Chapter 5: “Visitors…From Another Planet!!!”
Clayton Anderson's ISS In-Flight Journal
Fifty-six days and counting for me, 220 nautical miles up! I don’t think that I ever could have imagined that I would have been living off of the Planet Earth for almost 2 months! I think that this must be the longest period of time that I have ever been away from my family! Yet, we are all doing well and life is good onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Time continues to pass quickly, with much to do each and every single day. That is especially true now, as we prepare to welcome some interplanetary guests…the 7-person crew of STS-118 and the good ship Endeavour.
While awaiting the shuttle’s arrival, we have also said goodbye to our “trash collecting” spacecraft (Russian Progress 24) and we plan to welcome yet another Russian Progress (26), scheduled to dock on August 5th! So actually, life onboard the ISS is getting to be a little bit like Grand Central Station!
Image above: This series of three images shows Flight Engineer Clay Anderson in various parts of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Prepping for the arrival of the shuttle crew is not a trivial task. I find that it is reminiscent of the same type of work you might do when you have guests scheduled to arrive in your home! I have spent a large amount of my time doing what we term as “pre-pack.” That means I am gathering loads of equipment and supplies that we no longer need onboard the ISS and must be returned to Earth. You know…like cleaning house! This is not just “trash disposal”…which is what we did this week, when we sent the loaded Progress 24P vehicle away from ISS for its rendezvous with the fiery friction of the Earth’s atmosphere. Much of this packed equipment gets refurbished for use later, and some things are analyzed by the experts to figure out how they worked/behaved in the harsh environment of outer space. I have also been working hard in the U. S. airlock, putting away some of the gear and tools that Fyodor Yurchikhin (Fee-yoh-der Yer-cheek-in) and I used on our stage extravehicular activity or EVA (spacewalk). When the STS-118 crew arrives, we all plan to perform 4 EVA’s…so I am arranging all of the special tools and equipment that they will need, thereby allowing them to start work quickly without having to do some of this preparation. Shuttle flights are all about cramming as much work into as short a time as possible! So, we are doing our part to help them get there!
Unfortunately, as hard as we work and as much as I have packed, there is not much room to put things! The ISS doesn’t really have a “garage” or an “attic” like many of us do on Earth. In addition to our packing of things for return on the shuttle, the shuttle is also bringing us a “ton” of new supplies and equipment. So once they arrive and we open our hatches to let them in, the “transfer operations” will begin and start a bit of a dance between both crews. As we send something to the shuttle for return, they give us something to take its place. One would hope that we will “give” to them more than they “give” to us. Sadly, that is not the case and the storage space on ISS will decrease a bit. Help is on the way, however, with the delivery of Node 2 (“Harmony”) this fall. Of course, once the shuttle crew departs my focus turns to unpacking and stowing all the gear. I should be busy all through the fall!
Image above: The full moon is photographed intersecting the Earth's horizon from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
I am anxious to see Endeavour’s crew. Commanded by Scott Kelly, the crew has Pilot Charles Hobaugh and Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio, Tracy Caldwell, Barbara Morgan (the first Mission Specialist Educator), Dave Williams (of the Canadian Space Agency) and B. Alvin Drew, my replacement on STS-118 when I moved up to STS-117. They are my former crewmates, but more importantly, they are my friends!
Time to put out the guest towels!