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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

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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

Turning Over a New Leaf

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The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft departs from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Fall is beginning in the northern hemisphere.  It is easy to see that from up here – the many agricultural fields that were bright green two months ago are all starting to become brown.   You can’t stop time.  It’s funny, these things, the natural changes on Earth, the seasons, the real day night, the wind then calm – those are the things that make life on Earth special.  We don’t have them up here, so when we hear about those natural occurring changes, I miss our planet!

I’m not saying we don’t have changes up here too, because lately it really seems like we are having a lot!  Last week, we had five external vehicles connected to us – two Soyuz spacecraft, one Progress, one ATV and one HTV-3. 

In the course of one week, two left – the HTV-3 and one Soyuz.  HTV-3 left us on Wednesday (September 12th) after we prepared the hatches, installed the gold protective covering, and then installed the latching mechanism motors.  The ground team “grappled” her with the robotic arm, ran the unbolting sequence with Joe Acaba – 16 bolts, let go of the latches and moved the HTV away to a position for Joe and Aki to take over.  Then Joe and Aki opened the snares in the end of the robotic arm – which were holding the HTV – and let her go free. 

She hovered there for a little while, and then seemed to want to come back to us – moved ever so slightly toward the ISS instead of drifting away.  We released her in a slightly lower orbit than we are – which means she should be going faster according to orbital mechanics – she should have been moving away, and forward of us.  Instead she was drifting back toward us a little. 

The software in the system detected this as a “safety net/corridor violation” and sent an ABORT command.  As a result, she sped away from us at warp speed!  It was seriously like a Star Wars film.  She flew away so fast that we had a hard time tracking her on the camera. 

Her name was Kounotori-3, meaning stork – so maybe she is like one of those heavy birds that take a while to get going, and then flies away at lightning speed. After some other issues with her GPS systems, she finally had a normal deorbit and entry into the atmosphere Thursday. Congratulations to our Japanese colleagues on a great mission for Kounotori-3.

The second big change was the departure of the Soyuz 30S vehicle and her contents, Gennady, Sergei and Joe!  We locked them in their Soyuz at 8:30pm GMT.  We stay up until they land. 

We heard the undocking on the communications loop and finally saw the Soyuz a bit later as she was moving behind us.  The ISS was actually flying belly first since this Soyuz was docked on the top of the Station.  That way she could push off straight aft of the Station after the docking hooks were opened.   So, it was difficult to find windows to watch her.  Then a couple orbits and hours later she did her deorbit burn.  We tried to watch but she was such a speck it was again difficult to see her. 

 Our boys are finally back on Mother Earth.  It was great to see their smiling faces on NASA TV up here, thanks to our control team who sent up streaming TV coverage.


Suni’s blog also appears at


Space is Busy, Active and Unkind

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Tool named GorbyWe have been pretty much up to our ears in EVA, extravehicular activity or spacewalking, preparations and then spacewalking! I think most of you know we had a spacewalk using the robotic arm Thursday, August 30th. It went sort of long.

You don’t just “go outside.” Usually that is the fun and easy part of the entire thing. The days leading up to the EVA are the intense days with battery charging, METOX (CO2 removal cartridge) regenerations, suit sizing, tool gathering and preparation, equipment gathering and preparations, studying new procedures, reviewing and talking through how to get us suited and how to get the airlock depressed, reviewing the tasks we will do with each other and with the robotic arm, talking about cleaning up, and then talking thru a plan to get back into the airlock, and any emergencies that can come up – loss of communications, suit issues, etc. Yes, that took a lot of our time leading up to Thursday last week. Even planning when to go to sleep and what to eat are important. Remember, you are in that suit usually about 8 hours for a 6 hour EVA.

To my surprise, the most intense part for this EVA happened to be outside when we encountered our “sticky” bolt.

That resulted in a long EVA, and over 10 hours in the suit. No bathroom and no lunch.

Man of mystery, Aki HoshideOne lesson I learned last time I was up here – you can’t get married to a plan. It seems like something you thought was going to be difficult turns out to be easy, and something you thought was going to be easy turns out to be hard. Why that is, who knows. It’s like when you are jogging on a lonely road, somehow cars going the opposite direction cross each other just when you are jogging next to them and there is a biker passing you. Why? Who knows! That was the case with the “sticky bolt.” We thought that part of the EVA was going to be easy – it ended up taking most of our time.

One thing we sort of forget about is the environment outside when we are working inside, most of the time. We get used to this being a “static” environment – watching the world go by. Well, it isn’t.

Space is busy, active and unkind. It gets really hot and cold outside. There are solar flares (makes nice auroras, but is radiation), solar wind and vacuum. All this does a number on a spacecraft, and on us.

