel” pretty quick – and it has your suite and the nice bathroom…

I wanted to show you what the moon sort of looks like from up here…hey who put a pin in it….