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Sunita Williams' Mission Log
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S116-E-07154 -- The International Space Station Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Image to right: Backdropped by the blackness of space, clouds and Earth's horizon, the International Space Station is seen as it and Space Shuttle Discovery begin their relative separation. Image credit: NASA

Thought you guys might like a bird's eye view of my new home! This picture was taken from Discovery as she did a "fly around." It is taken from the back end of the Station. Notice that the sun was directly behind the Station as well, since the solar array panels are straight on to the picture. They rotate around so that the active side of the panel is facing the sun when we are in sunlight. Take note of the radiators. They are the two accordion-looking things on either side of the main body of the Station. It is difficult to see, but there are two more of those on the vertical truss. They will become important for you to know about next month when we do our next set of spacewalks (EVAs).

So, it has been about 10 days or so since the Space Shuttle Discovery left us. They managed to leave quite a mess. After all the house cleaning, we are ready to start the New Year by celebrating! Not sure if you all knew this, but the New Year is really a big holiday in Russia, and then comes Christmas. Their Christmas is January 7th as per the Russian Orthodox Church Calendar. So their holiday season has just gotten under way. We are going to watch a classic Russian New Year's movie this evening called “Irony of Fate.”

With the New Year upon us, please go out and make the best of it as well. I know there are a couple of New Yorkers in the crowd, so maybe you're going to Times Square or maybe there will be fireworks where you live . We'll be watching all 16 time zones as we float past!

Now for a friendly reminder about the day after New Year's Eve - I would like to invite ya'll to please join me in working out for the next 6 months!

So, it is hard to believe we work out up here - but we do! In general, we lift weights each day and then alternate between running/walking or cycling every day.

Lots of folks ask about the treadmill because it is hard to imagine how one can run in space without gravity. I think the picture pretty well explains it. We are strapped down to the treadmill using a harness and bungees. The bungees are in the white covers connected to the treadmill. For the bike, we use those clipless pedals so we are pretty much strapped into it with our feet.

ISS014-E-10591 -- Astronaut Sunita Williams exercises on the TVIS There is one problem with this set up though...you know when you run on the ground or on a treadmill at the gym, you are stomping on the ground/treadmill pretty hard - right? Well, the ISS can't really take that stomping around. We've got huge solar arrays, radiators, module attachment systems, etc., which will feel the load of that stomping. Structurally, it is just not good for the Station to absorb all those loads. We also have science experiments, we call payloads, which need a microgravity environment and should not be disturbed by all this stomping.

Image to left: Astronaut Sunita Williams, equipped with a bungee harness, exercises on the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System (TVIS) in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

So, how did the engineers solve this problem? We need to work out, run, cycle, lift weights to make sure that we retain bone and muscle mass, but how do we do that without hurting the Station and the payloads? The engineers came up with a vibration isolation system for both the treadmill and the cycle. The treadmill rides on a gyro which spins up and takes the loads of the runner. The bike is mounted on springs which take the load. Therefore the structure of the ISS doesn't see the loads so it and the payloads are not affected.

I have spent the last two weeks just getting used to living here and understanding how everything works. I finally feel settled. So, I am ready to start working out seriously. In fact, it is really necessary to make sure that we are in tip top shape for our EVAs coming up in February! That will be the true test of how well we have been doing up here.

Here are some other highlights from this past week:

Cool things we did this week:
• Unpacked more of the goodies Discovery left us, including all sorts of EVA hardware. This stuff is to be used during our 3 EVAs coming up in February.
• Nutrition experiment where we take blood and urine samples. With that info and our food log we hope to find out if the food we are eating and the exercise we are doing is providing us a healthy combination for health on orbit.

Cool places we flew over:
• South America, Peru, Brazil and saw the rain forests. Very dark vegetation.
• Israel and up to the Euphrates River in Iraq (I think).

Interesting space recipes:
• Baked cheese, Russian dish made of Tvorg. It is slightly sweet and I ate it with "cowberry" sauce. Sort of like cranberry sauce. Tasted sort of like cheesecake with fruit on top.

Workout update:
• Got up to 3 miles on the treadmill, we call TVIS (treadmill vibration isolation system). All those words mean that we are not putting forces into the Space Station and making it vibrate with the dampening system. That makes for a wiggly ride. I did 3 miles, 3 times this week.
• Rode the bike, called CEVIS (cycle ergometer vibration isolation system) - 4 times for about 35-40 minutes each time. For example, I rode from Hawaii, across the U.S. to southern Europe, orbital distance of course.
• Lifted everyday this week on the RED (resistive exercise device). I did a lot of squats, dead lifts, and bench press.

Hope you and your family have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Suni