Week 18 – Change Acitivites

Hi Everyone!!!

Well, we are essentially packed – we even put away our Harry Potter glasses…(medical glasses to adjust for ANY vision changes with one pair of glasses, too bad they look dorky

-(see Gandhi and Tolstoy above) and all our other “stuff”.  Our sleeping bags go in the Soyuz tomorrow and that should be the last of our packing!

It is time to concentrate on the next task at hand – operating, working and riding in our Soyuz! It is amazing how you can automatically re-prioritize – then next task is at upon us so the mind set has to change to leaving ISS safely and landing on earth safely.  To do this we checked out our Soyuz and fired its thrusters to make sure everything was working and had our last training session with our instructors on descent.  It is time to start getting ourselves prepared for the journey.  This week I really felt like it was time to change focus.  We had some maintenance stuff to do to make sure our ship is in good shape to hand over to Kevin and his crew. They will be here for 5 weeks as a crew of 3, so we wanted to make sure she is in tip top shape.

With the change of command ceremony on Saturday, our time on the ISS has really come to an end and our focus is on descent!  I promise to write one more email after this one to tell you how all went and what my first impressions of EARTH are.  Last time I landed in the summer in the desert of California, in a space shuttle.  This time it will be winter on the steppes of Kazakhstan in a gumdrop shaped capsule!  I have a feeling I already know which one will be bumpier…

Geo Quiz:
Who knew LA knew where India was!!!!  Not only that, he knew and correctly Identified Gulf of Kutch.  This of course is the western part of the state of Gujarat where our dad is from.  Jay, Dina and I have been lucky enough to have been there as kids when we went  to visit our relatives.   Who knew that since the time of our visit, we have transitioned from the old “airmail” envelopes to email!  I am honored to have people from all over this beautiful planet on this email distribution – the world is small, but still quite grand!

This last geography quiz is for our mom and her relatives.  Mom’s are always right and always have the last word, so appropriately this last one is for her!  This is also a very beautiful place which Jay, Dina and I have visited as adults.  Some hints – Crystal clear lakes and sea, mountains and hills, famous white horses, amazing caves, fun wine and lots and lots of sausages!!!!  (answer will be at the bottom of this email).

Things we did this week to try to make life better for Kevin , Oleg and Evgeny…

CDRA – Carbon dioxide removal assembly – we taught Kevin how to “climb” in to the rack and work on these valves.   We finally fixed a long time leaky valve using an Ultra Sound Detection device which we have onboard to find leaks in the vehicle if we have some sort of depressurization event.  It worked and we found our leaky valve, tightened her up and after a couple hours of testing she is up and working!!!!

See in the rack above.*****

T2 – the treadmill named COLBERT, after Stephen Colbert – combined load bearing resistive device – got it’s yearly and semi-annual maintenance done to include using a grease gun.  Now that is fun and maybe Mike will let me play with his version of this in his garage now that I have greased a space treadmill – NOT.  Anyway, she was all fixed, but her software got corrupted somehow.  So we ended up doing “brain surgery”.  We tapped into her “brain”, the CLU, logic unit, and now the ground is reprogramming her.  It sounds very spacey when I use words like that…

see grease monkey above.  Because we needed to get into the brain of the T2 it isn’t working.  So, in the meantime we have been using

our old friend (above), the Russian’s TVIS, Treadmill Vibration Isolation System.  This was the ONLY treadmill we had when I was here last time.  This is the one I ran the Boston Marathon on!

WAPs – We got to install new Wireless Access Points.  These things look war hardened.  They are pretty big and bulky, but man they work well.  We needed an upgrade and we got one.  Now even the iPads onboard are working like a charm.  Life is getting better and better and more modern by the moment!!!

Things we did this week to make sure we are ready for THE RIDE home…

We finished up our last medical tests up here this week to include one last scan of our leg muscles.  Aki, Yuri and I worked out until Saturday.  Sunday is sleep in day and rest day.  We will be back on the planet within 24 hours so gravity can take over then.  Enough for up here!

Since we actually do have to get the vehicle separated from the ISS and we have to actually get the vehicle ready to do its deorbit burn – it is not all automatic, we really did do some practice.  Remember we got tested on all of this stuff about 5 months ago.  I am really happy that testing was very thorough.  I feel like we are ready and know what to do.  If it is anything like the training it will be fun.  We actually did some manual descent practice too on the simulator.  I love my little hand written notes – they have done me well – I got all 5.0s!!!  Thanks Dima!

