Week 10 – Only 3

Hey there Everyone!!!!

First and foremost – I have to say, thank you, thank you, thank you to sooo many of you out there who somehow knew it was my birthday this last week and sent up greetings.  What a surprise!!!!   I have said this before to many of you – I can’t think of a better place to spend a birthday.  How cool is this!  Not many folks have the opportunity to spend part of their day just looking back at the earth!  It was a great day – no not a day off – but a great day to take a couple of minutes, look out the window, check out our awesome planet which is home to so many species that couldn’t live anywhere else, and think about all the cake and ice cream I have had in the past, on this day.  It makes me smile just thinking about it!  Check out our planet, Caribbean and the Amazon:

Not only did I get emails from people saying happy birthday, but some of you out there were pretty creative and put together some amazing videos.  I laughed and cried watching them – they were awesome.  So, you might be wondering how they got up here.  Well, we have our own personal website on our ISS server.  On it we have things we like.  So, I have weather in Houston, Falmouth and Moscow.  I have news from Houston, Boston and Cape Cod.  I have podcasts of my favorite radio shows – Car Talk, Prairie Home Companion, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.   I have TV shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Everything Italian, Cheers, Family Guy.  I have music some of you have sent me, I have pictures from you guys and even an amazing birthday poem (I love it Mary Louise!!!) and much more!  All this and more gets “uploaded” to our server every week.  So we get updates and have stuff to watch while we ride the bike, run on the treadmill or want some time off.  So, Brooke, Kent and Beth have been working their butts off this entire expedition to make sure our webpages get updated to include fun and interesting stuff like YOUR videos.  So, now I have them and I can watch them on my computer in my “bedroom” or on any computer we have anytime I want!  Anytime I need a laugh, I will watch them – very creative!!!!

Just in case you were wondering, we also get TV “streamed” up here.  We do this primarily on the weekends.  Now that it is fall, it is really fun to hear football going on while we are cleaning, working out, or doing tasks.  It is awesome and feels like you are at home thanks to a great group of folks on the ground that do these “small” things for us – thank you, BHPG, OCA, BMEs!!!!

Next, I have to comment on our crew of only 3!  It is great, but it is a little lonely…ISS is quite a big place and now we really feel it with only 3 of us!  It sort of feels like we have to make an effort to find each other at times…we have an “inter-com” system that we never used before, but now use to stay in contact with each other.  With 6 of us, we seemed to always be working alongside someone else.  But with only 3 of us, sometimes you don’t see the other guys until we take a break.  It is usually a safe bet that Yuri is in the main Russian module, but every now and then he is not easily found.  In fact, I flew right by him the other day looking the opposite way (since we have multiple modules hanging off in different directions at certain places) – he clapped loud and scared the crap out of me.  I screamed a little and he just couldn’t stop laughing – too much.  Sometimes I have no idea where Aki is, but then he appears at lunchtime  The weekends highlight this the most since our schedule is not on the “timeline”.  I am a morning person so I’ve been the only one awake for a while.  In fact, today I haven’t seen either Aki or Yuri and it is after noon!

Geo Quiz:
The answers came in fast and furious with LA being the first to get and email to me – Congrats for recognizing both Falmouth and Boston!!!!
However, I will have to give my mom honorable mention for picking out Siders Pond Road – exactly where Gorby has been chasing rabbits – for the Falmouth picture.  And, just as precise, honorable mention goes to Larry McGlynn who was able to zoom in on the Boston photo and find his house!   Awesome responses!  Keep the answers coming.  You guys are getting better, or they are way too easy…

This week’s quiz is also the home to some of you whose mother has the same maiden name as our mom, and whose dad went to medical school with our dad…  I will give you a couple hints – check out the landscape on one side of the photo, and again, note the airport….good luck!

Things we did this week:
After watching the Great Ball of Fire

enter the atmosphere – Gennady, Sergei and Joe, early Monday morning we slept in!  That was nice!  Not much on our schedules when we do a “sleep shift” like that.  The next day, Tuesday, was a half day off as well.  You know you really don’t want to be tired up here for any extended amount of time.  If you happen to push the wrong button, sometimes the consequences are pretty dire.  So, the planners really try to make sure we get our sleep.  I am the default guy “on call” now that Joe left.  We rewired our crew quarters (bedrooms) so I hear all the cautions and warning tones in my sleep station now.  Mission control can actually talk directly to my sleep station now – I asked them for a bedtime story but they didn’t do it…the station doesn’t sleep so they are constantly on watch in Mission Control, 24/7.  They will wake us up if there is anything we need to attend to.

Maybe not so dire, but there are things we had to attend to even though we had time off.  First was the Urine hose change out,

See PPE above.  Some of you have seen the “orbital outhouse” on video already, but this is where we go pee.  Note it is yellow, color coded I guess.  There is a separate little bucket for number two.  So, it is sometimes a little difficult to aim correctly to do both at the same time…that is a little annoying and the “gravity assist” on earth will be a welcome change.   Essentially, only pee goes thru the hose and then gets processed through a complicated system of filters to turn most of it back into drinking water.  There is some sludge in parts of the system that we have to get rid of,

see Results above.  The number two stuff just gets put in the “barrel” called a KTO, and then we change the barrel out for a new one.  The KTOs get thrown away – we don’t recycle that stuff….yet.

