Week 14 – Leave No Trace

Hi Everyone!!!

Another crazy week on the International Space Station with a myriad of fun and funny things to do.  One of those things all three of us are doing, maybe even subconsciously, is cleaning up!  I think we all want to leave a good impression on the new residents.  Even though we vacuum every Satruday, I may even sweep up the day before they get here – Thursday, because Mike knows how much I like to sweep…It is funny, it is sort of feels like we are selling a house – you want to leave a good impression so the next residents feel welcome, happy and comfortable.  All three of us have been cleaning up for them as well as preparing our stuff in the manner of the NOLS motto “leave no trace.”  NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) is something that most Astros go thru to learn and practice leadership and followership skills.  It is a great place to learn more about each other and other peoples’ personalities.  It is really important because we don’t always have the luxury to “match” crew personalities and you don’t necessarily fly with people just like you.  NOLS teaches you about seeing things from different peoples’ perspective, etc out in the “field” to put everyone on a level playing field and to crank up the stress by living outdoors.  They have really great courses all over the world, and very beneficial for everyone from kids to older adults.  Highly recommend folks look it up and think about going if you ever want to do team building …Although I am digressing, I can’t thank their staff and instructors for providing our program with such a great curriculum – scientists and pilots don’t always think alike…  One of their guiding principles in camping is “leave no trace.”  It is a great idea of leaving the land just like you found it – no sign that you were there for the most part.  Carry out all that you bring in (okay, well, we buried our poop, but carried out the paper or used rocks, etc instead of paper).  Here on the Station we are starting to do the same – no we don’t have rocks, but we do have a lot of “our own” stuff we are trying to get rid of.  Using extra clothing for packing material for example, downloading our computers to a hard drive, clearing out our sleep stations.  We cleaned out the 3 sleep stations this week for the new boys so they should be “dust free” as we tore into the inner workings of the USOS sleeping quarters.

See house cleaning above.  I feel that we are going to be rushed come November 18th, so getting all this stuff ready now is good – we are used to this moving stuff from all the travel for training – I know how to pack!

Geo Quiz:
Wow, people actually figured this one out!  Congratulations to Jayne Iafrate from Woods Hole to be the first to write in Reunion Island!  Nice job!  I am thinking you guys are getting the hang of this island thing…so let’s do another one, shall we!!!

This quiz you guys should easily get.  Okay, I will give you a clue or two – the equator, famous, in my favorite movie about leadership – Master and Commander!  I once tried to win a cruise there by entering a contest on a Stoney Brook Farms Yogurt label.  This is definitely one place I NEED to see in person, on my two feet.  Can you see the sea horse or the head of a great dane in the picture?  Maybe I am imagining things, but it is like looking at clouds and seeing shapes, only down…

From Geo 2, I think I can see the highest place on the planet…so that one should be pretty easy to figure out.  Check out the glaciers coming off the mountains – pretty amazing.

It is actually pretty amazing that we flew over these parts of the earth at the moment when there were no clouds.  I have never seen the Geo quiz from space before.  We have never been over IT on a “clear” day.  In fact, there was a hole in the clouds for me to get this shot.  All around was cloudy.  Geo 2 is also rarely seen because there are always clouds in the mountains.  The weather changes of spring and fall make these things possible!

Things we did this week:  This week was a hodge podge of stuff.  We are coming down to the wire with any “long range” plans to get stuff done, so we are filling in all our time with cats and dogs while the main things will occur in the coming weeks.

One of the things we really needed to get done was to change out the Water Pump Assembly.  This pump is downstream from the urine intake and is the main motive force to get the urine to be continually processed into drinking water.  We have been essentially filling up containers with semi-processed urine, and then adding in good water to our drinking water tanks.  This R&R (remove and replace) was pretty easy, with only some bolts and connectors.  That was a good thing, because we had to do it twice.  I am seriously getting good at doing these tasks twice.  I have started to memorize the torque setting – 61ft/lbs and 275 ft/lbs for the different bolts.  Yep, that’s right, 275 ft/lb – see big tools:

No weaklings here.  Kathy Logan watch out – arm wrestling as soon as I get back!  To change out this pump, we had to remove the privacy barrier around the toilet.