Things we did this week one  last time this week…
I was lucky enough to talk about what we do with kids in Gujarat, India!  Remember that was last week’s geo quiz!  I got to talk to kids from my dad’s home state in India.  Thank you so much Ken Ransom for getting that set up.  The kids were psyched – you could hear it in their voice.  The Indian accent is one Jay, Dina and I are very familiar with (I never knew what dad was saying when he would say “devel – up” develop, when we were kids) so that helped when I was listening to them talking very fast in English!  I couldn’t help but smile listening to their cheerful voices!!!!!!

See ham with Gujarat above.

Speaking of kids, Kevin and I had a talk with kids all over the US in a Public Relations event at the Smithsonian in DC.  My Penguin classmate Leland Melvin was there with the Secretary of Education!  We talked to kids from all over thru a virtual connection.  I heard there were thousands of kids piped in!  Very cool!

Tradition –
Saturday night and it is the “Change of Command Ceremony!”  Like everything up here – it was even fun!  I really don’t like these formal things when I have to talk about stuff.  I don’t like getting too serious, and I get sort of emotional when it comes to this business.  I really believe in it and what we are doing.  I love the fact that we are all up here together from such different places – Yuri from the Ukraine, Aki from Japan, Kevin from Indiana, Oleg from Belarus, Evgeny from Siberia and me from Boston.  What a diverse group of people and somehow we all find a common ground and find humor in our daily lives together.  Both crews, this one and Expedition 32, have shown that folks from such different lives, perspectives, cultures, religions can easily be really productive when working together!  Think of all the possibilities with all the different nationalities, cultures and religions all over the world.  Wow – there is a lot of potential there!

See our crew above.
During our ceremony we gave the new crew some gifts to comfort them for the rest of their stay onboard the good ship ISS – Kevin got the Navy command Pennant, Oleg got the honorary Magnum PI shirt (Hawaiian shirt!), and Evgeny got the stuffed Gorby to keep his hippopotamus company! I hope they liked them!

See handover above.
Finally, we “zapped” the ship with our crew’s patch.  Here we are putting it on the US segment.  It is smartly aligned with 32 other crews which have come before us!  I love this patch that Aki designed!!!!

See patch above.

Finishing strong!!!!  I just had my last ARED session.  It felt great!  I was lifting weights I couldn’t just a week ago with no problems. From my Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes..s I am feeling pretty good and strong. The ARED is one of the best machines out there.  I am amazed at how the engineers came up with this great machine for “lifting “ in space.  People don’t believe me.  But I promise you a gun show shot after I land.  Not so bad – I will be ready to get bronzed up for our Caribbean vacation  ARED is probably my favorite machine onboard – we have worked on it, worked out on it – I feel like I have got to know it very well.  I am psyched to see how my bone density is after all this – I should get an idea next week!
One of the interesting things the Russians do along with exercise is a Lower Body Negative Pressure “work out”.  In these funny pants which hold pressure on the lower extremities, they walk in place while Moscow monitors their functions.

Salting up!!!
Getting ready to fill us up with water again.  We run a little dehydrated up here on a regular basis.  That is okay since we really don’t need all the water.  But once we get back to the ground, water is really important.  So, to “help” the process along – we start “fluid loading” a day before we come home.  In fact we will take salt tablets starting Sunday to try to retain water.  You guys know what I am talking about – it is like when you eat a lot of pizza, your hands seem to swell lup a little over night and you need to pee …well that might be because of the beer associated with the pizza.  Who knew bloating and retaining water would ever be good for you!!  Those are usually the side effects that are read really fast at the end of pharmaceutical commercials!
Not sure why we run dehydrated in space – my simple theory is that we are like trees – we need to the water to help support ourselves with gravity. Without gravity, we don’t need that support  and our organs, including our brains, have enough water to function normally.  So, when we come back to earth, getting a jump on the water loading is key.

General thoughts and questions:
Happy birthday to our cousin Carol in Colorado – we’ve come a long way since we all got lost on a mountain top with dad, huh….

Think about it for a moment –
100 years ago or so, we started flying, Girl Scouts were established and the Oreo cookie was invented.
50 years ago or so, the first Satellite was launched,
25 years ago, Aki graduated from high school, I became legal to drink and Yuri became a pilot…
10 years ago or so, the ISS was manned for the first time – people living in space continually now…
Where will we be in 10, 25, 50 or 100 years from now…it is hard to imagine, but I can’t wait to find out!