We are our own gym mechanics too, so Aki spent some time cleaning up and greasing our weight lifting machine called ARED, Advanced Resistive Exercise Devise.  I think I mentioned, it works on the concept of pushing against a vacuum to provide the loads weights would provide on earth.  It is great and really works well.  This week we went over the one Millionth usage of the ARED!  Hats off to the engineers who designed this piece of equipment.  It is hefty, hearty and provides the loads we need to lift to come back to earth with good bone density!

So, the next vehicle that is docked to the ISS and is leaving next week is ATV.  It is a European vehicle which docks to the Russian end of the ISS.  So, it has a similar cone/probe (male, female) docking system that is on the Soyuz and Progress.  It is made in Italy and has “racks” in it for cargo transfer.  Its diameter is essentially the same as one of the US modules.  In other words, it is big!  It also has fuel and water tanks.  We used all the fuel in it the last couple of weeks and “reboosted” with it, meaning got to a higher altitude.  We emptied all the water out and then Yuri pumped old urine into the tanks.  So, it is now ready to be thrown away.  Like the Japanese HTV, it will burn up as it enters the atmosphere and get rid of more of our trash!  See 3 in ATV to see what the inside looks like packed:

See Suni in ATV to get a feel for its size:

Each ATV has a name, the first one was Jules Verne.  This one is ATV 3 and is named for the Italian Edoardo Amaldi.  I was cleaning up some stuff in the Columbus module (the European laboratory) and ran across some info on our Amaldi, and found a little something our Italian friends might recognize, Luca, Samathana – so we decided to show it off in Columbus:

See Columbus above.  Note, we use this module, Columbus (not ATV3) for most of our medical tests, ultrasounds, Integrated Cardio Vascular test, Energy tests, etc – that what most of the boxes all around us are, equipment for these types of tests.  Maybe you can see I am wearing the cardio press in this photo as well as the holter monitor for ICV.

A couple more little medical type payloads for me this week.  I think I had already described Reversible Figures.  It is the test where you see two pictures in one and indicate via a mouse when you see the picture switch.  I think I reported last time too, that I perceive that I am seeing the switch for the pictures more readily now.  Maybe it is the adaptation of moving in 3d space vs. 2D space.  Not sure why my brain seems to be better at picking up the switch.  However, I have also noticed that my peripheral vision is pretty good up here.  Motion, just like in hunting, is the key.  As soon as something starts to float by with some velocity, my peripheral vision can easily pick it up.  We do lose stuff up here because stuff silently floats away and doesn’t fall to the “floor”.  That is one of the most annoying things about space.  I know there is a  bag of coffee on some filter somewhere that I “let go” of a week ago.  I still haven’t found it – Aki still hasn’t found his razor.  There are distinct airflows in some modules with suction screens and the treadmill has some magnets on it – so those are good candidates to find stuff.
Also performed WINSCAT.  That is the “hit on the head” test to see if you can still think.  Did I tell you that they “grade” us on this one????  I got all green, which is good even though I have bonked my head every now and then up here…The test is a reaction test matching numbers and shapes, memorizing the numbers associated with the shapes, remembering patterns, doing addition and subtraction rapidly, identifying repeating numbers.  Each of these tests are graded on accuracy and reaction time.  Tedious, but interesting.

So, now that we are getting rid of vehicles, we are starting to prepare for the next vehicles to show up. The next one here should be SPACEX 1.  You may remember this summer SPACEX demo arrived at the ISS. The spacecraft is called Dragon. It was a big deal in the news because they are a commercial company who built their own spacecraft to come to the ISS as a resupply vehicle.  That mission was the test bed and totally successful. Don Pettit and Ander Kuipers were the crewmembers onboard to catch the first Dragon “by the tail.”  Don’s quote. Aki and I slated to be the next Dragon Slayers sometime around October 10th.  So, there is lots of work to get ready for that event in a couple weeks.  First we checked out the Centerline Berthing Camera System – CBCS.  It provides visual guidance for the robotics to drive the vehicle into the docking port to engage the latching mechanism.  It is a system of lights which are reflected on mirrors that the visiting spaceship has on, a camera in the middle of the lights sees the reflection and then we see that camera view on our robotics monitors.  We use that camera view too as guidance for the robotic arm to berth the visiting spaceship to the ISS. We were a little worried about this because when HTV undocked it didn’t work.  We found a couple spare parts and got the system going with a back up system as well.  We tested it and it all works so we are leaving it in place ready for October 10th.  When stuff works up here, sometimes best to not touch it.  Lots of stuff, radiation, EMI sometimes causes electrons to act weird up here…

Next thing we got ready was a system call the CUCU –  COTS UHF communications Unit.  This is the system which “talks” to the vehicle as it gets closer to the ISS.  This telemetry system will provide us information about the spacecraft, like range and range rate, health and status of the vehicle  as it gets closer to us.  We will use this info as we monitor its approach toward the ISS to its hover point.  Once it gets to the hover point, we will put it in “free drift” and then move the robotic arm close to it to grapple it.  So, this unit will work with us as well as Mission Control in Houston and Hawthorne California where SAPCEX company is.  Pretty important to know the vehicle is acting well as it gets closer and closer to ISS to fly formation on us.
I alluded to the next thing we are doing – and that is practicing, practicing, practicing for the robotics part of this “capture”.  We have a simulator set up here so we can virtually fly the same profile we will do in real life.  Our instructors have made up many different scenarios where the spacecraft is moving around rather than hovering solidly.  So, we fly a “track and capture” to grab the vehicle.  It is a lot of fun to practice but takes some good coordination to know we are doing it all right.  We will be practicing up until the capture day for sure!!!!