Checkout big bathroom above.  This small change made the module look and feel very different – empty, sort of like a throne, or stage where the toilet is!  Again, a whole new perspective with just one change.

If it wasn’t enough that we had to change the pump out twice (and that was because the first change out was an old design, and the team was just hoping it would work…it didn’t, it had “cemented” itself – space does funny things to chemicals), we also got another “urine bad pretreat” light on our toilet.  That was the light we had  before when we had to change that pump out.  “not again” was all that could go thru my mind as I talked nicely to the toilet and asked her to work again.  Well, after a couple flushes, she was back to normal.  Next the WPA had a trip and again, all I could think was “not again.”  After a long day of analyzing data on the ground (they have a lot more info than we have displayed up here by ways of telemetry stream that is pretty much constantly going down to earth), the ground team was convinced that it was an air bubble in the system.  So they started it back up and it has run like a charm every since – thankfully, now our “water balance”, what goes in, comes out and comes back in again – or in the words of Don Pettit, “today’s pee is tomorrows coffee,” is back to normal.

The middle of the week was filled with EVA stuff!  We both love that stuff and hanging out in the airlock.  It is like hanging out in the garage – hardware!  We charged up all our batteries: helmet light batteries, PGT (pistol grip tool or drill) batteries, glove heater and TV batteries and most importantly our suit batteries which run the computer and display on our suit which shows us our suit’s pressure, O2 tank pressure, O2 flow, CO2, etc and provides alarms.  That suit is a spacecraft and it has all the bells and whistles!  Along with the suit hardware checkout, we checked out the SAFER  (simplified aid for emergency rescue).  This is the “jet pack” which we can fly back to the station if we get disconnected while translating around outside.

See SAFER above.  Hopefully this will never happen, but the concept is cool.  Check out the hand controller.  We practice this with Evelyn and folks in the Virtual Reality laboratory (and up here on a computer they provide for us).  Let’s keep it to just practice, no practical use!!!

Speaking of translating – we are going to a totally different place on the station for the next EVA. We are going all the way out to the very end of one of the wings of the ISS.  We were checking out our worksite from the windows in the Japanese module –

see worksite above and check out the solar arrays!  There are 4 of those guys that run all the equipment in here – all solar power baby!  In the daytime, the arrays charge up batteries so we always have power stored up for us.

We got to do a little science stuff too!  Like Nanoracks which I described last time, there is another set of experiments called GAPs which will only be up here while SPACEX is here.  We activate them, and deactivate them; same principle as Nanoracks, but a little larger.

See GAP girl above.  This we do with a little crank you might be able to see my holding.  Fluids inside with different types of bacteria are mixed together when I activate them.  A fixing agent is also inside to “hold” the mixed fluid” in it’s state when I do the deactivation a couple days later.  These are pretty convenient ways to do science up here.  Each are self contained with 8 tubes inside.  You can run a lot of variables this way.  Pretty neat!  Aki did some similar science in the JEM with swabbing samples.  He also took out the freezer which brought our ice cream up in SPACEX.  He took it out so we can load one we already have up here that is filled with red and yellow popsicles…not cherry and lemon flavor though – blood and urine samples.

See Mary Poppins above.  No lack of imagination up here.  He looked just like her…without the dress, but you’ve seen him in a skirt before so you know better.

So, this coming week will be a “long” week of 9 days.  No weekend until next Monday and Tuesday, which means I might be late on my next email by a day or two.  The reason for that is we have a lot going on – first Kevin, Oleg and Evgeny arrive on Thursday – their launch in on Tuesday which I hope we get to watch.  Then we have to get ready to get rid of SPACEX on Sunday.  So, not much rest time for the new kids in town.

We are trying to get a jump on things by getting ready for the SPACEX release on Sunday.  So we checked out the end of our robotic arm.