In the meantime, it is time to go home to planet Earth!  From one Earthling to another, I can’t think of a better planet to be from!

See farewell (the little space craft that kept me alive out there) and the view (typical from cupola).

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space and earth, s


Week 17 – Packing

Hi Everyone!!!

Now it is time to start thinking about coming home.  Up to this point I haven’t, and sort of denied it.  And, I am still in denial, but I am going thru the motions because I don’t want to forget something when the hatch closes…so just in case we really do have to go home in a week, we are preparing.
Space is just really cool.  Have I said that before, or have I said that enough yet????  I love it here, just like most folks who get to come here.  It is just so cool how we adapt and become so comfortable up here.  You can be standing one moment and just with a little effort flip upside down and be hanging – “look ma’, no hands!!!!”  It is just an amazing place to be.  Not to mention the view…why would anyone want to leave????

So, you might ask what do you have to pack?  It is a little like the airlines, we do have a  baggage limit, but slightly less – only 1.5 kg in the Soyuz.  That is only like 3.5 lbs, so not much.  We all brought that much personal stuff up here, so we know pretty much how big and how much mass we can take back – essentially the same stuff we brought up comes back down with us in the Soyuz.

Remember we don’t pack our clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. That stuff is all here when we arrive.  Even our special shirts and cargo pants are waiting here for us.  But, this is our personal stuff, so no one else will want it.  We need to sort thru our stuff and decide what stuff needs to be thrown away or as we say put into “Common Trash”.  I have worn essentially one pair of pants this entire trip, and one pair of shorts.  I have an additional pair of pants, but they are beige/white.  I feel a little like Chevy Chase in Caddyshack when I wear them – sort of like golf pants – so I only wear them for Public Relations events.  We don’t get “dirty” up here with dirt, but we are working on equipment and will drinks, sometimes there are little stains that get on your clothes – white isn’t good for that.  Additionally, we don’t do laundry up here – we just get new stuff and “throw away” the old stuff.  We don’t need to change our clothes as much as we do on the ground – not really anyone up here to impress, and “smell-ivision” has not been invented yet…just kidding, Kevin did tell me that we didn’t smell though when he arrived.  We really only get “stinky” in our PT gear and that we change out about weekly.

So, back to packing – I have some stuff, like my yoyo, my crew notebook with pictures, my specialty t-shirts I had sent up, my family photo album (well, really Gorby’s photo album) – you know, very important stuff!  I also have a number of dog tags which need to be returned to their rightful owners – FOGs (Friends of Gorby’s), our Soyuz instructor, Dima’s dog tag (also a FOG), some toys, some jewelry, a couple bandanas (Freddy!), and some patches from Mike and my helicopter squadrons.  So, I need to make sure everything is in order!  It is funny that your life actually boils down to these little things – really, think about it.  Not much more is really important than the people (animals included here), places and memories you have!

Geo Quiz:
Congratulations to Carolyn Pascucci who was dead on when she mentioned Vegas!  Glitter town USA, no wonder it is our mom’s favorite place…It is amazing that in the middle of the desert this boom town came to life.  It really is in the middle of nowhere, with some of the most amazing Canyon lands all around it.  From Bryce and Zion to the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff – it really is an outdoors wonderland.  We need to go visit Jim and Betty there again!

With the orbits lately, we have found ourselves illuminated most of the time.  We have been essentially paralleling the “terminator” for the week.  We have had some nice passes over some other areas of the planet which I haven’t had for geo quiz’s.  This particular place should look very familiar to our dad – I think he was a beach bum here!

Things we did this week:
This week was full of stuff…and of course it was fun because we are in space!  It doesn’t get better than that, even when all your computers don’t work and the toilet gets really broken…

Being high tech and stuff, we have tried to go paperless as much as possible up here on the ISS.  This is great and GREEN, but everything sort of comes to a screeching halt when the computer system which provides you with all the information about your schedule and activities dies.  This happened bright and early Tuesday morning and put a little damper on our activities.  Luckily enough, all the workout equipment kept on plugging along for the most part so we were able to buy back a little time by working out for a while, while the PLUTOs (computer guys) worked their magic on our systems.  It took the better part of the day with a little help from us for them to reload the hard drives of two of our main servers.  We do the hardware stuff and they can do all the software configurations from the ground.  In the meantime, we were able to get on the plan by being sent up oncey, twocy procedures.  It is interesting to see how vulnerable we are to these types of problems.  I know the folks on the ground were scrambling to get all of our systems working again – and that meant email and phone as well…

