Last Week by Ourselves
Life on the ISS:
Sunita Williams' Mission Log
• Well, this was our last week together, alone. My Expedition 15 crewmates, along with space tourist Charles Simonyi launched on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan late Saturday night. They should arrive here, the ISS, Monday morning. The Soyuz rocket is a Soyuz capsule sitting on top of staged rockets. The Soyuz has only liquid fuel (no solid rocket booster like the Shuttle has) so if you watched the launch you probably noticed the "smooth" ride. We were able to watch from up here on a computer using video conferencing software and the NASA channel that Mission Control in Houston was able to send up real-time - except for the actual lift off when we didn't have satellite coverage. After a couple seconds we saw the video signal from inside the capsule, where the crew sits (the area which you saw us sitting in for the relocation). This is for Mission Control in Moscow to see that the crew is fine. In that inside capsule view you may have also seen a little stuffed animal hanging. That is the microgravity "indicator" since it will start to float as soon as they get into space. Each crew has a different stuffed animal. Traditionally, the Soyuz commander, who is Oleg Kotov for Expedition 15, picks the stuffed animal. Oleg chose a black cat named Dimler, who we saw hanging/floating there.
• So there will be 6 of us up here on Monday. You already know LA who is the ISS Expedition 14 commander, Misha who is the Expedition 14 Soyuz commander and then me, flight engineer. Coming aboard on Monday will be Fyodor Yurchikhin, who was sitting in the left seat of the Soyuz, and will be the Expedition 15 commander. He has flown on the Shuttle in 2002 as a mission specialist. Oleg Kotov was sitting in the center seat in the Soyuz as Soyuz commander and will stay onboard as flight engineer for Expedition 15. This will be his first flight to space. Thirdly is Charles Simonyi who is a space tourist. He will stay for about 10 days and then go back to Earth with Misha and LA. So Fyodor, Oleg and I will be staying here to become Expedition 15.
• We have had a busy week getting ourselves ready for our guests/my new crewmates...you know cleaning up, straightening up and doing all those things we have procrastinated about - sorting photos, videos, taking pictures, etc. Luckily there isn't too much to pack...thoughts of home are all around us. I find myself thinking a lot about home even though I am staying. I have been getting a lot of questions; is it starting to get boring, am I sick of not taking a shower, sick of eating out of a bag, is it not very exciting anymore, etc. I do miss home and my family. Everyone has been very supportive and I appreciate that, but I really love this home too. In this amazing environment we are free from day-to-day worries, and have the rare opportunity to observe our planet and our environment like no one else. No mistaking it, there is a lot to worry about up here, but in general, I am never late for work, I don't have to choose what to wear, I don't even have to comb my hair...those types of things almost seem trivial here as we see life a little differently in our little spaceship. I will absolutely admit that the feel and smell of sea spray and wind on my face will be very welcome. I will be happy to come back to Earth, our beautiful planet, when it is time.
Cool places we have flown over this week:
• South America - good glaciers here!
• New Zealand - There are some good glaciers here.
• Australia - the crazy continent. There are some amazing contrasts and colors here. Hard to capture, but I am working on a photo for you guys.
• Africa - awesome!
Image to right: Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 14 crew member on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
• Getting in the mood for Easter - no hard boiled eggs up here, but we do what we can.
Interesting egg dish week. I have been experimenting with our dehydrated eggs. Like I said before, some of the egg dishes are pretty good on their own, like vegetable quiche and eggs with pork. However, the dehydrated eggs are a little boring. So, this week, I was on an egg burrito kick. I put eggs in a tortilla with dehydrated sausage patty - it is hard at first, so easy to break into pieces, hydrate and voila - sausage, egg burrito. Feeling like that was too much for breakfast, I heated up tomatoes and artichokes and put that in a burrito with eggs. Not bad, sort of like a veggie burrito. My third attempt at the breakfast burrito was eggs with creamed spinach. It was a mix of Eggs Florentine and a breakfast burrito. Though it was tasty, I was sort of sick of egg dishes at that point. Back to oatmeal for a while...
• I did make one of my best desserts yet this week. We have bread pudding up here, which is pretty tasty itself, especially when heated up. I was thinking dark chocolate drizzled over it would be really good, but we are out of dark chocolate. Then it dawned on me that I do have some frosting left over from Christmas cookie decorating, so I put a spoonful of that on the hot bread pudding. It melted really nicely and added another dose of sweetness. That was good!
• 40 minutes biking, 1 mile walking
• 6.2 miles running
• 40 minutes biking, 1.5 miles run/walk
• 5.3 miles running
• 40 minutes biking, 1.2 miles walking
• 8 miles running
• 8.3 miles running -
The 111th Boston Marathon has got a lot of press this last week. It is just a week away. Yikes! There should be some folks from NASA running and participating in the pre-race events. Good luck to everyone participating. It is a great race.
Things we did:
• ALTEA for LA.
• TRAC for Misha and LA. I still have some more time on board, so I will do more TRAC sessions later for a comparison.
• Nutrition experiment for me. That is the self-taken blood and urine samples which go in our freezer, MELFI.
• Expedition 14 Soyuz packing.
• Misha had to do Lower Body Negative Pressure Experiment, in Russian called Chibis. These pants, which look just like those pants on Wallace and Gromit, provide a negative pressure in the legs to pull the blood into the lower extremities. The premise here is to simulate gravity by making your heart work harder to pull blood from the lower extremities back up into the heart. Very interesting....he will do this a number of times before they leave.
• LA was getting used to wearing a Kentavr suit or "speed jeans" as we call them in the U.S. He was doing a fit check of his Russian g-suit. This outfit will be worn under his Sokol space suit for the ride home to Earth in the Soyuz. The U.S. has a different g-suit, but both provide pressure on the lower extremities to help keep the blood in your core and head under high g loads. They will typically experience about 4 to 4.5 g’s on a nominal entry. The Shuttle entry is nominally about 2 to 2.5 g's.
Image to left: Astronaut Sunita Williams works with water tanks in the Progress 24 spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
• I had the pleasure of performing one of the most important jobs on board. I pumped all the urine containers into the holding tank in the Progress.
The conversation went something like this:
Misha: They only let really experienced people do this.
Suni: What do you mean? I understand how this system works.
Misha: I am not sure you really know enough.
Suni: I can learn, please teach me.
Misha: Well, okay, but only if you promise not to tell anyone and don't screw it up!
Suni: Oh great! Thank-you, thank-you...
7 urine tanks later I realized he absolutely pulled a Tom Sawyer on me!
• HAM radio pass with Glenden State School, Glenden, Queensland, Australia. One of the best questions was about tears and what happens to them in space...insightful kids!
• HAM radio pass with St. Michael's Primary School, Daceyville, NSW, Australia