Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Life on the ISS:
Sunita Williams' Mission Log
• Finally we got to open the lab window again - we turned around to fly forward again and even did a reboost. We needed a reboost to raise our altitude for the upcoming Soyuz docking in April. I think I answered a question of one of the kids last week about microgravity and that we do still have some gravity up here. It is just so much less than on Earth, that we don't feel it. However, the Station does feel it. So after a while, our orbit starts to decay and we fall back toward the Earth. We were as low as about 180 miles above the Earth until we reboosted the other night. It happened while we were sleeping, so we didn't even feel it. Our orbit is actually elliptical as well. So there is a point at which we are the closest to the Earth, and then 180 degrees later or half way around the world, we are at a point the farthest from the Earth. We try to circularize our orbit as best as we can to keep us somewhere between 200-250 miles above the Earth throughout our orbit.
• The folks on the ground who figure out all this orbital mechanics stuff are just amazing. They are planning for when the next spacecraft will be here, what is the correct trajectory for it and us for rendezvous, what is the correct docking attitude, correct docking altitude. When we need to maneuver - change attitude because of the decay of our orbit, etc., they are also the ones who figure out how we actually will maneuver - what jets to fire and when. This is all very complicated stuff and these folks work on this type of stuff for each rendezvousing spacecraft. They had us in a good position for the Shuttle docking, but with the Shuttle launch delay, they needed to replan and figure all this stuff out for the Soyuz since it will be the next spacecraft to dock. Simply incredible.
• Plus all these "burns" or engine firings are calculated by the ground and sent up here via telemetry. Then the engines onboard fire using these time-tagged commands in the telemetry. We don't fire them ourselves, this is all precalculated by the folks on the ground. Pretty incredible stuff these engineers are doing!
Cool places we have flown over this week:
• Italy, Spain, Africa
• India flew right across the center of it from Surastra, Hydrobad and Madras
• Western U.S. - Still looks warm in California and cold in the midwest. Noticed the Northeast got some snow...
• Lake Baikal and cold eastern Russian. People living there are pretty hardy. It seems like you can see the perma-frost. It is obvious when we are over this part of the world because it looks so frozen right now.
• Surprisingly enough, we have some pretty good breakfast food up here. Most of it is dehydrated so we need to add water. That makes it look pretty unappetizing, but after it "bakes" in our little oven, even vegetable quiche and sausage taste pretty good. We even have cinnamon scones. I didn't like them at first when I ate one right out of the package, but after I warmed it up, it was really good. Coffee with breakfast is now a standard - but we are out of coffee with cream. I have adjusted, but LA is counting his stash of lattes...
LA mixing and drinking his coffee.
Image to right: Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria drinks a beverage in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
• So, I was getting a little desperate for a dessert that wasn't in a bag...for some reason the idea of eating out of a bag or a can is starting to wear on me. I wanted that salty/sweet taste. Well, we found some pretzels from Thomas's bonus container. They are generally a pain to eat because the salt and crumbs sort of go everywhere. I was remembering how much I love chocolate-covered pretzels and thought, hmmm this could be a good idea. I have frosting left over from cookie decorating, so I thought, what a great mixture! Then, LA saw what I was doing and came up with the idea to melt some chocolate. He had some really great Swiss dark chocolate that we put in a drink bag and melted in the oven. I dipped the pretzels in the chocolate on one end and frosting in the other end. It was a great combination - reminded me of home eating frosting with my sister...
• 40 minutes biking, 1 mile walking
• 4.5 miles running
• 30 minutes biking
• 40 minutes biking, 3 miles walk/run
• 5.3 miles running
• 45 minutes biking
• 13.5 miles running - not bad at all actually this time. Thinking I was only going to run 10, but felt too good to stop so soon...hope this continues.
Resistive Exercise - went up in most of the weights this week. Feeling stronger, even upper body.
Things we did:
• ISL (Integrated Systems LAN). Not only are we construction workers and plumbers, we are also electricians. Completed the first part of laying a new network through the U.S. segment. The second part of the installation will occur this next week. This is needed because it will allow us to have a LAN that will be able to grow easily so we can add in the new laboratories pretty much as soon as they get here. This is prep work for the upcoming missions and additional modules for the ISS.
• PMA3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter 3). The piece of the Station will need to be moved in the future because it is on a docking port that will be needed for additional modules of the Station. It is connected to the ISS, but depressurized. It is like a closet and has spare parts (big black boxes that are used outside on the truss) that we may need if we have any failures. We needed to get these parts out of the PMA because the PMA will be moved in the future and one end of it will be open to space. So, to prevent losing the spare parts, they needed to come into the Station for safe keeping.
• Progress packing. Again, getting ready for the future, by packing our trash compartment. This will be undocked in the near future in preparation for a Soyuz relocate as well. I will talk about that next week. Lots of trash consolidation and packing.
• Robotic arm move into a position where it can be moved down the truss. It is far out on the starboard side. We will move it this week to the center of the Station to protect it from meteorite damage.
• SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) - Here we placed these "spheres" which have CO2 jets, in the air, start a computer program that is RF connected to them and they maneuver. It is pretty cool to watch these things fly around each other, rendezvous and "dock." This experiment is sponsored by MIT, the U.S. Air Force and NASA. It is pretty neat. There should be some video of this on the NASA websites. This picture shows them flying together and aligning before docking!!!
Image above: The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) experiment in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
• HAM radio pass with the University School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Wow, some very difficult questions!