Another “little issue” that arose this week was weak batteries. Again something quite essential for life, but again – like the toilet – we take for granted. The Makita batteries are needed to “run” a pump for the ICV experiment. That is the one that has the blood pressure – cardiac output  – cuffs on your fingers. So we can be mobile, the batteries were the power source that was selected. Now, we have had a Makita on the ISS for quite some time for assembling of stuff – like xmas gifts, etc.  (just kidding) – and, the batteries are old. We have been having a difficult time getting the batteries to hold a charge – so we needed to do some charge, discharge cycles. Well, again, taking things for granted – – the charging cycle didn’t quite work as planned. But we determined that probably we have a bad charger piece that needed replacing and luckily enough we have enough stuff onboard for an entire second set. We put that together and for the most part we have charged batteries now. However, these somewhat simple things can make or break a pretty complicated experiment if they are not working quite right. I mention these things, because it is the simple, easy things that always seem to come back and eat your lunch, take all the time, cause the frustrations, etc. We don’t have Auto Zone or Home Depot around the corner to resupply us. We need to anticipate, plan and be self-sustainable if we are going beyond low earth orbit one day. I’m not sure we are there quite yet.

And the big thing that was not working quite right this week was the toilet. Kevin promised us hot food, cold drinks and a toilet after our EVA – remember, we got 2 of 3. The toilet was broken since last weekend, but we limped along, essentially peeing in a bucket until we had time and a plan to fix it. We changed out practically every part in that thing system. The KTO, or number two function of our toilet was working fine. It was just really the Urine Processing part. We really need to make sure the right balance of Pee to chemicals is put into the system to make sure the downstream components, which turn that pee back into drinking water don’t fail. So, in general, we could pee, we were just worried about the “product” going into the urine processing system with an unknown water/chemical balance. As a result, the water valves, all plumbing, 2 sensors and finally the water pump were all changed out. In the meantime – we used the Russian toilet – all 6 using one toilet is rough! It was like a revolving door down there!!!!  In the end, we changed out the “pretreat” tank too! – and now the yellow goes where it is supposed to at the correct chemical composition! See Kevin putting together the urine tanks and me holding them (space hasn’t been that good to me…)

So, Aki, Yuri and I fit – that is a good thing – in both our Sokol suits and our Soyuz.  You know we grow up here so there is always a question about if we will really fit.  In space your spine expands so you grow.  The cartilage between the vertebrae don’t have the pressure of gravity on them so they expand and hence, you grow.  I did notice this in fact when we were getting our suits on.  I had to lengthen all the straps to get my head thru the opening.  It was a little tight, but all worked out fine.  Another impression I had was wow – that Soyuz is small. It felt big when we flew up here and even roomy. But now, after living in this grand hotel, that little thing seems tiny!  Actually, after I nestled my way into my seat – you don’t just sit in space, you have to get held down, and that seat is actually like being in the fetal position, so you have to tighten your belts, nestle down, tighten some more, nestled down, etc until you are all the way in there – it felt pretty good. Of course, your knees are in your chest, so maybe a Motrin would be a good idea since we will be like that for a number of hours…Regardless of these strange sensations, the Soyuz automatically felt like home. We all know what we need to do in there – the training is that good I think – that you don’t really think to much about it. You just know what to do. I love our little Agat!

See sexy outfit – that is our “G” suit called Kentavr.  Then Dancing clothes (our underwear), then ready and do the shuffle!

Aki went fishing this week!  Anyone who has had an aquarium knows there is a lot to do with fish! An aquarium needs tending, so Aki and Kevin worked on water testing – making sure the pH and minerals were all good.  They had to transport some of the fish from the tank to another place, which in itself was a challenge if you can imagine in a micro gravity environment – how do you grab them and hold water???  By trying to move them with a syringe water is also displaced and bubbles come in.  Like before, bubbles are not good for fish – they can’t breathe in a bubble, so then the bubbles had to be removed with another syringe and water added to the vessel.  Pretty labor intensive.  This is a great engineering challenge and we are learning quite a bit from all this.  Again, the easy things, like bubbles, seem to turn out to be not so easy!

