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


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