Week 13 – Lucky 13!

Hey there Everyone!!!!

Well, the week started out great on Sunday and just got better!!!  From a Patriots win over Peyton Manning and the Colts, I mean the Broncos (and Navy beating Air Force on Saturday) to SPACEX launch, WOW!!!!  We even got to watch these events on our “TV” up here.  It is actually just a computer with TV piped into the NetMeeting system.

We use a Ku system for this video reception – it is the same system that allows us to make phone calls, which some of you know end rather abruptly at times because of “loss of signal (LOS).”  So, it was actually quite fortuitous for us to have reception exactly at the time of liftoff.  However, we did NOT have reception at the end of the Pats/Broncos game which drove me a little crazy, until we got communications back with Mission Control so I could get the final score…this would be a bummer on Mars – no timely knowledge of the football scores!

Then we had Monday, Columbus Day, “off” so we got to sleep in!!!  I woke up around 0800 and of course I was the only one up.  As usual, I turn on the lights and open the window shutters in the cupola.  I play this game with myself – I don’t look at the map and then see if I know where we are on the planet just by the geography whizzing below me.  My geography and sense of direction have always been pretty good so I usually win my game…and Monday was no different.  I won because I knew right away we were near Alaska even though it was nighttime, why, because we were surrounded by AMAZING Aurora!  The space craft was flying right in the middle of it – the cupola was practically green when I opened up the window shutters!  I was a little awe-struck and didn’t get a picture that morning, I just enjoyed it and watched the waves of energy swirl and hit the planet.  To get an idea of what I am talking about, please go to YouTube and watch “Walking in the Sky” – it is time lapse photography turned into a video which really shows what is going on from Don Pettit and Expedition 31 folks – a single picture can’t explain it, but to give a small sense of what we see:

Geo Quiz:
I knew it was going to be hard for a couple reasons, cloudy picture and out in the middle of now where…but from my hint, Heidi Moser gets the privilege of bragging rights this week!  It was Tahiti of course!!!!

To keep your obscure island skills working, this one is off the coast of Madagascar.  Again, like Tahiti, the name should be familiar to most of you, but you might not know what it looks like in “person”.  I was using a big lens, so didn’t get the entire island in this photo, but thought you should see the crater/volcano???  Very cool!

See Geo quiz above.

Things we did this week:
Of course the biggest thing we did this week was catch and tame the Dragon!  Now that was a lot of fun – even a little overwhelming at times knowing our friends in California were all watching – Garrett!!!   I think I can best describe the day with pictures…

-Quiet Moment – I was in the Cupola watching out for her as she approached us from behind.  I got my own two eyes on here with a “Tally Ho” call to MCC as her trajectory brought her directly underneath us as she was closing in.  Go Navy!!!

-3 in the cupola – everyone had to come take a look at her once we saw her!

-Here she comes – with her attitude control jets firing away she started slowing as she started flying up the “R” bar, meaning she was approaching us from below.   She would fly to a point to “stop,” actually fly formation directly below the robotic arm!

-We got her – After I turned off her attitude jets with a “free drift” command (we can do that with the CUCU system I told you about last week, we can also send her away if she was acting/flying badly), Aki, with his golden hands, maneuvered the robotic arm to grab her!
The ground flight controllers in Houston then got to “fly” the Dragon with the robotic arm to a hover position over the docking mechanism – nice flying Melanie!!!

-Berthed – I got to try my “hands on the sticks” of the robotic arm and berthed to the mating mechanism on the ISS.  She then became part of us!

There are a couple of things that have to happen to get the hatch open.  Luckily enough Aki and I had been through this all before with Joe during HTV so we were pretty familiar and got it done lickidy-split like.  That was all we were going to do, but when we looked at our watches and it was only 4 pm-ish, well, we decided, what the heck, the ice cream is on the other side of the hatch, let’s open it!  Not sure if you guys know, but this was a big deal for NASA and SPACEX.  Yes, there was a SPACEX demo mission in May.  That was a proof of concept event.  This event marked the first in a long string of vehicles that are under contract between the US government and a private company – so lots had to go right for this one.  I didn’t realize it either until I got some clarification from the folks at NASA.  What is most important about this vehicle is its return cargo capability.  We have not had that really since the space shuttle days.  All the other visiting vehicles, except Soyuz thank God, burn up on their way back into the atmosphere.  So, nothing can be returned on them.  This SPACEX will be filled with all sorts of stuff – from frozen blood and urine, to Space suit water samples, to science experiments and experiment results, to video tapes, broken pieces of equipment for refurbishing and even spiders!!!  A capability we desperately were in need of.  We will talk about how all that happens closer to those events, but suffice it to say, this cooperation with the private sector is surely on its way!!!  Competition is good,   For example – Dragon has bright lights, like Christmas lights inside of her.  This is very different from the ISS lights which take time to light up and need to be changed often.  Reminds me of a joke: how many astronauts does it take…

For the next couple days we unloaded and loaded the vehicle – it IS roomy and bright!

See Load Master above.  Not only did we find ice cream in there, but we also found a very thoughtful and timely gift from one of our friends at SPACEX – fall apples.

See Adam and Eve above.  Like Yuri’s mom, I told him eat his fruits and vegetables and not spoil his dinner by only eating ice cream!

The Dragon isn’t that big, so we ended up getting most of the cargo loaded, except for that late, last minute stuff by Friday morning.  That left us free to do a couple more things this past week.  A couple of those things were Aki’s leg ultrasound.