We had our last round of Integrated Cardio Vascular (ICV) testing this week.  Our hearts are ready to come home…the physical ones at least.  A part of my emotional heart will always be with this space station and the sweat and tears that have made it happen.  We will get to wear the holter monitor and the cardio press again before we know it – on the way home in fact from Kazakhstan after landing.  As our time here is coming to an end, the tests are building and landing on top of one another.  Here I am wearing the cardio press and holter monitor as I am self-sticking myself and taking my blood and urine samples for the ProK diet.  Lots going on and I am learning to do lots of these things essentially one handed – to include sticking a needle in your arm and switching out sample tubes, peeping in a bag while holding a pH test strip, putting samples on the freezer without getting your cardio press finger cuffs stuck on the freezer bag Velcro…never and obstacle, always a challenge!  Loving it!

Another big science week for our eyes too!  We had 3 big eye tests this week.  This is only the second time Aki and I have done these tests, and a first for Kevin.  I think if there are signs that your eyes are getting worse, you might be asked to do these tests more frequently.  I think we talked about all these tests a while back on the first round.  So, some folks have had serious vision issues in the past.  Part of that can possibly be attributed to increase cranial pressure.  So, beside a general eye exam, we use a Panoptic machine – the same thing essentially that the doctor looks in your ears with and up your nose – to look thru the cornea and pupil to the see the blood vessels and the Optic  Nerve!  Check it out – this is cool, but a little tough to do to ourselves.  Thankfully we work with “remote guiders” on the ground who help us out with this task and the eye Ultrasound.  Another very interesting test – here we just use water as a media, no gel required since surface tension keeps the water nicely on the eye.  Here we are looking at our cornea, shape of the eyeball and the optic nerve.  Very cool stuff to see.  Finally we perform an eye Tonometer test on each other where we poke at each other’s eyes to read the “pressure” at the eye.  If it is essentially the same as during the ground testing then we are doing fine.  In simple terms this all makes sense – there is a known fluid shift in the body in space.  Of course everyone’s heads get bigger with this fluid shift – but the head can only get so big because of the cranium.  But if more and more fluid goes in there, something is going to get squished – and the optic nerve just might be the thing that is getting squished – hence changes in vision.  We don’t know for sure if this is what is happening, but it seems to make sense, and if some people are susceptible to this change, the consequences could be bad if they can’t see correctly.

See scaryeye and eye ultra above.

It surely isn’t all work and no play up here – we finished off the week with a couple pretty fun events.  First, I had the opportunity to see INSIDE the Patriot’s locker room and talk to the owner, Robert Kraft and a couple of the players!

That was pretty neat and they seemed psyched that people are watching their every move from space – and yes, thank God they beat the Bills today – why do they have to make it close every time???

Secondly, we were able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of the Deputy Operations Russia, Mark VanDeHei with him and all the folks In Star city who we know and love there – Alla, Larissa, Galya, Ania, Yuri G.,  Yuri S., Ephim, Vadim, Klinky, Sasha (Sasha V was missing or I didn’t see him).  That was really great, except we didn’t get to enjoy Ephim’s soup, Shurpa  – we need smell-i-vision for that!!!!!

Finally, the young boys, Oleg and Evgeny, are trying to leave a good impression and are at the 3 week point with “excessively” long hair.  A haircut was a must!  Kevin bagged out today, but will meet up with them at the next haircut.  Now, Aki, Yuri and I, well – we have a different “style” I guess.  I trimmed Aki’s hair today – it was getting long up top.  Yuri and I are going “au natural” until we get back.  Not that we don’t trust each other, but rather at this point, we’ll see who will have a ponytail first!

See us and them above!

LAST treadmill Kinematics!!!!
As I was finishing up this week of exercises, sprints and lifting, I was a little shocked that this WILL be the last round of all these exercises up here.  Relief is one way to describe it, but in regards to exercise I would really say satisfaction.  I really felt like Aki and I have given this protocol our all – it hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been fun – but I really believe it has worked us hard.  The proof will be in the pudding when we get home – so just one more set and we will see!

LAST ProK diet!!!!  That meant the last blood and urine samples happened this past weekend.  No more yellow and red popsicles from me!
So, today I did some food rearranging and I see I have 5 more Bonus containers that haven’t even been touched…I can’t eat all this food we have up here.  I am thinking to cherry pick a couple of things out of them – and really have a feast this week.  Why not!  Every day a new pair of underwear, everyday a special snack from our bonus containers!!!!  Tonight we even tried the smoked oysters I had…yuck.  Not highly recommended.  I think I saw garlic mashed potatoes in one of the containers.  I will report next weekend…
Finally, we have a lot of Chocolate too.  So, I am totally getting into this habit I had in Russia when I was working on Russian flight books way back around 2000 – chocolate and tea around 3pm every day!  That is a nice combo!  Try it for a pick me up!

