July 15, 2012
Our time of solitude is rapidly coming to an end. Ournew crew mates successfully launched very early this morning. With the 2days they spend in autonomous flight to reach us, they will arrive around 4 am * on July 17. All of the preparations have been made for theirarrival. Since it was not too long ago that I arrived, I clearly rememberthose first few days on the ISS. While the traditional hatch opening andhaving the opportunity to talk with family and friends that made the trip toRussia are wonderful experiences, I remember being tired and wantingdesperately to take a “bath” and put on some regular clean clothes. Whilewe do have facilities on the Soyuz and lots of opportunities to take cat naps,it sure was nice to be home on the relatively spacious Space Station. While all of the new crew members have been here before, we will do all we canto make the transition as comfortable as possible. For Gennady, Sergeyand I, we will begin another sleep shift tomorrow. We will wake up at ournormal time of 6 am and are scheduled to go to sleep at 3:30 pm with a wake upat midnight. The day of docking is a long day for all of the crews and wewill be back to a normal schedule on Wednesday. As I mentionedpreviously, HTV will be arriving 10 days later so we will all hit the roadrunning.
Knowing what is ahead, Gennady, Sergey and I thoroughlyenjoyed the weekend. While some work had to be done, overall it was anopportunity for us to recharge our personal batteries and just enjoy thetime. We were rewarded with the results of the recent solar activity –the southern lights. I remember seeing the auroras during my Shuttleflight and I thought it was the coolest thing. Then I arrived this timeand Don Pettit showed me the auroras and they were much, much better than whatI seen previously. I was happy as could be. Then on Saturday, I wasworking out and in between sets I saw that we were heading south during a nightpass. So I decided my workout could be postponed for a few minutes and Iturned out all of the lights in Node 3. Within a couple of minutes, Icould not believe what I was seeing. It was absolutely incredible. I enjoyed the show for a few minutes and then felt I had to inform my crewmates so they could also take in the view. Even Gennady, with all of histime on orbit, was amazed. I am no expert with a camera but I tried tocapture at least a small reminder of the experience. The pictures werenot great, but they would do. So today, at around the same time of day, Ithought I would take one more look. Just when you think it can’t get muchbetter, it gets way better. I of course took some obligatory pictures,but then I just sat in the dark, in the peace and quiet of this incredible manmade, orbiting laboratory and just looked out the window in awe. What atruly magnificent planet we live on and solar system we live in. I couldnot have asked for a better way to mark the middle of my Expedition and tostart what will be a challenging and rewarding time on the International SpaceStation.
* Since astronaut Joe Acaba is writing from the International Space Station, the time references in this post are GMT.