Something else that is coming up next week is a JAXA (like NASA), Japanese experiment that will deploy Small Satellites out of the Japanese airlock.  Aki spent most of the day on Friday getting the small satellites ready to go.  He unpacked them, prepped them and put them on the “table” in the Japanese airlock. Thru commands, this airlock will get depressed to vacuum, the door will open to space, the table will slid outside and then the Japanese robotic arm will pick up the part of the table with the satellites on them.  The arm will point down toward the earth and the satellite door will open deploying the satellites with a spring force.  Hopefully we will be able to take some pictures of this –sort of like the Sphere that Gennady deployed.  Next week I will talk about what they will be doing!  See Aki’s toys and He fits:

The airlock seems big enough to put a person in, but not sure we would fit if we were in a space suit….

Like all good elementary schools we have emergency drills every now and then.  Since we are a crew of three now our Roles and Responsibilities have changed from the crew of 6.  We practiced what we would do in case the station had a depressurization, meaning a hole in the skin and the air is leaking out.  We practiced how and which hatches we would close  – it is like a ship, the hatches, not doors are airtight so we can compartmentalize the ISS and live in the areas which are not affected.  We calculate the leak rate using the Russian Manovacumeter – barometer and determine how much “reserve time” we have to before the pressure would get too low and we would have to evacuate to our Soyuz.  If we got to that point, we would have to abandon the ISS and use our Soyuz as a rescue boat to come back to earth in.  Luckily this was just a drill – and luckily we all have a seat in the Soyuz as our backup plan!

Finally, I have to talk about my birthday again.  I know lots of you have heard it before, but September 19th is Annual Pirate Day!  The Huntsville Control Center reminded me as well as Rick Linnehan, a fellow 19 September birthday person!  So, I took the opportunity to do some of my first real commanding!!!!  I made Aki and Yuri dress up like pirates for our birthday dinner!  It was awesome!  See Arghhhh:

Dina took this picture since we shared dinner with mom, dad and Dina thru the video-communications system.  I even got to virtually blow out my birthday candles (we won’t talk about how many candles there were supposed to be…) thru the video.  See Pirate with cake:

Note the bandana – Freddy gave it to me!!!!  Blue is my color!

Exercise:
More of the same insofar as exercises go.  It is getting a little routine, so I decided to shake it up a bit.  I took off a “clip” on my running harness.  That means that the bungees on either side of me, holding me to the treadmill have to stretch more.  When they stretch more, they pull me down toward the treadmill with more force.  Hence, I “weigh” more.  I am at 3 clips and my weight is now about 120lbs.  Getting closer to my earth weight.  We have to “get used” to that.  At first, it is sort of painful on your shoulders and hips since they support the weight on the harness.  But after running at a certain weight, you feel like your shoulders and hips can take a little more weight and move up.  Not sure if we are getting sort of callus’s in these places, or you just get into it.
Also, good luck to folks in Huntsville, Alabama running the “Race the Station” Duathalon next Saturday!  It is a run, bike, run 30 km event.  It should take folks about one orbit to finish – 90 minutes!!!!  Good luck and hopefully we will fly overhead when you start and then again when you finish!!!!

Food:
Birthday Party food was good!!!!!  Again we went all out and dove in to our Bonus containers.  We had lobster, Saag Paneer, yakatori, Japanese bacon/pork in sauce and good luck Japanese rice with red beans.  It was great to get together, tell stories of home and family with each other.  Birthdays are special…
One interesting thing I have noticed though is that high salt content adversely affects me up here. I can definitely tell when I eat something salty.  We have tried to decrease the amount of salt in our food based on studies done previously on long duration space flight diet experiments. There is a strong hypothesis that a high salt content has adverse affects potentially in vision and bone density. For me, the effect of a lot of salt up here seems to be amplified from on earth. I could tell that I was really thirsty that night and the next day still felt a little dehydrated. I think I drank over 10 bags of water in 24 hours to try to get back to normal.
Now, back to normal, I tried a new flavor combination – strawberries and vanilla pudding. That is yummy and reminds me of mom’s fruit torte desert….yummmmmm!

General thoughts and questions:
So, I see I am in the same outfit time and time again.   No, I didn’t take these pictures all on the same day…just so happens it gets a little cold in here and I put on a sweatshirt after working out.  We can change the temperature if we want, but we keep it around 75 degF.  That is good for working out, since you get pretty hot and sweaty quickly on the treadmill and the bike. There is no wind up here for the evaporative cooling that you get working out outside – except for Houston.  So, when we work out, the water globs up on us and sort of insulates us – it gets hot.  The cooler temperature on this ISS is good for keeping working out cooler and good for sleeping!
Besides working out and sweating – we don’t really get dirty up here – so our clothes don’t really get that dirty.  We actually wear clothes for a while, before they turn into work out clothes and then finally get thrown away.  No, we don’t do laundry up here.  Instead, we use the clothes sometimes for packing material and cushioning, or just throw them away.