No, it is not Gladiator wear, it is actually a template so there is repeatability in the ultrasound scans we do of our leg muscles.  Although I could seriously see someone wearing this attire in Moscow… either friends of Joe or Kurt….

One of the experiments that was delivered on Dragon and will be completed while it is here is called Nanoracks. Nanoracks is actually a capability – obviously, very small “racks” which are provided power, data and cooling for small experiments like the size of a milk carton. This type of thing, sort of  like the micro satellites provides a relatively affordable way for schools, university and colleges to get some of their small experiments performed.  One of the experiments we are doing involves mixing fluids in microgravity to see what occurs – I can’t see in there, but I think these are like biology samples that “produce or something when combined.”  The packaging to make them fit in the Nanoracks structure makes them “glow stick” size.  They are in fact just like glow sticks which are activated when I break the ampoules inside.  I simply break the ampules to mix the fluids for a certain amount of days.

See Nanroack above.  These experiments only need a small amount of time in microgravity, so they will be flown back on SPACEX.

One more thing we are doing is getting things ready for Kevin and his crew, Oleg and Evgeny!  I wanted to get some of the long range stuff knocked out of the way so he doesn’t have to worry about it. One of those things was yearly maintenance of CEVIS, the bike. I got to take it apart, clean it up and re-grease it with Braycote. The directions for regreasing it looked just like laying down a rim of frosting on a cake – I should have paid more attention in cake decorating class or watched more Ace of Cakes! I got it done and didn’t lick the Braycote so now, the bike is set for another year!

Spider update….I saw both of them.  They get packed for SPACEX and I think not soon enough…maybe it is just me, but they look like they are moving slower…

Lastly, Aki is still participating in his Energy experiment by logging his activity and peeing in a bag – gets old after a while. And then on Saturday we did an interesting Japanese experiment called Unwinding. Hopefully this helped his energy experiment, but not sure – we had to throw a ball back and forth to each other while floating.  It was fun, and actually reminded me a little of yoga. This exercise made you concentrate on what you were doing. You couldn’t really think of other things and get distracted, you needed to concentrate on catching and throwing the ball. It was sort of a mind clearing exercise for me. It was also evident that we preferred subconsciously to be upright with each other to throw and catch the ball.  We started head to toe, but would inevitably be oriented the same way by the end of each exercise. Very interesting the subconscious of us humans…

At that point in the “season,” the activities are not so exciting, but you need to do it!!!  I distinctly remember that time of swimming season, around the holidays when there aren’t a lot of meets and the yardage just got longer and longer at practice.  You start to dread going to workouts, because you know it is just going to be a long evening of staring at the black line – well, that is sort of what the workout machines are starting to look like here.  You know you have to do it for the end result to come out well – but it is painful and difficult to make the most of all the workouts.  This is certainly one of those “gut it out” times for exercise.  You may have heard that we are probably going to send someone up here for a year in 2014 or 2015.  We were talking about how exercise will be tough for that long of a period.  I would seriously suggest mixing up the routine to prevent too much of this “dread”.  The workouts need to happen, but the psychology of all this is something to mention. One good thing we have going for us is that we are starting to prepare for our EVA…so now a little more concentration on upper body again.  In fact, the beach muscles need a little toning so it is time!!!!

Really, it doesn’t get any better than this!!!!  What can I say, ice cream and my all time favorite, fall apples.  How cool is that!  We got 6 apples and I ate my 2 in one day.  I felt healthier right away – I ‘m not kidding!  Anything to keep Dr. Hart “away”.
Then on top of it, we got a “crew care package.”  That is all filled with goodies for all of us.  I got dark chocolate covered pretzel balls – yummmm – Tracy knows I will NOT let these things stay in the house for more than an hour.  Somehow, I am savoring them up here and they lasted 3 days…I got my favorite Bullseye caramels – which I haven’t opened yet, because I know they will be gone very quickly too.  AND I got dried sausages from Azman’s in Cleveland!!!!  I am totally saving these for when Kevin, Oleg and Evgeny arrive.  We will have a grand celebration for them – we will even save them some ice cream. See the reward:

General thoughts and questions:
So, I am looking at the calendar and for some reason time is starting to accelerate…why does that happen?  It is sort of like the holidays – they seem so far away, but as soon as Halloween happens everything starts to kick into motion and you feel like Christmas is almost here…I think Einstein couldn’t explain this one – it is more of a perception than a reality.  As the end of our time on the ISS approaches, for some reason, things go faster.  It felt like we just got here and it is almost time to start thinking about coming home.  With lots of stuff in front of us, a new crew, getting rid of SPACEX and an EVA it is almost hard to imagine being on Earth.  But it is right around the corner.  Our time up here was extended by a week, so we won’t be coming home until he 19th, but that feels like it will be here tomorrow!  Time to really savor every moment of this little vacation from Earth.

Congratulations to KRIS KARNAUSKAS for running 100 miles all along Cape Cod – ending in Ptown.  Wow, that is crazy, but he is amazing!

Happy Birthday this week – The balanced, libras we know!!!!
Shannon last week – now 21 time to go crazy!
Mehul TODAY, Sunday
Kristen coming up next week – has always been crazy.
And,  MOM’s birthday tomorrow, Monday!!!!  Yes, also crazy, but in a fun way!
And I know there are some Williams’ around the corner (next weeks), but if you have some more additions, let me know!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s


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