General thoughts and questions:
So, it is all a matter of attitude!  Everyone has one, like an opinion.  Sometimes they are the same, sometimes they are different.  Whenever I get to do something really fun and great – like climbing a mountain in Maine, New Hampshire or Tanzania, sailing in the Caribbean, riding an elephant in India, kayaking in Alaska or living here in space, I think to myself, I can’t wait to do that again. For some reason it rarely occurs to me that I may never get to do this again. (Only once here have I had THAT feeling and that was when I was coming back toward the airlock after our last spacewalk, wondering if I would ever get that view again – maybe you noticed, I actually stopped talking for a little while to just take in the view). One thing our dad always taught us was to “stop and take a look at the foliage.”  That is sage advice, and I would add to that, take it all in, promise yourself you will be back, even if it is just in your mind! ISS – I will be back.

Happy Birthday and thanks to everyone out there whose birthdays I have missed and who I haven’t said thank you to enough! I get swallowed up and lost in dates and times periodically. No offense to anyone – just my mistake.  Particularly, Mary Louise, I know I missed yours in October, sorry.

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s

Week 16 – Time For a Party

Hi Everyone!!!

Hang in there – soon the political commercials will be over with!  Tuesday will be interesting.  I am sort of glad we don’t get all that stuff up here…only if you want to read about it and I certainly don’t want to spend time in space reading about people bad mouthing each other…In case you were wondering, Kevin and I both voted before we came up here with early voting.  I am active duty military and voted early in the state of Florida.  He voted early in Texas.  There is a way to vote from space if you are a Texas resident, but neither one of us needed to do that.  I am sure Tuesday night will be a late one for many of you down there – get out the popcorn for the show!

Speaking of staying up late and being tired, this past week ended with everyone really ready for some sleep.  We were going to have a party on Friday, even a day AFTER EVA, and we all couldn’t do it. We had to wait until Saturday for the party since Friday evening came and we were all too tired from the week to stay up.  I know it is hard to believe that I would ever opt to sleep rather than party, but let me tell you why.  In my last note I talked about the rest of the Expedition 33 crew arriving and the SPACEX Dragon departing.  Yes, we had some time off after SPACEX departed, but still lots of show and tell for our new compardres, and we had to get ready for a Progress and a spacewalk.  So in summary here is what our schedule looked like:
Thursday, 25 October – Soyuz Crew Arrives
Sunday, 28 October – DRAGON Spacex departs
Wednesday, 31 October  – Progress Arrives
Thursday, 1 November  – EVA
It has been like Grand Central Station up here – no complaints and it is totally exciting.   But honestly, it did get physically tiring switching gears every other day.   On that note, I find it so interesting how the body knows when to rally and keep going, and then when to crater and rest.  We all felt great/fine for this week plus, but by Friday we were ready to crash.  It reminds me of when Dina and I hiked the last 100 miles of the Appalachian trail.  We, and our feet, were fine all the way to the end.  Then, that evening when we took our boots off and finally took a shower, both of us had swollen feet – why that didn’t happen anytime we were out on the trail, I don’t know – the body knew it had to perform and did until it knew it could rest – then the effects of the work were evident.  Same goes with the work up here- when Friday came around, everyone’s switch went off and it was lights out early on the good old ISS.

This week and these events, one after another have really defined a new era for spaceflight to low earth orbit.  It was simply amazing to see the Dragon depart

(see SPACEX depart node 2) and then hear about how the ship had landed in the ocean just 4+ hours later.  Blood, urine and experiment samples all destowed and delivered to NASA the next day!  Amazing!

It was equally amazing to “see” the Progress launch via vapor trails in the atmosphere in the morning, and then by lunchtime, she was docking to the aft port of the ISS!

(see Progress far and Progress near above).  This is the second Progress to do this “accelerated” profile to dock to the ISS in the same day.  This profile is planned to eventually be used for Soyuz vehicles bringing up ISS crew members.  That would be a long day for the crews (it would probably be the equivalent time in the spacesuit as it is for a spacewalk – 9 or so hours.  Diaper needed…), but then they would be here, at the “big hotel” the same day they left the planet.  That could be considered safer, less chance of micrometeorite hit to Soyuz, and more time onboard to work.