Happy Birthday last week and this week – again and again I am behind…If you have time – send me a note with your birthdays so I know!
Dorothy Garrity
Dianne Durso
Igor Merkulov
Natasha Yelshina
Hank Zalokar
And big time belated to Prashant!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s

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9a – The Boys Under the Chute

The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergie Revin in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, September 17, 2012. Padalka, Acaba and Revin returned from five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

Week 9 – turning over a new leaf…change is good

Hi Everyone!

Well it is starting to be fall in the northern hemisphere.  It is easy to see that from up here – the many agricultural fields which were bright green 2 months ago are all starting to become brown!  We had a Net Meeting with our friends in Star City the other day and Alla’s son Vasya had a large fall leaf to show us.  You can’t stop time.  It is funny, these things, the natural changes on earth, the seasons, the real day night, the wind then calm, those are the things that make life on earth special.  We don’t have them up here so when we hear about those natural occurring changes, then I miss our planet!

I’m not saying we don’t have changes up here too, because lately it really seems like we are having a lot!  If you remember when we chatted last week, we had 5 external vehicles connected to us – 2 Soyuz’s, 1 Progress, 1 ATV and 1 HTV.  Well, in the course of one week, we lost 2 – 1 HTV and 1 Soyuz.  HTV left us on Wednesday after we prepared the hatches, installed the gold protective covering,

HTV dancers

and then installed the latching mechanism motors.  The ground team “grappled” her with the robotic arm, they ran the unbolting sequence with Joe – 16 bolts, let go of the latches and moved the HTV away to a position for Joe and Aki to take over.  Then Joe and Aki opened the snares in the end of the robotic arm – which were holding the HTV – and let her go free.  Well, she hovered there for a little while, then seemed to want to come back to us – moved ever so slightly toward the ISS instead of drifting away.  We release her in a slightly lower orbit than us – which means she should be going faster according to orbital mechanic, which means she should have been moving away, and forward of us.  Instead she was drifting back toward us a little.  Well, the software in the system detected this as a “safety net/corridor violation” and sent an ABORT command.  As a result, she sped away from us at warp speed!  It was seriously like a Star Wars film.  She flew away so fast that we had a hard time tracking her on the camera.  Her name was Kounotori, meaning stork – so maybe she is like one of those heavy birds that take a while to get going, and then flies away at lightening speed. After some other issues with her GPS systems, she finally had a normal deorbit and entry into the atmosphere on Thursday!  Wheeew and congratulations to our Japanese compadres on a great mission for Kounotori!

The second big change was the departure of the Soyuz 30S vehicle and her contents, Gennady, Sergei and Joe!  We just locked them in their Soyuz.  It is 8:30pm GMT.  They will actually undock in 3 hours.  So I will keep updating this part of the email as each step occurs.  We stay up until they land.  Hopefully we will get streaming video and see the landing!!!!
Well it is 3:50am and we are just going to sleep now.  We heard the undocking on the communications and finally saw the Soyuz a bit later as she was moving behind us.  The ISS was actually flying belly first since this Soyuz was docked on the top of the Station.  That way she could push off straight aft of the Station after the docking hooks were opened.   So, it was difficult to find windows to watch her.  Then a couple orbits and hours later she did her deorbit burn.  We tried to watch  but she was such a spec it was again difficult to see her.  Finally, she was entering into the atmosphere and Yuri actually got a shot of the separation and her burning on into the atmosphere.  Here she is, Altair, soon after undock:

Our boys are finally back on Mother Earth.  It was great to see their smiling faces on NASA TV up here, thanks to our control team who sent up the streaming TV coverage!!!!

Geo Quiz:
Congrats to many of you!!!!  Wow, lots of folks know the Upper Peninsula of Michigan very well!  Pretty place I hear.  I need to see for myself one day.  The first entry was from Jane Neumann!  Congrats!  Thanks to everyone who is playing and keep the answers coming.  It is great to hear from all of you!!!

This week’s quiz is again quite easy so no hints this time!!!!  Okay, one…I had to look out the window and spy on my little dog and see if the weather on his birthday was nice…and if the home opener for the Patriots would have nice weather.  There are two for the price of one this week:

Geo quiz 1

Geo quiz 2

Things we did this week:
HTV loading, packing and close out – that was great!  It was like spring cleaning.  We emptied all our KTOs ( or poop containers!), got rid of lots of trash, bubble wrap and foam (remember the ride up to the space isn’t so smooth, so most everything is wrapped up carefully so it won’t break – which means lots of packing material taking up valuable space on the ISS).  The HTV has a Japanese breakup recorder for telemetry and a US I-Ball experiment which will actually send down video of the vehicle breaking apart!….

Breakup

These things track the progress and the predictions of the orbital mechanics of the vehicle as it comes back into the atmosphere.  That helps them predict future vehicle reentry patterns, and just plain cool to see how something reenters the atmosphere – cool video!!!