See snared above.  I love this picture because it shows how the arm works.  Check out the wires, those are snares.  There is a target and a pin on the vehicle/module we want to snare.  We drive the arm over the pin so that the pin is between the snares.  Then we activate the snares and they close around the pin.  The pin has a fat head on it so the snares won’t slide off the end of the pin.  The vehicle/module is then captured when sensors at the ends of the snares detect they are stretched or feel a load.  There is a cam mechanism on the inside of the LEE (latching end effector) which then pulls the vehicle into the housing and provides tension to keep the vehicle attached to the arm.  Pretty cool mechanical process by way of the Canadian Space Agency.  This crane/arm is their huge contribution (note they have no module/laboratory), and the station would not have been able to be assembled without it!  Chris Hadfield, from CSA was my backup and will fly on a Soyuz to the ISS in December to join Kevin’s crew.  He was on the shuttle flight which brought up the robotic arm and did a couple spacewalks to put it together.  Very experienced, great guy who is also a great guitar player!!!  When Kevin leaves, Chris will be the ISS commander, a first for Canada!!!!  Get ready Chris!

Finally for activities this week, Aki was back in the playhouse!  He was setting up the AQM – the aquarium!!!!

See evolution above.  Yes, that is right, we are getting FISH on the Soyuz coming here this week.  No, they are not here to provide Aki fresh sushi – although, that is not a bad idea… They are part of an experiment to look at bone density and muscle mass and what happens to these little guys up here.  They are called Medaka and are transparent fish.    So the cameras will be on them and the idea is to see how their skeletal structure holds up/changes while they are here.  There are more details to it, but I will talk about that when we get the fish!  I can’t wait to see them, how we transfer them to their habitat, how they “swim”, how they eat!  Should be interesting!!!!

Speaking of animals, the Spider Girls will get packed this week. They get back to earth on Sunday.  I hope they make it.  Little Cleo is being elusive again.  Big dark “Titi” is in the corner…not moving much.  I will be happy to pack them up – hopefully it isn’t like I am putting them in a coffin…hang in there, there are many fruit flies on earth…and no, we don’t have bugs up here to my knowledge.  Maybe bed bugs, but nothing floating/flying around in the open so releasing them here wouldn’t be a good idea…

I have to mention Friday – it was Public Relations Friday for me.  No getting lonely up here, I got to chat with 5 groups of people in one day!!!   It was very fun though, but I will have to admit, this is NOT one of my favorite things about being an astronaut, because I get pretty nervous talking to crowds of people.  But talking to kids reminds me that I am just a kid like them, and they have the greatest questions!  First was a group at Mission Control in Moscow.  It was an international Olympics with kids from all over the world doing science projects.  The accents were heavy and questions in both English and Russian – questions on space policy, and what the ISS is doing for people on earth!  Next was my Naval Academy Class reunion and homecoming football game!  I got to talk to our class – and see some of them over Net Meeting.  Questions about the end of the shuttle program and what/when commercial space craft will be taking people to space. Next, I had a HAM radio pass with kids in Erie, Pennsylvania.  One young lady wants to go to the Naval Academy and asked me about how going to space has changed my perspective on the planet.  After that an interview with CollectSpace.com where we talked about the upcoming crew, and even Halloween!  Hopefully they will bring us some treats and not too many tricks!  Finally, in the evening, I got to talk to a bunch of folks at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Remember Ray Schmidtt, the lead scientist on the Knorr?    Well, he hosted it and introduced me and we got to compare ship life with space craft life with a tour of ISS.  Lots of folks brought their kids so I got all sorts of questions about living in space.  Questions about what improvements we would like to have to what is my favorite part about living here and how we do laundry – luckily there is no folding required up here!!!!  I hate folding!   And, even Dominique from the Falmouth beach report HAM radio contacts showed up without his hat so I could see his red hair!  Thanks to everyone who made me feel at home with them today.   One thing to note is when Aki and I saw all those people in the auditorium at the Woods Hole event – wow, it looked like a lot of people.  Remember we have only had 6 at most people up here with us.  So a crowd does seem overwhelming.  I remember that from when I came home last time.  Your brain tries to process all these people, their names, their associations and it almost got me light headed last time.  I realized that I do miss earth and mostly the people on it!  Absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Treadmill kinematics…yuck!  I am hoping this was my last one.  I was “encouraged” to go up in weight.  Remember that means making the bungee pull harder by stretching it more.  I now “weigh” around 134 lbs on the T2, unless there are some corrections that need to be factored in.  Gosh, that hurt at first.  With the removal of the clip, I jumped up about 10 pounds.  Now that immediate pain reminded me not to gain weight on the ground.  It hurts lugging around 10 extra pounds!!!  But I should thank John DeWitte for his protocol and “encouragement” to increase the weight – now I have moved up on all my protocols.  I did the hardest one for me, the 2 minute SPRINT one today.  I had to back off a little on the speed to get thru the toughest parts, but it got my heart pumping like crazy.  So, thanks John, but St. Francis still lost to Central Catholic in Toledo so you owe me some Tony Packo’s pickles and peppers and a beer!  I will make you pay up when I get home.  That is my little revenge on you for making me work so hard!!!!