Geo Quiz:
Lots of folks were quick to answer the city of Houston Texas – and yes, my Mike lives there too.  That is why Gorby only lives there sometimes…just kidding.  So a big Congratulations goes out to Mike Surber who is in Moscow!  His wife Trish and kids, Brittany and Dustin are in Houston while he is doing “hard time” in Russia!  He is also the one who probably squished those little pieces of hardware that were kicking my butt outside on the spacewalk, called SPDs.  The story I heard was that his suitcase was packed  with those little items and the “kitchen sink”, like my mother’s suitcase, so he had to sit on it to get it closed…just kidding!

This next quiz is a little different – It reminds me that Earth is a planet – not just the place where we live.  It is a changing, forming planet and from our vantage point looks as “foreign” as Mars or any other planet.  One needs to go down there and poke it to see what is going on.  I think I mentioned this once before too, a night flyover of another planet would be good too – just too see that there are “creatures” down there in places that look “empty” in the day time.  This place for example looks pretty empty, but there is a booming town not far away with lots and lots of glitter (mom’s favorite)…

Things we did this week:
This week was full of fun – even though short, lots going on.  I know I am repeating myself a bit by talking about Dragon, but I like noting the similarities and differences with it and the Russian Progress.  Both are cargo vehicles – which are the basis for a crew’d vehicle  – in SPACEXs future most likely, and Soyuz for Progress.  Both vehicles fly automatically to a point outside the docking ports and then things are a little different.

Dragon comes close to the station and hovers there while we use the robotic arm to “catch” it and drive it to the docking mechanism – likewise after we get everything out of it and we unbolt it from the ISS, the robotic arm drives it to a place where we “release” it and then command it to fly away with a button push.  Aki and I were commanded the “release” and “depart” from our “command post” in the cupola.

See spacex command post above.

The Progress also comes close to the station and when the ground teams in Moscow are ready, they send the approach command.  The vehicle flies in with a tracking system using a probe/cone (male, female type) docking mechanism.  Yuri and Oleg were monitoring the approach and were ready to take over and fly the Progress if the automatic systems were not working correctly, while Evgeny was documenting the approach!

See Progress command post and Evgeny progress above.

The Progress arrived on Wednesday – Halloween!  It was a little late in the day, so we didn’t actually open the hatch until the next day…yes, there were “treats” in there…more later.  Kevin even dressed up…no, he was learning how to care for the fish from Aki – take him seriously!!!!

Then of course, Thursday was the EVA.  That was a big day for all of us.  The Russian boys had to get up really early to open up the Progress hatch and start unloading!  You know we share communications systems and for EVA, we really clobber the communications because we are “hot mike” all the time – they can’t get rid of us.  So, to allow the Yuri, Oleg and Evegeny to have uninterrupted communications with the Moscow mission control, they got up at 5am and got their work done early so we could use it for EVA.

If you were that bored on Thursday and watched the EVA, then I am sorry to be repeating…but if not here is what we did in pictures:

-Kevin suited us up.  Go Notre Dame!
-We went way out on the far end of the truss which holds the solar arrays.  We are both in this picture, can you find us???
-we shut a valve to the piping to the radiator with the “leaking” ammonia.
-we maneuvered jumpers to redirect the flow of ammonia to another radiator.
– we deployed an old/new radiator.

It was a radiator that was used in the beginning of the construction of the ISS so wasn’t supposed to be needed anymore…lucky we had a spare!  It was actually under a shroud which Aki removed while I was working on the jumpers.  He is good at “folding laundry” as I call it.
The little things called SPDs, are “spool positioning devices.”  These needed to be put on the valves of the ammonia jumpers.  They help to prevent the valves from moving or getting stuck in position if the seals on the ammonia connect don’t work quite right.  They are not “necessary” but the fact that they are there will help someone in the future be able to move those valves if they need to.  It also gets really cold and hot out there, so these valves have thermal blankets on them.  The blankets were not designed to cover the additional hardware of the SPDs – so that was a little difficult to “stretch” them over the valve stems…but with a little elbow grease and some wire ties (just as handy as duct tape in the space program), we got it all done!