It is amazing how you feel the sun set and rise through your spacesuit – even with your eyes closed you would know it – you can feel the heating change!

The same goes for all the material on the “outside” of the station – the metal in those bolts have probably “felt” the changes in the environment too – for the last 10 years. The station has been thru a lot of heat cycles when you consider 16 day/night cycles in a 24-hour period.

JSC2012-E-211701 -- NASA astronauts Steve Bowen, Andrew Feustel and David WolfAfter Thursday’s “experimentation with torque and bolt turns,” a ton of folks at JSC started working on a plan for the “next” EVA for us to go out and try again to move the bolt and install our box. They have been working all weekend and as a result we have learned some of the nuances of the mechanism that we weren’t aware of…so we are a lot smarter on how the bolt aligns and reacts. They have given us a pretty inclusive plan on how to try to work it again, probably on Wednesday.

We have been making tools to use outside to get the bolt and the housing ready to try again. Lots of folks suggested that WD40 would do the trick, but getting a can of that stuff to work in space is sort of difficult. So, we have a couple other tricks up our sleeve. Tune in on Wednesday and check us out – we are taking a lubricant – chemically inert, non-flammable – in this environment. It worked to help the Solar Array Rotary Joint work better, so hopefully it will work to get this bolt installed!

ISS032-E-024217 -- Spacewalker Aki HoshideI have to add, in case you were wondering, this isn’t just some sticky bolt either. It connects a box that routes 25% of the power that comes to the station from our Solar Arrays. So, a large amount of juice from the sun is not getting to us in this situation. To add a little salt into the wound, we actually lost another part of a power channel Saturday night – a tripped circuit breaker way upstream toward the solar array. So it has to share its load with the other solar arrays too. In NASA lingo, we are getting close to “zero fault tolerant” – meaning no backups – on some of the stuff we power up.

So, it would be good if the box (power switching unit) with the sticky bolt got installed.Aki and I are out the door Wednesday morning.

Suni’s blog also appears at

Everyone Knows the Name Neil Armstrong

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ISS032-E-011472 -- The moon
Saturday was a sad day for this planet. I was thinking about it and I’ll bet practically every person on (and off) this planet knows the name Neil Armstrong.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you do for a living, what kind of car you drive, or how many kids you have – most everyone here from school kids to the elderly know who Neil Armstrong was.

I was thinking about why we all knew him – he was a humble giant who took that first step and sparked the spirit of adventure again in all of us. A true hero who we will all miss. But, I am sure the next “Neil Armstrong” is out there today and will follow Curiosity’s tracks on Mars before long!

Suni’s blog also appears at

Mixed Bag

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The past week sort of defines long duration space fliers. 


We certainly don’t do the same thing every day, and every day was different with different types of activities for all of us.  There is an awesome group of people on the ground – the planners – who know what all the constraints are for all the activities we need to do.  Somehow they make it all work.  For example, I had to wear a device that would hinder the use of my left hand for 24 hours, but first I had to fly the robotic arm and work out, and then I had to make sure I had it off in time for me to do a weight lifting exercise the next day.   That is just one example of the puzzle these folks on the ground solve every day.  We just stick to the schedule up here and somehow it all seems to work.  These folks are amazing.



There is a little red line on the computer’s daily schedule which marches across the page with time.  So we know if we are ahead or behind schedule.  If we are behind, we all seem to pitch in and help each other out to get all of our stuff done.  If we are ahead, well that is a good time to take a break, check in with each other, and then see if there is “task list” (extra stuff) we can do.  We manage to squeak in taking photos of each other and outside for “historical documentation” (that is from Galaxy Quest but we actually had photo documentation with that name on it for some of our tasks this week – that made me crack up!).    But usually by 8pm, we just get dinner ready and relax – no more watching the line after 8pm.


Before bed, lots of science, some operations, some maintenance, and a little relaxing!


Food Frequency Questionnaire


This week instead of having a controlled diet, I just had to write down everything I ate, including the times that I ate them and approximately how much water I drank.


Integrated Cardio Vascular (ICV)


ICV involves wearing blood pressure cuffs on your fingers – actually really cool technology that can essentially estimate your cardiac output by measuring the blood pressure in your fingers.   There is a computer attached to it which puts pressure into the cuff of a finger to counter the blood pressure.  So, you get this continuous pressure pulsation on your fingers and the associated motor noise.   We wear this for 24 hours and power the pump by Makita drill batteries.  They last only about 3 hours, so battery change outs are required during the night.


ICV also involves wearing a holter monitor for 48 hours with Actiwatches. 


