We have been on board the ISS now for our first month with 5 to go. Handover week with the Expedition 12 crew was busy but very productive and we got Bill, Valery and Marcos safely home on 8 April. Since then, getting settled in and organized along with the scheduled tasks every day have kept us pretty busy. There is no problem with being bored on station. That is for sure.
Image to right: Jeff Williams exercises on the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System on the ISS. Photo Credit: NASA
There is little routine about the daily “routine” on ISS. Every day is different with different challenges. The planners have estimated that it takes almost 3 people just to run and maintain the station. I now believe it.
Our normal activities can be put in several main categories, not a whole lot different than living on the ground in your home. For example, we eat 3 meals a day and have the opportunity for snacks or a “coffee break” now and then. We live on a 24-hour day schedule using Greenwich Mean Time and have about 8 hours scheduled for sleep every night. Wakeup is normally at 0600 with sleep starting at 2200 or so. We exercise every day just to sustain muscle mass and bone density for the return to earth in September or October. Periodic cleaning and maintenance, of course, is required just like any “home” or work place. Repairs of broken or malfunctioning equipment is also a common activity. Conducting all of our routine activities requires a lot of supplies, equipment, tools and other consumables, all of which have to be stowed, organized, and findable when needed. That takes me to other activities not so common in your home.
Because of the tremendous amount of “stuff” we have on board, it is impossible to remember where everything is. It is also necessary for the flight controllers and planners on the ground to know where everything is stored. For that reason, every significant item has a “bar code” and we use bar code readers integrated with a huge database to stow and later find things. The database is maintained in the Mission Controls (both in Houston and Moscow) and the planners use the database to prepare the procedures for our daily work. The necessary use of bar codes also means that there is a lot of overhead in working even routine things such as deploying new food, clothing, or hygiene items or moving things around for one reason or another. Of course the overhead is vital to being able to keep track of what is on station, know where it is, understand the resupply requirements and build the manifests for the Russian Progress supply vessels and the space shuttle flights. We have a great team of folks on the ground who keep up on all of that and do a great job of meeting the logistics requirements for the long haul.
Image to left: Jeff Williams uses a camera to photograph the topography of Earth. Photo Credit: NASA
Another activity that we really enjoy is earth photography or what we formally call “earth observation.” You can never tire of looking at the part of God’s creation we call Earth. Traveling around the globe every 90 minutes provides lots of opportunity to view the geography, oceans, cloud formations, sunrises and sunsets, thunderstorms, city lights and many other things in vivid detail. In both the Russian segment and the U.S. segment of the station we have a computer map program running to show us where we are and to provide predictions for future passes over specific sites on the earth. Most of the photography is digital and is sent to Houston every day.
Recreation includes listening to music, reading news from home, writing e-mail, and reading, among other things. We also have a selection of movies on board although I do not expect to have—or to spend—much time at that…too many other things to do.