After the EVA, we just had some clean up stuff to do on Friday and were preparing for the party…but we all fell asleep instead…I am denying that is old age!  I knew I was going to be pretty tired on Friday as my body was adjusting after EVA.  The pressurized suit is pretty stiff to work in.  One of the areas that seem to get the most “traumatized” by this are your hands.  They are constantly working against the hard plastic (because of the pressure differential that the suit holds in vacuum), so they usually come out sort of red.  You may have seen Aki and me using moleskin to protect some of the areas which get rubbed the most on our hands.  Well, as usual they were a little red and sensitive when I went to sleep that night.  At some point I interlocked my fingers together while sleeping.  I woke up in the middle of the night pretty thirsty, and sore, and realized that my fingers had swollen up a bit – such that they were sort of stuck for a moment or two together interlaced.   It was sort of funny trying to pull my hands apart – I am glad no one else was awake to see me flail around for a bit…I am sure that was just that marvelous healing fluid – blood, working out all the aches and pain.

You know we are on this “strict” protocol which involves lifting every other day and high intensity cardiovascular workouts every other day.  Well, I decided that I needed a break before EVA.  I kept with the routine up to Wednesday, but then decided it would be best if I just stretched and cycled leisurely – slowly and gradually as my dad would say!
The ARED is a great place to stretch.  You can do all sorts of yoga stretches up here, because you really don’t need balance – you just need someplace to anchor your toe, or your arm to hold you in place and then you can do anything.  It really is a great place to stretch.  And the ARED allows you to put a little simulated weight on yourself to use a stretching lever, squatting low really stretches you hips for example.  So, Wednesday was all about stretching and getting ready for Thursdays “marathon” outside.  EVA is a 6 hour workout like a marathon – you aren’t sprinting the entire way, but it is a long time and you have to have enough energy to get you thru it.
Speaking of which, I heard the New York Marathon was cancelled because of the storm, but Giants football goes on.  I hope all our friends and family in the New Jersey, New York area are okay.

Finally we all rallied for a party on Saturday evening.  I had my Family conference with dad, Dina and our family friends the Milligans!  What a crowd – very fun to see every one and reminisce!

Just like a family dinner where everyone pitches in  – We all got out our special food and spread it all out on our table.  We had Azman’s sausages – cooked and sliced – yummm!!!

Everyone loved them and I was only able to save a couple for tonight for dinner.  We had corn tortilla chips with bean dip and Jalapenos!  One of the very special things we got from the Progress were fresh garlic, lemons, apples and grapefruits!  How cool is that – they were only a couple days old – fresh from Kazakhstan!

See Yummm above.

What an incredible evening actually – it was like Thanksgiving in many ways.  We were all very thankful for an incredible and busy week.  Of course the food was great and the company outstanding.  We actually had the Navy football game on and then the Notre Dame football game on in the background as we noshed and chatted.  It was great to hang together and we even got the rugby football out and threw it in the PMM for long catches- just like a Thanksgiving  afternoon of watching football, eating and playing.  As the evening continued, the guitar came out and Yuri serenaded us with fun and funny made up tunes!  We had fun singing about Aki and the fish, life up here, different cultures and friends.  It doesn’t get much better than that with people floating all over our little square living room!

General thoughts and questions:
So, beside your hands and feet, the most important instrument on this space station is your SPOON!  You just can’t live without it, or you can try, but you will be somewhat miserable.  I had the misfortune of putting my spoon down – with velcro, going to empty trash in the PMM and then it was gone.  For two days no spoon was to be had.  I had to resort to using my fork – no fun for that sloppy stuff like soup, baked beans in sauce, etc.  It just doesn’t work well….Well, I was sort of miserable, but tried not to complain – being the glass half full type of guy, I was convincing myself that it would show up.  I had almost given up hope, because usually we find stuff in a couple days…after that, well this is a big station, you may never see stuff again…But Kevin was curious about a cable routing in the very front of the lab – an entire module away from where I had “lost” my spoon.  Low and behold, Aki found my spoon as he showed Kevin where the cable routing went.  An airflow duct had sucked it up to it so it was stuck on the vent!  I will never take my spoon for granted again….just like the toile.

Oh yeah – that also was not working when we came in from EVA.  Kevin had promised us hot tea, warm food and quick access to toilet…2 out of 3 isn’t too bad, but it was a long way to the bathroom – 2 modules worth to fly thru after getting out of the space suit.  Not to mention flying past our Russian buddies in your somewhat stinky “underwear” – liquid cooling garmet (the outfit under the spacesuit).  They were all very nice, and cleared out of the way, probably noting that look of “I have to go” on my face.  I felt I had the power to make people move…not sure if that is good.

Happy Birthday to all those November babies out there!
Kristen Zalokar
Mrs. Zalokar
Happy Anniversary Carol and Erik!
Happy Anniversary mom and dad!!!!!

Thanks again for tuning in!
Smiles from space, s