HTV release on Wednesday was a crazy, as I mentioned above, but fun to work the three of us in the cupola again.  It is funny how these EVA and robotics things bring us all together.  A lot of the time we are doing our own tasks, but these really things really require coordination and focus.  We will miss Joe, but Aki, Yuri and I have a lot on our plates in the next couple weeks.  A different three will be again working together.

Some more maintenance which was needed and waiting on the list for a little while.  We changed out a hydrogen sensor on the Oxygen Generation System.   Remember one way we have O2 is by splitting water, H2O into Hydrogen and Oxygen.  We have sensors in the system to make sure the levels don’t get too high.  What is different about doing this type of stuff in a closed atmosphere, in the “can” we live in, is that we can’t by mistake produce too much of a certain of gas.  It is a closed system for the most part, so that extra gas comes to us.  So monitoring the amount of hydrogen we produce as a by product is very important for this system to work correctly.   In this process we were dealing with 100% Oxygen which can be sort of dangerous  – think third leg of the fire triangle.  So, for this procedure it is required to wear special gloves to make sure the connections don’t get the oils from your skin.  Safety conscious up here!

(See OGA above).

Urine Processor also needed a little maintenance.  So Joe changed out the control box of that piece of equipment.  Again, being very safety conscious, whenever we are dealing with urine, pretreat which breaks down urine so it doesn’t smell so bad and, well anything that has to do with urine, we wear PPE, Personal Protective equipment – safety glasses, mask and gloves.  Thankfully we don’t wear all that stuff when we are taking our own urine samples, only when working on the equipment.  Again, bad stuff and no way to open the window and let in some fresh air.  We breathe all this stuff.

Gorby’s birthday was of course, the 13th of September.  He and his sister, Cookie are now 11 years old.  Wow!  They still got it and Gorby is still keeping the neighborhood safe from squirrels and rabbits, at least with his loud mouth!  Never really wanted a yapping, ankle biting dog, but somehow I have one – thanks to mom and Dina for helping me with him when I am gone.  Back to the events on the ISS.  Well, in Russian tradition, when it is your birthday, you organize and hold a party for your friends.  So, as Gorby’s stand in, I made everyone here have a little party for him – full with presents to the Russians and cake for everyone.  It was fun because we essentially crashed the Service Module, the Russian end, carrying favorite foods for our friends, dates, oysters, chocolate covered espresso beans and chocolate pudding cake for everyone.  I brought my stuffed Gorby and actual pictures of him for everyone to enjoy.  I know you are all rolling your eyes, but it was a great way to get together and everyone wanted to see my family.  Thanks again for sending up the photo album with all of you, Mike, mom, dad, Dina, Jay, Ania, Coal, Elsie, Bailey, Thomas and Gorby!

(See Gorby’s bday above).

We also did a little water analysis.  We have a couple sources of water.  Our US portable water dispenser (PWD) in the US lab that is processed water from urine and condensate.  The Russian water heater provided hot and warm water processed from condensate.  And then a water fountain from a tank of fresh, spring water.  We take samples of each of these sources, analyze them as well as send samples home for analysis.  It is a lengthy process but nice to know the water we drink is good.

(see water lab above).

As well as samples to pack, Joe, Gennady and Sergei had to also spend some time getting themselves ready to go.  It is weird with them gone.  Now 2 of 4 sleep stations in the node 2 are empty, 1 of 2 in the SM are empty.  The station seems a bit empty and quiet.  We can fly back and forth really quickly and probably won’t bump into each other.  This station feels huge all of a sudden.  It is great that they cleaned everything out, but no remnants is weird.  We all decided this was the best thing to do, not leave any of our “junk” around for the next guys to have to throw away.  It is a good cleaning process…some of our clothes and personal items we get to take in the Soyuz, but only 1.5 kg.  We also have a breadbox sized container for our clothes to bring back home in the future SPACEX vehicle.  So, there is a lot of stuff we end up throwing away…It’s only stuff though, so no big deal. One of the things Gennady packed up was

the “phantom”, above.  It is a “replica of what a human body would be like and how much radiation it would get…weird.

Then, spiders were a hit during a Public Relations event we did with Google/YouTube.  I got to chat with Bill Nye, the science guy who was hosting an event to honor the kids who designed the experiments that were up here – the spiders and the bacteria.  It was fun to hear their voices.  I got to meet them in DC last spring when their experiments were chosen from thousands, to come up on HTV.  So, I know them and they were excited to see and hear about how all went up here.  Very cool and smart kids.  Amr, Dorothy and Sara were fun to talk to.  The event has been posted to YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCQVXEgSbrk.

Finally, it has also been a busy week end with ceremonies and good byes.  Those are hard when your friends leave – but we will very psyched to see these folks on the ground.  The ground teams are ready to catch this crew in Kustani.  SAR foreces, helos, ATVs, airplanes, doctors, nurses, managers all ready and waiting.  They have been on the ground there for a couple days.  One person who spent her birthday in Kazakhstan was Tricia Mack.  She is there coordinating some of the “samples” we send back.  Not much room in the Soyuz, but somehow we pack it tight to get down samples we need back very quickly.  Remember, once these guys undock, they are on the earth in just 4 hours!!!  It is a quick ride home.

