Well, we are essentially packed – we even put away our Harry Potter glasses … medical glasses to adjust for ANY vision changes with one pair of glasses. Too bad they look dorky.

Our sleeping bags go in the Soyuz tomorrow and that should be the last of our packing!

It is time to concentrate on the next task at hand – operating, working and riding in our Soyuz. It is amazing how you can automatically re-prioritize – the next task is upon us so the mind set has to change to leaving ISS safely and landing on earth safely.

To do this we checked out our Soyuz and fired its thrusters to make sure everything was working and had our last training session with our instructors on descent. It is time to start getting ourselves prepared for the journey. This week, I really felt like it was time to change focus. We had some maintenance stuff to do to make sure our ship is in good shape to hand over to Kevin and his crew. They will be here for five weeks as a crew of three, so we wanted to make sure she is in tip-top shape.

With the change of command ceremony on Saturday, our time on the ISS has really come to an end and our focus is on descent. Last time, I landed in the summer in the desert of California in a space shuttle. This time, it will be winter on the steppes of Kazakhstan in a gumdrop shaped capsule! I have a feeling I already know which one will be bumpier… 

Saturday night was the “Change of Command Ceremony!” Like everything up here – it was even fun! I love the fact that we are all up here together from such different places – Yuri from the Ukraine, Aki from Japan, Kevin from Indiana, Oleg from Belarus, Evgeny from Siberia and me from Boston. What a diverse group of people and somehow we all find a common ground and find humor in our daily lives together. Both crews, this one and Expedition 32, have shown that folks from such different lives, perspectives, cultures, religions can easily be really productive when working together. Think of all the possibilities with all the different nationalities, cultures and religions all over the world.

During our ceremony we gave the new crew some gifts to comfort them for the rest of their stay aboard the good ship ISS – Kevin got the Navy command pennant, Oleg got the honorary Magnum PI shirt (Hawaiian shirt!), and Evgeny got the stuffed Gorby to keep his hippopotamus company. I hope they liked them!

Finally, we “zapped” the ship with our crew’s patch. Here, we are putting it on the US segment. It is smartly aligned with 32 other crews that have come before us.

Think about it for a moment:

100 years ago or so, we started flying, Girl Scouts were established and the Oreo cookie was invented;

50 years ago or so, the first Satellite was launched;

25 years ago, Aki graduated from high school, I became legal to drink and Yuri became a pilot;

10 years ago or so, the ISS was manned for the first time – people living in space continually now.

Where will we be in 10, 25, 50 or 100 years from now … it is hard to imagine, but I can’t wait to find out.

In the meantime, it is time to go home to planet Earth. From one Earthling to another, I can’t think of a better planet to be from!

Suni’s blog also appears at

Packing for Earth

Now, itis time to start thinking about coming home. Up to this point I haven’t, andsort of denied it. I am still in denial, but I am going through the motionsbecause I don’t want to forget something when the hatch closes … so we are preparing.

Space isjust really cool. I love it here, just like most folks who get to come here. Itis just so cool how we adapt and become so comfortable up here. You can bestanding one moment and with just a little effort, flip upside down and behanging – “look ma, no hands!” It is just an amazing place to be. Not tomention the view … why would anyone want to leave?

So, youmight ask, what do you have to pack? It is a little like the airlines, we dohave a baggage limit, but slightly less – only 1.5 kg in the Soyuz. Thatis like 3.5 lbs., so not much. We all brought that much personal stuff up here,so we know pretty much how much we can take back – essentially the same stuffwe brought up comes back down with us in the Soyuz.

We don’tpack our clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. That stuff is all herewhen we arrive. Even our special shirts and cargo pants are waiting here forus. But this is our personal stuff, so no one else will want it. 

I haveworn essentially one pair of pants and one pair of shorts this entire trip. Wedon’t get “dirty” up here with dirt, but we are working on equipment, andsometimes little stains get on your clothes. Additionally, we don’t do laundryup here – we just get new stuff and throw away the old stuff. We don’t need tochange our clothes as much as we do on the ground – not anyone up here toimpress, and “smell-o-vision” has not been invented yet. Just kidding.

So, backto packing – I have some stuff, like my Yo-yo, my crew notebook with pictures,my specialty t-shirts I had sent up, my family photo album. It’s funny thatyour life actually boils down to these little things – really, think about it. Notmuch more is really important than the people (animals included), places andmemories you have!

Last week was busy … and of course it was fun because weare in space! It doesn’t get better than that, even when all your computersdon’t work and the toilet gets really broken.

Beinghigh tech, we have tried to go paperless as much as possible on the ISS. Thisis great, and GREEN, but everything sort of comes to a screeching halt when thecomputer system, which provides you with all the information about your scheduleand activities, dies. This happened bright and early one morning and put alittle damper on our activities. 

Luckilyenough, all the workout equipment kept on plugging along for the most part, sowe were able to buy back a little time by working out for a while, while the computerguys on the ground worked their magic on our systems. It took the betterpart of the day, with a little help from us, for them to reload the hard drivesof two of our main servers. We do the hardware stuff and they can do all thesoftware configurations from the ground. It is interesting to see howvulnerable we are to these types of problems. I know the folks on the groundwere scrambling to get all of our systems working again.

The bigthing that was not working quite right last week was the toilet. We changed outpractically every part in that thing system. The KTO, or solid waste functionof our toilet, was working fine. It was just really the urine processing part.We really need to make sure the right balance of urine to chemicals is put intothe system to make sure the downstream components, which turn the urine backinto drinking water, don’t fail. As a result, the water valves, all plumbing, twosensors and finally the water pump were all changed out. In the meantime – weused the Russian toilet – all six of us using one toilet is rough!

Aki, Yuri and I fit in ourSokol (space) suits and our Soyuz. You know we grow up here so there is alwaysa question about if we will really fit. In space your spine expands so you grow.The cartilage between the vertebrae doesn’t have the pressure of gravity on it,so it expands and hence, you grow. I did notice this when we were getting oursuits on. I had to lengthen all the straps to get my head thru the opening. Itwas a little tight, but all worked out fine. 

Interior view of Soyuz spacecraft with Sokol suits, hatch, and crew seats.

Another impression I had waswow – that Soyuz is small. It felt big when we flew up here and even roomy. Butnow, after living in this “grand hotel,” it seems tiny! Actually, after Inestled my way into my seat – you don’t just sit in space, you have to get helddown, and that seat is actually like being in the fetal position, so you haveto tighten your belts, nestle down, tighten some more, nestled down, until you are all the way in there. It felt pretty good. Ofcourse, your knees are in your chest.

Regardless of these strangesensations, the Soyuz automatically felt like home. We all know what we need todo in there – the training is that good I think – that you don’t really think toomuch about it. You just know what to do.

Suni’s blog also appears at