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Sunita Williams' Mission Log
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Science is Fun

Life on the ISS:
• Unfortunately, flying backwards has its downsides...The lab window has been closed for the last week - it is truly a bummer. I had been getting up, floating out of my sleep station to the window and opening the cover. It automatically makes me want to stretch and look out to see where we are. You know, it is sort of like opening the shades in your house in the morning. It's a really relaxing way to start the day. Well, because we are flying backwards there is some risk for micro-meteorite damage to the window, so we need to keep it closed. This makes the lab dark, sort of like a cellar. Luckily we have other windows in the Russian segment to look out of. I think windows are really important for the psychological health of crew members on long duration missions. It is nice to look outside, even if it is dark.

• All dressed up, nowhere to go...these are our Russian flight suits.

ISS014-E-16250 -- The Expedition 14 crew Image to right: The Expedition 14 crew poses for a crew portrait in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

Got all dressed up to address the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France, on the 21st of March. 2007 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the space age that began with launch of Sputnik-1, the 50th anniversary of establishment of the International Geophysical Year that provided the mechanism for international scientific collaboration, and the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

• March 8th was International Women's Day. It is a big holiday in Russia. The women usually get flowers and everyone takes the day off to celebrate. Misha made me some flowers out of green Velcro and red cellophane. He said they were chrysanthemums. I still had to work though...

Cool places we have flown over this week:
• Europe - including some sunny days in Paris, France
• Piran, Slovenia
• Portugal
• Spain
• Northern Japan - some very cold looking days.
• Western U.S. - Looked nice and warm in the California desert, and southwest U.S. Still looks snowy and cold up near Chicago.

Good Food:
• Tried a new recipe this week. I am getting better at combining the food. It is a little tricky since things sort of want to float away, but if you work slowly and diligently, you can actually mix stuff together.
Mixed baked tofu - which is pretty boring by itself, with curried vegetables. Opened the package of vegetables and slowly added the slabs of tofu. Added a little hot pepper paste, mixed it up and let it sit for about 5 minutes - voila! It came out pretty good and tasty. I was watching Emeril this week while working out and his theme was eastern food - so it fit right in.

• LA got a large can of Spanish fava beans in a nice Spanish sauce from his cousins. We were wondering how the heck we were going to heat them up. LA came up with a great idea to recycle the cans of Russian meat we had already eaten and use them to put the beans in for heating. The heater is "sideways" from our normal reference so immediately I was worried they would "fall out" since we were only placing the old can lids on the beans. However, this worked like a charm! Orientation is not a factor in space. All the beans and sauce stayed in the can under the loosely fitted lid. So we dined on yummy Spanish beans one evening.

• Not sure if I have told you about the Russian cottage cheese called “Tvorg.” I think I mentioned it before because there is a dehydrated version with nuts which was the standard pre-EVA meal. There is another version that comes in a can and is already "baked." This is really good. Not too sweet. Sort of reminds me of kugal that Mom used to make with a "not too sweet" cheese cake consistency. I heated it up the other day and ate it with a can of the evil "dessert of apples" which is rearing its ugly head again. Sort of tasted like apple cheese cake. Not bad actually.

• 40 minutes biking
• 4.5 miles running
• 30 minutes biking
• 5.2 miles running
• 30 minutes biking, 2 miles run/walk
• 60 minutes biking
• 15.1 miles running - felt good until the last 2 miles. The harness really digs into my hips. My feet felt like they were falling asleep, and I attributed that to the fact that we don't walk around much. But I noticed, the harness is pushing on both my nerves and arteries. I think after a while this catches up with me. I will have to rearrange the harness for the next run. Resistive Exercise - getting in about 6 times a week. I am getting used to this too and like lifting in the morning with my bag of coffee.

Things we did:
All in a day's work...
• ALTEA - Anomalous Long term Effects on Astronauts - in this experiment we have biosensors connected to the head to detect where in our brains we sense light flashes. It is a common fact that we see light flashes in a dark environment while living up here, and this experiment is essentially trying to detect how we humans detect these flashes - not sure if these are visual, if they are some type of radiation maybe sensed by some other part of the brain. Needless to say, it is interesting and funny. Not sure if they found any active brain waves in my head...One of the problems with this experiment is that it is easy to fall asleep in that dark setting. For this we have a hand controller that is actually Velcro'd to a glove we wear so it doesn't float away if we do fall asleep. We also needed to check up on each other every 30 minutes or so to make sure we didn't fall asleep for the entire test...

Putting biosensors on...

ISS014-E-16180 -- Astronaut Sunita Williams participates in ALTEA operations Image to left: Astronaut Sunita Williams participates in Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA) operations in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

In the test stand which is recording outputs of the sensors using the "Brain Explorer Unit"…

ISS014-E-16208 -- Astronaut Sunita Williams participates in ALTEA operations

Image to right: Astronaut Sunita Williams participates in Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA) operations in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

• TRAC - Test of Reaction Adaptation Capabilities - we have been doing this periodically to annotate if there are any reaction changes as we spend more and more time up here. We get a history plot of our reaction time results for each of the 9 tests we perform so we can see some rough results. We have done the test 4 times since I have been up here. It consists of mimicking a visual signal with the left hand while we try to keep a cursor in the center of the screen. The cursor has a tendency to move away from the center since it is modeled after something like a golf ball sitting on a basketball - as soon as it starts moving away it accelerated away. Very preliminary it seems like my reaction time degraded initially, but now seems to have settled.
• Oxygen Generation System - finished plumbing of the water portion of this system. Remember this system is going to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen. We will vent the hydrogen overboard and will be able to breathe the oxygen.
• SSRMS (robotic arm) AVU (artificial vision unit) checkout. This is a pretty neat concept we use to help us align modules and truss structures to one another when we get ready to mate them. You may have seen these SVS (space vision system) dots on the outside of the Station. The camera views from robotic arm on the Station or the Shuttle of these dots are used with this system will calculate the amount these dots are skewed to come up with a solution for distance the two pieces are apart in x, y, z, pitch, roll and yaw. Very complicated, but works and is one of the systems we will use to mate the next solar array to the existing truss.
• Water samples - just like the air, we need to periodically check the water we drink to make sure no bugs are in there. It's good
• Surface samples - just like the air and water, we also check certain surface areas of the Station for yucky stuff - you know we live up here, so we want to keep it pretty clean, but we need to check. For example, I took surface samples in my sleep station - all seems fine...
• HAM radio pass with Boulder Hill Elementary, Montgomery, Illinois