We are now Expedition 33 and we will try our best to be as fun as Expedition 32!
Success and a fun mission are all about the people and how they interact with each other.  So, we had our change of command ceremony the day before hatch closure.  That allowed Joe, Genna and Sergei to really concentrate on coming home – if there was some emergency with the ISS after that, our crew, Aki, Yuri and I would handle it, those guys would concentrate on going home.  All of us are very thankful for our opportunity to serve up here so the COC was a great time to send out thanks to the ground for supporting us and making sure we were ready to work and live here.  It was then time for our crew to thank the Exp 32 crew for getting us ready to take over this station.  One thing I find is universal is true leadership, and Genna is a great role model in this capacity.  He is one of those people who take more time to pay attention to his people and the people that work for him, than the people he works for.  I will try to maintain the high standards he set and live by his motto – we are doers, not babblers.  Leadership can be taught, but it comes natural to some people and he is one of those.   We left our Exp 32 mark,

see zapping above.

Exercise:
Getting ready to come home means lots of exercise.  The 30S crew spend a lot of time on the treadmill this last week.  Even ran 2 times a day to get the loading and the cardio workouts.  It was impressive to see the focus really change and start to be all about going home.  Preparations will make life back in gravity a lot better.

For us, the regular workouts.  I have started to increase my load by taking off clips on my harness.  That makes the bungee pull tighten, hence more of a load on my shoulders and hips.  I hope to take 2 more clips off by the time we are ready to come home. That will get me to my on earth body weight.   That would be pretty awesome since I think last time, I didn’t quite get to my earth weight.
Today I got to “run” the Malibu Triathalon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and a bunch of folks.  I started the same time they did, 7am Malibu time.  We crossed over the west coast just after I started so I could see they were just starting as the sun was coming up!  The “swim” was simulated by about 15 exercises on the ARED, I biked a comparable hilly route of about 20 miles,  which was programmed into the CEVIS and ran the 5km on the T2 doing my 2 minute SPRINT protocol.  I finished all of it in 1:48:43.  It was fun, but I was tired after that…

Food:
Well, not much to talk about except our farewell lunch – that was fun!  We all crowded into the Russian Segment again for lunch – we haven’t done that except for Gorby’s party.  We were all down at the Soyuz, so decided Russian food for lunch would be good.  I had a can of Plov with fish.  It was awesome.  Large can, like a large dog food can.  But it was very tasty and reminded me of the plov at Izmalova.  Tasty, and I was even greeted with sauce – both spicy and savory sauce I could put on it.  Those guys are great hosts.
One other thing that always reminds me of dad are Lorna Doone cookies.   We have those up here, named shortbread cookies.  I love having those with herbal tea at night.  But I broke my crew care package and found chocolate covered Ginger, so that has taken the place of the cookies this week.

See cookies above.

General thoughts and questions:
Hank asked me a really interesting question..Why no stars in pictures???  Well, first of all it is difficult to get the settings quite right on the camera.  I thought I had a sample for you, but I didn’t like it and will keep trying to get you one.  Secondly, whenever there is light in the picture, the sun is up, the sky past the atmosphere is entirely black – our eyes can’t see the stars.  So, the starry pictures need to be taken during the night.  While I am working on my photography skills, check out the YouTube video “Walking in the Sky” – it is a real movie that was taken last increment showing stars, earth and aurora with time lapse photography – Don Pettit, expedition 31, is the best at doing this.
And here is another interesting concept for you.  We had a conversation the other day about what it would look and feel like going to Mars.  The stars really don’t move – we see relative movement as we go around the earth.  If you were on your way to Mars and only had the stars to look at (far enough away from Earth) , you would probably feel like you were sitting still.  Distances to stars are huge – so no obvious relative motion.  Just like it looks like you are flying slow at 30k feet when you are really going very, fast.  That would be a creepy feeling, like “are we really on our way to Mars, or are we just sitting here in the blackness of space???”

Happy Birthday last week and this week – sorry I got a little behind.  I am noticing there are lots of Virgos…it’s cold in late December and January – good snuggling weather…
Tricia Mack
Joel Montalbano
Annete Hasbrook
Daniel Pyrek– very belated, sorry!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s

Week 8 – High Tech Motorhead

Hi Everyone!

First of all, thanks to everyone for cheering us on!  We could feel the support from earth as though you guys were all right here with us!

One group who is always cheering us on, is our “flight docs.”  To make sure we are ready to go outside for an EVA, and then again after we come back inside from an EVA, we check in with our flight surgeons.  We all have a flight surgeon assigned to us, or we are assigned to them – and they have a backup.  There is always a doctor in Mission Control, but we each have an individual flight surgeon and their backup who we talk to on a regular basis.  So, I get to work and visit with Steve and Shannon on a weekly basis in general.  However, right before and after an EVA we chat with them too.  Just like our family conferences, we talk to our docs thru a Skype type video meeting called Net Meeting program on our computers.  That way we can see each other and the doctors can see us rolling our eyes at their “silly” questions – just kidding.  It is always really good to “see” each other especially when talking about potential injuries, issues, etc.

