Chapter 4: "Please Put Your Boots on Before You Go Outside…!"
Clayton Anderson's ISS In-Flight Journal
As a youngster, I recall those winter days back in Nebraska when we wanted to go outside and play in the snow. Typically, we would always hear our Mother say,…"Please put your boots on before you go outside!" Dad would chime in too, "…Put on your stocking hat or you’ll catch cold!" It was their goal that we would dress appropriately for the weather…to keep us warm and toasty and safe from winter’s ills.
On Monday, July 23rd, Fyodor Yurchikhin and I will also venture outside. Our environment will be just as nasty as those I faced as a kid in Nebraska…okay, maybe a bit worse, but likely without snow! We must dress appropriately as well because where we are going our "clothes" are our safe haven and thus, extremely important. We are headed outside of the International Space Station (ISS) to perform the third spacewalk (or EVA for extravehicular activity) of Expedition 15, the first EVA in U. S. spacesuits for this expedition and the first of my career!
The preparations that we go through in advance of the spacewalk are what reminded me of my parent’s sage words of wisdom. One of our first steps to prepare was to disassemble the suits that were left onboard after the STS-117 crew departed. At that time, those suits were configured to fit the sizes of their crew members. So now, we have done a bit of re-sizing so that they will fit Fyodor and me. A U. S. spacesuit consists of several parts, but there are two major sections: the hard upper torso (HUT)…your "shirt," and the lower torso assembly (LTA)…your "pants." The HUT is then connected with your arms, gloves and helmet. The LTA gets connected to your leg pieces, and your boots. As a consequence of this large number of pieces, it takes at least two crew members working together to be able to "suit up." It’s a bit more complicated than this when you consider that some pieces of the suit can come in different sizes and that you can shorten or lengthen some of the arm and leg pieces for a more individual fit. It all boils down to the fact that we must be careful in our assembly…6 hours in a suit that doesn’t fit right can be very, very painful!
Our suit is our personal spacecraft. It runs on battery power and contains all the oxygen we need to breathe, the water to keep our bodies cool and the systems to remove heat and carbon dioxide as we perspire and exhale. It also has lights (for when the sun goes behind the Earth) and a TV camera, so the folks helping us on the ground in the Control Center can see what we’re doing. It’s kind of like those "helmet cams" that you saw on some football game telecasts a few years ago. We must also prepare our tools. For this spacewalk, we only need a small number…power drills, a ratchet wrench, a couple of cameras and a scraper tool very similar to those I used in Nebraska to remove windshield ice and snow on cold winter mornings!
Our EVA is being dubbed a "trash run." That is because a major portion of it has us throwing overboard two outdated pieces of equipment. One is about the size of a coffee table and the other is as big as a refrigerator, weighing in around 1,450 lbs! I have the opportunity to "jettison" these pieces of hardware. I will be attached to the end of the robotic arm, upside and out in front of the Station. To make it even more interesting, the Station will be turned around flying backwards. All of this will help me throw them in the proper direction at the proper speed to create trajectories that cause them to eventually re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, such that nothing or no one is affected on the ground. It may take over 330 days for our "refrigerator" to re-enter!
I promise I will report back to you, after the EVA. For now, I am just "itchin" to go outside!