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


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