As the World Turns and ISS Orbits
Life on the ISS:
Sunita Williams' Mission Log
From the horse's mouth...the next Space Shuttle is NOT coming to visit us this month - bummer. There was a sort of freaky hail storm that hit Kennedy Space Center last weekend. The Space Shuttle is protected out on the launch pad by the RSS (rotating service structure) - practically a building that allows folks to work on the Space Shuttle almost up until launch. It rotates out of the way about 24 hours before launch. Unfortunately, the external tank (ET) - the big orange thing that is the gas tank for the Space Shuttle main engines - is not covered. It is huge so covering it is sort of impractical. The entire "stack," ET, Space Shuttle, and SRBs (solid rocket boosters) roll out to the pad about 1 month before launch, so there is always some risk of damage. Normal weather is usually not a factor. However, the golf ball-sized hail damaged the ET enough to warrant repairs, so the entire "stack" had to be rolled back to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) - big hangar - to do the repairs.
This means that LA and Misha will leave the ISS before the next Space Shuttle launch. They will change out with the next expedition crew in April. So, our plans for this month are in flux right now. We will have to see what next month holds in store for us.
One interesting observation of the week: we don't walk around up here - we float around in socks or bare feet. We hold onto things without hands or use the tops of our feet under the handrails. I noticed the skin on the bottoms of my feet flaking off. 41 years of calluses are starting to go away. This is like a spa - feet are getting nicer and softer! However, there is one exception - the tops of my big toes are starting to get little calluses. Like I said, we "hold" ourselves in place by putting our feet under the handrails. Unconsciously I flex my toe up to hold on. I noticed that I did this long ago because to do this I use the muscle on the front of my calf. They were sore for a little while, but now they are used to it. However, doing this repetitively over the last 3 months has made the skin on the top of my big toes tougher. How funny! How quickly we adapt. I would be scared to see what we would look like if we stayed up here too long...
Cool Places We Have Flown Over This Week:
• This week we have had a couple passes over places which are a little closer to home for me.... It is pretty amazing to fly all the way from Florida to Maine in a matter of minutes!
• We are flying backwards again. It is so cool that spacecraft can do that!!!
• The food this entire week has been sort of the same old thing. I have been trying to eat lots of vegetables, even though they are like mush, to get some fiber.
• It is funny, I think we all have our own favorites and we are at that point in the food cycle where the favorites are gone. We are just eating to finish up the containers.
• The food containers come in different varieties, for example, drinks, breakfast type food, meats, vegetables. There are about 5-10 days of that type of food in each container. We try not to open a new container until we finish the one we are on - even if that means going without coffee for a couple of days. The guideline I use is that after the best thing is gone today, there will be a new best thing in there tomorrow...you know, glass half full!
• Friday was Misha's birthday so we had to have a little celebration. We broke out some rye bread and herring. LA even broke out a special piece of smoked/dried pork loin sent from his family in Spain. It was a nice end of a busy week!
• 30 minutes biking
• 5 miles running
• 30 minutes biking, 2 miles running
• PFE (about 25 minutes of biking), 2.5 miles running
• 30 minutes biking
• 5.2 miles running - it was a good warm up. Legs have been stiff from lifting so hopefully this run warmed them up for tomorrow.
• 12.6 miles - actually felt pretty good. I wasn't in the mood to strap on the harness and do another 1/2 marathon so I told myself I was only going to do a maintenance run of 10 miles. After 10 I thought I would keep going for a bit longer. Listened to "A Short History of Nearly Everything.”
Things We Did:
• TVIS maintenance - 2 full days. I am really going to work in a gym after this...
Image to right: Astronaut Sunita Williams took a moment to pose for a photo during routine in-flight maintenance on Treadmill Vibration Isolation System in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
This is the underside of the treadmill. We pulled it all the way out of the "pit" in the floor to work on it. The round thing above my head is the gyro that spins to keep it stable while we jog on it. The treadmill "floats" and moves around in the pit as part of the vibration isolation system. There are a lot of moving parts in this thing and it is really the only one we have up here. We need to keep it in good shape. As you can see, I have been putting a few miles on it.
• ROBOT training - robotic arm simulator to review procedures and techniques in preparation for the robotic operations during the next Space Shuttle mission. We will be installing a new solar array!!!
• PFE w/ OUM - Physical Fitness Evaluation with Oxygen Uptake Measurement. This is to check my fitness level as well as understand the oxygen exchange rate. Hopefully this research will help us verify that our EVA exercise protocols established on the ground are accurate up here based on our current in-flight level of fitness. Right now we have a model, but have had no real way to really verify that we are getting the right amount of oxygen exchange during the protocol. Obviously the model is pretty good. This is a relatively new payload/capability courtesy of the European Space Agency, that we do a lot with up here.
• Carbon dioxide monitoring - we are continually monitoring the "gases," but this was a pretty thorough effort to quantify the difference in CO2 levels in the different modules during different activities including working out.
• HAM radio passes.
• Radio interview and got to talk to MOM! How cool was that! What a wonderful surprise to hear her lovely voice on the space-to-ground loops and on the Earth airwaves!
• Misha changed out one of the air conditioners in the Russian segment. Seriously feels like Russian winter down there now...