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


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