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


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