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Sunita Williams' Mission Log
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Merry Russian Christmas

Hi Everyone!

Merry Russian Christmas. So, it's finally back to work for everyone after the holidays. Well, not necessarily for all of us. We actually have another 3 day weekend this weekend. We are trying not to get used to them, because they won't be happening here again for quite some time. One of the interesting things we get to do is "pick" our holidays. We are allotted a handful of off days for holidays throughout the year. So the crew, along with the ground teams, picks which holidays would be the best to take off - dictated by operational constraints, etc. Remember we have our international partners here as well, so not all holidays are ones that are observed in the U.S. For example, we have today off, but don't get off for Martin Luther King Day. I voted for taking all the holidays off, but that didn't go over too well...

ISS014-E-10236 --- Mikhail Tyurin (left), Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams pose for a holiday photo. Image to right: Wearing Santa Claus hats, Mikhail Tyurin (left), Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams pose for a holiday photo in the Zvezda Service Module. Credit: NASA

So, here is a little of what we did last week:

Life on the ISS - Now that was cool! It sounded like fireworks on the 4th of July for about 45 minutes! I’m talking about the jets firing from the Russian segment to turn us around. We are now flying -xvv. That means -x direction in the velocity vector or in other words, we are flying “tail end” first. We went through an attitude maneuver, which means firing jets up here in space. There are no aero surfaces like wings because there is not really any air. So to maneuver, you just put out an impulse. For us that is firing jets on the back of the service module or the Progress vehicle which is docked to the aft end of the service module. We did this because the port side of the spacecraft was getting too cold, so we turned ourselves around.

Beta angle is the official term that dictates our attitude to keep the heating and cooling even on the Space Station. I’m not smart enough to really understand that stuff, but essentially at this time of year, it is a little tricky to keep the heating and cooling even. Amazing that these are really the big factors for how to design spacecraft and how they last. Lots of heaters and lots of cold plates on the structure make sure the electronics stay at the correct temperature. Another interesting problem with space equipment.

Cool places we have flown over this week…
We saw the moon - almost full behind us on New Year’s Eve in the nighttime. Flew between the Tigress and Euphrates to Baghdad. Fireworks in Naples!!!

Full moon really lights up the clouds. You can see fluid flow patterns in the clouds really clearly with the moonlight shining on them. It is really beautiful to look out the window at these formations! The atmosphere is really active!

Here is an example of our track over the ground - Chicago, Quebec, St. Pierre (Newfoundland), Morocco, Nigeria, Zaire, Mozambique, 10 degrees north of the Antarctic Polar Ice Pack, around Australia’s southern/eastern side to New Zealand, through the Samoa Island group, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Lake Huron and onward…it is not a straight line on a map. We are at an inclination of 56.1 degrees!

Good Food - The usual - canned fish, soup - borscht, canned beef, lamb, pork with vegetables. Really good Russian juices like apricot/apple and currant/apple. Smoked clams, Spanish ham, and German bread for New Year’s celebration. I closed my eyes and imagined I was at some fancy Charlie Trotter dinner event. Pina Colada gelatin - didn’t quite harden up, but I ate it with pineapple to imagine the umbrella drink.

ISS014-E-09859 --- Sunita L. Williams looks over procedures checklists in the Quest Airlock. Image to left: Sunita Williams looks over procedures checklists in the Quest Airlock. Credit: NASA

Thursday night was Indian food night. We had Palak Paneer and Punjabi Chole. Was a little too hot for some, but I enjoyed it. And a comment was made that it is really nice to have something different. It has been more than 100 days on orbit for my crewmates so they liked that I had something different for them up here. We had Indian halva for dessert as well. Not bad, actually had some cashews and raisins in it. Thanks to the JSC food lab for checking out these Indian foods which are from the store and making sure they were space compatible. It made for a fun meal enjoyed by all!!!

Exercise - mini triathlon, 25 minutes on bike, 20 minutes/1.7 miles running, and laps back and forth in the Station - floating is sort of like swimming…
RED (lots of squats, single leg squats and dead lifts).
Bike 4 x for 35-40 minutes
Ran 3 times - got up to 4 miles this week. A little hard on the hips, but good.

Things we did:
TRAC (Test of Reaction Adaptation Capability) - reaction control test where we have a hand controller task as well as reaction control task. This test was completed preflight so the results will be compared at different times during the mission. Investigates whether our reaction time is changing from living in this environment.

OGS (oxygen generation system) set up - electrical, hydraulic, mechanical outfitting for the U.S. OGS we hope to check out for the future. It will come in handy when the ISS crew size goes from 3 to 6 in the next couple of years.

Ham radio pass and talked with folks from Australia, Henrietta - NY, and San Jose - Ca. -XVV maneuver - like I talked about above. We are flying with our tail first which is a little disorienting when you first look out the window. However, when you put your entire face in the window it doesn’t matter which way you are flying. It is like looking out of the floor of a glass bottom boat watching the world go by.

Oh, By The Way -
The first commander of the International Space Station was Bill Shepherd, a Navy SEAL. He established many Naval traditions here on the ISS. For example, a change of command ceremony for each expedition, welcome and farewell ceremonies for when docked vehicles arrive and depart, a ship’s log is onboard, a ship’s bell is also onboard. So in fine Naval tradition, each New Year brings with it a poem. This year there are two poems which were entered into the log. I thought I would share them with you. One is very Naval in tradition, the other one is a little more humanity oriented:

  We begin the seventh year of our voyage,
  The crew ever changing, the mission remains.
  We work over her side to maintain her pride,
  But no barnacles need we scrape.
  Our sails change nature to power,
  Like those of voyagers past.
  The sun is our wind, yet we feel none,
  The ocean before us beyond vast.
  Her crew varies as the people of Earth,
  Few from seafaring towns.
  She reaches across the borders of man,
  Which mean little as we look down.
  Our families we leave at the homestead,
  Like sailors before and beyond.
  The distance we sail like none other,
  We harness electrons to correspond.
  Alpha sails in pursuit of knowledge,
  The most noble of man’s pursuits.
  By a seaman’s eye we guide her,
  Along an uncharted route.
  It’s January 1, 2007,
  We look out the window and realize we are the closest humans to heaven.
  We look at the Earth and it’s not hard to believe,
  What those billions of folks down there can achieve.
  Our thoughts wander to the explorers of the past,
  So many hardships and sacrifices to make the molds they cast.
  The fruits of their labor is that we sail a ship of golden solar arrays
  Along a path that is constant and stays.
  Today’s achievement is a result of cooperation and friendship around the world,
  The faces, the language, the flags - all swirled.

Like so many others before us, we dedicate our lives,

  In hopes that the future of humanity thrives.

Here’s to the future generation of explorers, you are our motivation,

  To continue to explore as one combined nation.