Sharing the Olympic Spirit

Every week, usually at the end of the day on Friday, we havea conference with our Lead Flight Director, Dina Contella.  At the startof this week’s conference, she put the week into perspective.  She saidthis time last week (our conference was on a Thursday because of HTV arrival onFriday) HTV had not docked, 47 Progress was in a standby position waiting tore-dock (which it did and then departed for good), 48 Progress had not launched(it is now attached to the Station), nothing had been unloaded or packed on HTVand we had approximately 40 hours of science to do.  Sometimes we get socaught up in working day to day we don’t realize what can be accomplished in aweek.  I think everyone can agree it was a productive week.

ISS032-E-010700: Flight Engineers Suni Williams, Joe Acaba and Aki Hoshide

Even with all the work we had to do, we found time to gettogether and watch the Olympics.  Of course everyone knows there issomething special about the Olympics and that feeling is not lost inspace.  We were able to see Michael Phelps become the most decoratedOlympian and Gabby Douglas’ nerves of steel as she won the individualGymnastics gold medal.  If you have read any of my previous blogs, youknow that I enjoy my sports.  To have two weeks to watch the best athletesof the world compete is a dream come true for any sports enthusiast.  Towatch them while orbiting above the Earth makes them even more special for us(even though we often miss the end of a competition because we lose satellitecoverage). 

I have noticed two things while watching these games. One is that no matter what the sport or which country is winning, we allappreciate the efforts of the athletes and acknowledge their abilities. We truly have an international crew on the ISS: three Russian cosmonauts, one Japaneseastronaut and two American astronauts (one of Indian descent and one of PuertoRican descent).  While we work together as one team we still maintain ournational pride.  Just like watching a basketball game with your buddy thatis from a different city, we give each other a hard time but congratulate withsincerity the winning team or individual.  It is easy to see why we dothis when you look out the window from the ISS.  We all come from the sameplace, Planet Earth.

ISS032-E-010650: Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Revin and Commander Gennady Padalka

The other aspect of the Olympics that makes even thenon-sports fan enjoy these games is the personal stories of the athletes. Each athlete has taken their unique path to the games, just as each of us walkson his own unique path.  Even though we come from different places, we canall relate to many of the obstacles the athletes have faced and overcome. A common theme heard from all the athletes is their pride in representing theircountry and the hard work they have put in.  I understand as I am proud torepresent the United States and the Puerto Rican community as anAstronaut.  Gennady, Yuri, and Sergey feel the same about Russia; as doesAki with Japan and Suni with the US and India.  However, you don’t need tobe an Astronaut or an Olympian to be proud of where you come from or what you do. As a school teacher, I was proud of the work I did to help develop our futureleaders.  I think watching the Olympics reminds usthat we share one planet and that we can respect one another no matter what ourdifferences, yet at the same time we can be proud of who we are and what werepresent.  I look forward to another week of great competition andsportsmanship and of course work.  We have a lot of cool things plannedfor this week.  Keep an eye out for Curiosity.

Joe’s blog also appears at

A Typical Day?

ISS032-E-009997 -- HTV3Another milestone of our Expedition has been completed – thearrival of HTV3 and the undocking and redocking of 47P (Russian Progressvehicle).  What you quickly realize here is that the passing of amilestone is quickly followed by the approach of another.  Today, Sunday,we will relax and enjoy a day of rest.  Tomorrow we will begin preparationfor the final departure of Progress 47P, the arrival of Progress 48P, the longtask of unloading and then loading HTV3 and the upcoming Russian and US Spacewalksfollowed by HTV3 departure and then my trip home.  As you can see it is anever ending string of diverse activities.

I am commonly asked “What is a typical day like on theISS?  What do you do every day?”  These are difficult questions toanswer.  I canISS032-E-009061 -- Recording video with Suni Williams say that there are a few constants in my day.  Iusually wake up around 6am; clean myself up, have breakfast, lunch and dinnerand somewhere in between workout before going to bed around 10pm.  It iswhat occurs around those activities that makes this job interesting,challenging, stressful and fun.  Diversity.  If you are someone thatlikes to know what you are going to be doing every day, this job would driveyou crazy.  On Saturdays, we get a general idea of what we will be doingduring the upcoming week.  Here are few of the things I have done in thepast 2 weeks since I have written last.  Various science experiments,Soyuz seat fit check, 31 Soyuz arrival with the new crew, HTV3 preparation(actually flying the arm to practice grappling the vehicle and lots simulatortime), public affairs interviews and recordings, HAM radio contacts, toiletmaintenance (I am now very familiar with our system), emergency simulationswith the crew and the mission control centers, periodic medical exams (bothphysical and mental), controlled diets, ARED (exercise device) maintenance,urine bag usage (again), blood draws (both as a subject and operator), airquality monitoring, transfer and consolidation of supplies, filter cleaning(which means vacuuming), ultrasounds (again, both as a subject and anoperator), and the capture and berthing of HTV3.  Our planners and flightcontrol teams have a tough job.

ISS032-E-009028 -- Exercising on CEVISOn any given day, you can go from conducting a technicalscience experiment, to talking to school kids, to vacuuming, to drawing bloodfrom a crew mate.  The tasks range from things I would do at home on aSunday morning (no, not drawing blood) to grappling a visiting vehicle loadedwith supplies with a robotic arm.  While some are more exciting thanothers, because of the environment we are working in all require mentalfocus.  I just received an email from a friend of mine that recentlyreturned from a 10-day canoe trip in Alaska.  Everything did not go as plannedand there were quite a few unexpected surprises, which make for a greatadventure.  While he had the best time, when he finally got off the riverhe was not only physically tired but mentally exhausted.  I told him thatworking on the ISS is kind of like his river trip.  You have the best laidout plan but unexpected things happen that get your heart pumping.  Youadjust and problem-solve and have the best time of your life.  After arelaxing Sunday watching the Olympics, we will be ready to start up all overagain and see what adventures await us.

Joe’s blog also appears at