Getting back to the story at hand, the day before EVA we talk to them and right after we get back in the station after EVA we talk to them.  I was a little surprised at how short a 6 hour EVA felt compared to an 8 hour EVA.  I felt great – yeah a little tired, but really still full of energy and not much finger or muscle pain.  So, our “conference” was pretty quick .  Steve and Shannon then invited some other people to come in to our conference.  The other people happened to be our EVA team led by Keith, our robotics team lead by Melanie and our flight directors Ed and Dina, increment manager Melissa, and the ISS program manager rep, Kenny Todd.  Their faces were glowing and even now it still chokes me up thinking about how happy they all were.  My response to them was:
Toothbrush – . 99 cents
ACME bolt – $50,000
Smiling faces – priceless

You know you get sort of focused, or as we used to say in the Navy, have the ability to compartmentalize to get your job done.  In other words, put everything else aside and do what you have to do to get the job done.  If you think about how many people’s lives you will effect, how much money is being spent on what you are doing you wouldn’t be able to do it.  But then at the end, when it is all said and done, and you see how you effected people lives by getting this bolt installed, hear about how much time and money went into this event – it is humbling.  I am so thankful for this opportunity to make people smile…and I’m just glad I can compartmentalize while out here.

Geo Quiz:

The entries are getting slim – so either you guys don’t know your geography, or you aren’t trying!  My mom even got this one after some “hints”, but it was again, Ken Loy the over –achiever who came in with San Diego/North Island first.  Congratulations on being the first 2 time winner!  Not only does San Diego have great weather, great outdoors activities, but It is also near and dear to most of us who have been in the Navy.  32nd street is the home to many US Navy ships, North Island is home to many aircraft squadrons, and right down the strand lies the home of the SEALS.  A great place to be stationed for a while.

Again, only day this week since I have too many “motor-head” pictures.  Motor-head comes from Mr. Tomkowitz, 10th grade biology teacher, who used to peer out the window at the shop class below working on cars.  He would sort of threaten us on how if we screwed up in his science class we’d end up motor heads.  Well, I guess I sort of screwed up…I’m a space motorhead!)

This week’s quiz is quite easy, but I will give you some hints anyway – I decided on this one since today the Colts and the Bears play.  It is in their neighborhood.  Another hint is that my boy, Tom Brady, played college football in this state.  I have also heard many stories of Mike, Mike O’hearn, Tom Gibbons and Stan (their highschool FES – foreign exchange student) going on a canoe trip here…

Things we did this week:

So, Joe and Aki got their haircuts this week.  They knew they would have to be on TV again with the second EVA, and decided to clean up a bit.  Plus, I am not sure Aki’s communications cap would fit on his head with his hair growing so much.  It was getting long and sticking straight up.  Yes, my hair sticks up but it curls, his sticks straight up!  Too much.  We gave Aki an “high and tight”.  Joe did the sides and I smoothed out the top.  Then it was Joe’s turn.  He hasn’t cut his hair since being here.  I started on in on the sideburns, and whacked one off by mistake – Aki was the closer and finished it so they “blended” better.  I didn’t know men’s hair was so complicated…maybe that is because Mike’s is a little more simple…

I thought you guys would be interested in seeing our Home-made Tools.  It was fun to make them and I seriously thought maybe we would use only one or two.  In fact we ended up using all of them – except the dreaded Grease Gun.  If you can imagine, a grease gun works well in space, sometimes too well as grease just oozes out of them unless you have a really good way to stop it.   That is why I called it dreaded.  If we get this stuff on our gloves, it would be really messy.  I was labeled “dirty girl” by 2Fish – our CAPCOM (whose voice you heard a lot and was quoted!!!) and crew rep for this EVA.  Meaning, I was the one who was to handle the greasy parts of the tools.  Aki was to stay “clean” and work the tools.

Grease gun and large L wrench

So, our first action was to get the box out with the magic dither I talked about earlier.  We then “cleaned” off the metal shavings on the bolt and bolt housing with a little nitrogen sprayer, like a bike tire inflator – installing small nitrogen cartridges is “interesting in EVA gloves. Third, we used a  a home-made wire brush, made from 4 gauge electrical wire to “clean” the housing using our drill called a Pistol Grip Tool (PGT).

See wire brush above.  That was repeated a couple times.
Fourth we used the famous toothbrush

(see toothbrush above) to give it one more cleaning – intermittently we used the nitrogen sprayer to spray out any shavings again.
Then finally we got the bolt out, greased it with the “mit” we packed it with.  The mit has braycote on it.  I carried 6 of these mits – 4 “dirty” with grease on them, and 2 clean for any mess to clean up.

(see The bolt above).  We installed the bolt in the housing using the large L wrench.  Here we ran into some resistance, but worked the bolt in and out to get thru and probably tapped the housing with the stronger metal bolt.  Finally, with these greasy mits, I lubricated the bolt housing posts as well, just in case.
We used the ratchet wrench by hang to put the box in.  That was a good idea since we could “feel” when things got tight and we dithered to alleviate the binding.  All worked!!!

Again, Aki was on the arm.  Joe and Yuri were in charge of driving him around.  This is Joe’s command post inside the lab.

He told us he could hear us clunking around above him on the outside of the station…funny.

Two more outside pictures – one of Aki and the Japanese segments behind him.  I think this shot will be on billboards in Japan!

