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