First Week in Space: What Everyone Wants to Know about Launch and Lunch
Sunita Williams' Mission Log
Hi everyone -
Image to right: The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew head toward Earth-orbit and a scheduled link-up with the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
I just wanted to say Merry Christmas! I hope all of you are off from work and enjoying a little time home with family and friends! I'm having a blast flying overhead, looking out the window, cleaning up the mess that the "Shuttle guys" made and just plain old "flying" around with friends. The other day one of my officemates was on the NPR radio show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" describing space flight and living on the International Space Station. She mentioned flying around was like being Harry Potter. Actually, I feel a little more like Mary Poppins without the umbrella. Remember when she landed at their house? Every day is like that for me...I love it.
Now, I'm not going to lie and tell you it was how I felt the entire time. In case you’ve forgotten about launch, getting into space is quite a jolt! Needless to say, besides your brain, the rest of the body takes some time to adjust. The first 6 hours of being in-orbit were a little difficult on my stomach. I think things just didn't know where to go! Think of it. We were lying on our backs for 4 hours by the time we lifted off. So already the bladder and the stomach are confused...Luckily we wear diapers so in case you need to go, your space suit won't get stinky! Then the APU (auxiliary power units) start up. The vehicle begins vibrating and we are thinking, "We are really going to go this time!" Six seconds before launch, the main engines start and we are rumbling and shaking pretty significantly. Now it seemed like we were really, really going to go. Then the blast of the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) launched us right off the pad. I don't think my stomach knew what was going on at all!
We started to accelerate like nobody’s business which felt like the g-level slowly, consistently coming on until we reached 3 g's. So our stomachs and the rest of us are really getting squished now...it takes a little effort to breathe out - but it's doable. The ride became much smoother once the SRBs were off, but we were still accelerating through the thinning air of the atmosphere. Then everything got quiet. My pen started to float and my arms started to float. At no point during this 8 minutes was there silence on the middeck - we were hooting and hollering the entire time. Joanie, Christer, and I were all three shaking hands and shouting for the entire ride - sort of like screaming on a roller coaster. When we were there, we couldn't stop laughing! It was just unbelievable and great! Needless to say, we all wanted to get to work changing out our rocket into a space ship.
We all got out of our seats and started setting up the middeck for our stay in space. We surely didn't have our "space legs" yet so we were crashing into everything on the middeck.
Image to left: Astronaut Sunita Williams, STS-116 mission specialist, moves a hatch cover as she moves from Spacehab to the middeck of Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo Credit: NASA
My tasks led me up and down in the starboard corners of the middeck to set a net for our space suits, rolling out sleeping bags, moving bags around, getting the rest of the folks out of their space suits, etc. In the meantime, Mark Polansky our commander called me up to the flight deck to present me with my astronaut wings! That was cool, but it meant flying around uncontrollably head first up to the flight deck, then head first down to the middeck. Again more moving about at a rapid pace...my stomach was not keeping up!
For me, after one day, my stomach and brain were all getting caught up. Everyone does, it just takes time. We have amazing bodies which just automatically can adapt to the surroundings. Never take your body for granted - keep it healthy!
Here are some other highlights from my 1st week in space:
Cool places we flew over:
• We flew over the Suez Canal at night and into the Red Sea. We saw all of the Sinai Peninsula, flew down the Red Sea and into the Arabian Gulf.
• In the daytime we saw the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean! Gorgeous blue-green water around the Dominican Republic.
• We were able to see the entire Persian Gulf. Around Bahrain we were able to see the hotel/land shaped like a Moslem moon and star. Visible from 200 miles up HERE!
• We kept an eye out for Santa.
• We had Cranberry-Apple Almond Dessert that reminded me of home.
• On Christmas Eve we dined on turkey, Russian mashed potatoes with onions (yum), dried cranberries, green beans and mushrooms.
• Our Christmas feast included Christmas decorated Russian sugar cookies.
• Biked 3 times (west Africa to east Australia),
• Ran 2 times (3.0 miles each time)
• Lifted 3 times (lots of squats, single leg squats and dead lifts).