One of me at the airlock – lots of thoughts as you are ready to come inside – not sure if/when I will have that view again…

Finally post EVA 19 Happiness!!!

Well, our week wasn’t over on Wednesday.  Still more to do afterwards.  Gennady, Joe and Sergei are getting ready to leave us in a week.  They got in their Soyuz in their space suits to make sure everything works.  It went fine and their spacecraft and suits are ready to undock.  To get ready to come home, we need to increase the exercise we do, and some believe we should supplement it with equipment that brings pressure back to your lower body.  Here, Sergei is in the “scary Pants” – Lower Body Negative Pressure Machine, walking, to simulate how it will feel on earth.  He really did look like he was dancing – so I joined him.

See Dancing fool above.

Finally – back to science, biology and education.  Soon after the EVA, the planners had all of us engaged in some sort of science experiments on ourselves.  Aki had a thermal sensor on his head, I am peeing in a bag, and Joe has to eat a special diet.  We also did some education and public relations events.  I got to put together this Lego airplane with a tilt sensor to see if the sensor works in space versus on the ground.  It is like what you have in your ipad and iphone – how it changes from vertical to horizontal when you turn it…do you think it works up here????  (hint…NO)  Cecilia mentioned that I must have liked legos as a kids- I still like them.

See fun and games above.  The background is Aki’s shirt.  He has a number of shirts that kids and Japan designed.  This one is a cartoon of the Japanese Segment (similar to what you saw EVA picture of him) with the name of the main module, Kibo – or Hope – shown.

Exercise:

We got to get back on T2 after the Station was brought back up to full power.  That actually took another day after the MBSU was installed.  There are lots of commands the ground has to send to “reconfigure” the power strings.  There was a lot of sharing of power and they have to step by step undo what they did to provide us power before the MBSU was powered, and then reconnect the original stuff to the “now providing power” MBSU.  Pretty complicated and choreographed procedure.  We on board, just needed to remove 2 jumpers we installed to route the power, but we can’t do that randomly – it has to be when the ground is ready.
Since we couldn’t use the T2 for about a week, we were all using CEVIS (bike) instead.  We also did not use the exercise equipment the day of EVA.  Result – it feels like I am starting all over again!  The 2 minute interval workout on T2 kicked my butt.  I had just mentioned that I might make it harder to our Strength and Conditioning guru – Bruce.  Well, not so fast.  I forget that the absence of gravity is ever present.  We have to continually work out to keep ahead of that bone and muscle losing trend…hard work!  I am happy we are back on our routine again for that matter.

Food:

Yep, had to have my Fluffernutter and Tvorog to go outside…what would I do without these two things…

We needed to celebrate this weekend…it is really our last free weekend.  Next weekend Gennady, Sergei and Joe will be making last minute preparations for undocking on Sunday.  So, we decided to live it up.  We had quite the international food festival complete with Lobsta from Maine, Bean dip and nacho cheese, corn tortillas, European white bean dip, calve cheeks, Japanese yakatori chicken, Japanese chicken in sauce, crabmeat, sardines in tomato sauce.  Most of this stuff we got from our Bonus food containers which include standard stuff and stuff we and our families pick out for us.  Thanks to mom and Dina for getting me the lobsta – it was awesome and even smelled a little like salt water!  Yummy!

General thoughts and questions:

So I was asked a question about radiation.  Maybe you noticed we “went outside” an hour earlier on this EVA than the one on the 30th.  Well, that was because the sun had an eruption a couple days before.  That means that we would be subjected to that increased radiation.  To keep us from getting a large dose, the folks working radiation and the flight docs decided it would be better if we went out and came in earlier.  We wear our normal dosimeters that we always wear up here in our liquid cooling garment under the space suit.  We also carry Russian (actually Hungarian I think) dosimeters on the outside of our suit.  There is a machine onboard in the Russian segment that will show how much radiation we get when we are outside.  It is individual and depends on where you are working and what radiation you are exposed to.  In general, I was told we get about 3 times as much radiation as folks get on the ground being in the ISS.  Being outside gives us about 10 times the radiation for the same time we are inside the ISS.  The US and the Russian suits provide about the same amount of protection.  But you can see, EVA increase your level of radiation overall.  Thanks for the question Peter!

Congratulations to Gennady – 700 days in space on 6 September!!!  Amazing considering the radiation comments above.  He is awesome.  I have learned so much from him as a commander, leader and friend.  He is quite the role model, and even though we don’t have shoes up here, his are pretty big to fill…

Happy Birthday last week and this week – sorry I got a little behind.  I am noticing there are lots of Virgos…it’s cold in late December and January – good snuggling weather…
Brooklyn Zalokar
Richard Lease
Marie Mizek
Mike Mizek
Sinjin Spellmeyer
Gorby!!!!!!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s

Spacewalk – nasa.gov image of the day

Sunita Williams on Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the bright sun during the mission’s third session of extravehicular activity (EVA) on Sept. 5, 2012.

During the six-hour, 28-minute spacewalk, Williams and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide (visible in the reflections of Williams’ helmet visor), flight engineer, completed the installation of a Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) that was hampered by a possible misalignment and damaged threads where a bolt must be placed. They also installed a camera on the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2.

Image Credit: NASA