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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