Yep, I got them in my crew care package – that’s right I am talking about my favorite Cape Cod Bagels!!!!  My absolute favorite is the honey grain with bacon/scallion cream cheese.  I will most definitely have that combo when I get back to Falmouth, but in the meantime I had cinnamon raisin with Hazelnut chocolate butter on it….yummmm.

See THE treat above.  I was in heaven.  And wow, that bagel tasted really fresh.  You guys and the food lab at NASA did a great job making and packaging the bagels so they taste great up here.  Who knew????  Bread is really hard to get right on orbit.  It can’t be too crummy.  The Russians fly little small bread loaves so you can pop the entire thing in your mouth without crumbs. We have chipotle and wheat flatbread and tortillas.  All are fine, but sort of bland.  The bagel was anything but bland!!!  Awesome.
Oh, I have to tell you about a little treasure I discovered today.  I was getting ready to talk to Dad, Dina, Mrs. DiNapoli, her husband John, Lynn Margoulis and the lady who MAKES the bagels, so I hydrated some apple cider.  I wanted to show them something fun flying around so I got together my Bullseye candies.  Of course, I had to eat one and then took a sip of the apple cider and BAMMM!  It all tasted like a carmel apple.  How cool is that!  I really feel like that big blueberry girl on Willy Wonka with these food sensations.  But try it, it is pretty satisfying!!!

General thoughts and questions:
All that sugar is sure to make me sick up here…and the hot Indian food is sure to give me indigestion…actually, luckily I don’t really have those problems usually!  And a little vanilla pudding goes a long way after hot food…  Actually the health regime starts before launch.  We are in quarantine for a couple weeks and eating only stuff that is made for us for the most part.  All the food that comes up here has to pass inspection and has to get “certified”.  So, all that process is controlled.  While we are up here, we are only subjected to this semi-sterile environment.  One of the ongoing experiments is how/if our immune system gets somewhat compromised by the “lack” of bad stuff around us.  I guess it sort of gets lazy and doesn’t have to work hard.  That is why any visiting vehicle is inspected thoroughly so it doesn’t bring bad stuff up here.  It is also why Yuri and I were wearing masks and goggles when we entered SPACEX for the first time – you never know if  metal shaving is floating around or if there is something bad in the air (CALIFORNIA air…).  So, our air filtrations system got hooked up to it for an hour or so before we could go in there without the equipment.
Even with all that, sometimes folks don’t feel too good up here.  But that is rare.  We do have an entire locker of medicine for folks.  Luckily we haven’t had to take anything.  No one has got sick while we have been here.  But last time, I did throw up after ascent.  We have special plastic bags with a cloth sewn into them for double duty of holding the puke and cleaning up your face.  Really, the toilet is NOT an option for all that.  It just has to get projected in the right direction or surely your crewmates will be mad at you.  Everyone is conscious about this on launch and ready to help each other out.  But once we get here, I think most people have been fine.  The weekends are always time to recharge, and that is when you find everyone sleeping in to catch up and prevent from getting sick – way too much going on up here to take a sick day…but I can tell that by Friday, I want a day off.  The regular weekend schedule is nice.

Happy Birthday this week and last week! Dohhh….

Larry McGlynn – you are in good company, I missed writing Happy Birthday to the US Navy too!!!!
Jugal!!!!  Thanks for keeping our family in India in touch!
Erik Porter – the father of Shay, the next rocket builder and Sejal, the next Olympic soccer player.
Claire Williams – who likes to “jump into action!” like uncle Mike
Ed Williams – who has a new knee!!!  Congrats and we will go jogging when I get back!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s


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