A holter monitor is a portable device for continuously monitoring various electrical activity of the cardiovascular system.  No big deal, just get wired up for a couple days.  The biggest issue here is the sticky stuff that holds the electrodes on.  After a day – which should involve some exercise – it starts to itch.  Maybe I just have sensitive skin, but it seems to leave us red and blotchy at times. Actiwatches are used to sense motion and light.  These watches and their data show when we are doing some activity.  All three of these devices (blood pressure cuff, holter monitor, Actiwatch) are used together to accurately depict what we are doing to make our heart work.


Bio Rhythms


This is a Japanese experiment that’s also looking at what is going on with us inside and out.  This one involved wearing another Actiwatch for motion and light for 72 hours.  Then another type of cardiac monitor similar to the holter monitor.  This Japanese technology is small, lightweight, and can even be worn in the shower.  Pretty reliable!  However, I had these experiments one after another this week.  It is Sunday night and I am finally free of all the electrodes!  I sort of forgot about them – but like I said, working out with all this stuff on gets a little yucky!  I was happy to finally get a good wash down of all that sensor sticky stuff this evening – after the Falmouth Road Race!



Reaction Testing


Essentially you have a black screen on your computer.  You need to hit the space bar as soon as you see numbers counting.  I am generally around 200 milliseconds.  I was watching swimming and running during the Olympics, and they were talking about the importance of getting a good start at the gun.  I think this test can identify who can start quick and who can’t!


Cleopatra and Nefertiti Update


All the doors are open for the fruit flies to come out and be prey to Cleopatra and Nefertiti.  Nefertiti is still quite active and eating away.  Our little Cleo is still shy…we haven’t seen her.  However, for both of them, I fear their destiny.  I see next week Joe is tasked with taking them out of the “rack” where we have them stowed – not sure where he is taking them. You know, they don’t need to drink water since they liquefy the fruit flies and use their body water…but I don’t think this can last forever….maybe more to follow.


Second YouTube Space Lab Winners


Sara and Dorothy from Troy, Michigan won the 14-16 year-old category. They are just too smart for me.  They came up with the idea to test the growth of a type of bacteria, which is used for getting rid of stuff like mold, etc. on plants, which we use for food in space.  I think seeing how these bacteria do in space is really cool – especially in light of the landing on Mars.  If we do end up growing our own food on the way to Mars, we might need something like this to make sure it remains good during the growth cycle.  If the bacteria grows better in space than on Earth, then we might be able to produce it up here.  Endless possibilities.  These teenage girls are smart!


Binary Colloidal Alloy Test (BCAT)


More for Joe!!!  He has a lot of patience and very good camera skills.  He set up an intervalometer to take pictures of the colloids for 4 days!  An intervalometer is a device that counts intervals of time and is used to signal, in accurate time intervals, the operation of some other device.  One picture an hour.  Science takes time!



Capillary Flow Experiments (CFE VG2)


Watching fluid flow on different surfaces in space.  No gravity to hinder the flow, so we are investigating how different surfaces (shapes, perforations, etc.) make fluid flow.  Looks just like a lava lamp – but has really great spinoffs for making new types of fuel tanks, for example, for space travel.  Pumps can fail – natural phenomena like this won’t for the long trip to Mars!


Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS)


More burning stuff in the microgravity glove box!  We burned a little 2 cm sphere that looked like the sun whizzing through the air.  It was bright orange like the sun, with flowing flames behind it  – thankfully all contained in the glove box!  We also burned different fibrous materials at different airflow speeds to understand how much of that 3rd leg of the fire triangle is needed to sustain a fire.  Cool science!


Speaking of fire, we also have a combustion chamber.  Joe did work on that to reinstall some very small fuel lines!


Unpacking, Still!


The H-II transfer vehicle (HTV) unpack is almost done!  Will be done soon. But in the meantime – we got to load some trash.  This place is shaping up and we are getting rid of lots of “common trash.”


Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Robotics


Joe and Aki used the Japanese robotic arm to “grapple” the HTV – to unload external payloads from the External Platform that HTV brought up.  This is such a cool idea!  Not everything needs to come inside the ISS.  Some experiments and replacement boxes for outside can just stay stored outside.  So with the External Platform, we can carry these large things in an unpressurized part of HTV and transfer them to the ISS.





Getting closer and closer to August 30th when Aki and I will do an EVA.  So, we had to start really cleaning out the airlock!  Even got to open up our suits and test the “positive pressure relief” system in the suit.  Remember, the suits are essentially little space craft so they have all the valves, tanks, cooling, heating, that we have on ISS to keep us alive.  These suits haven’t been used for a while, so we are starting to do our “preflight” on them to get them ready!




It has been an exhausting week for exercise.  Of course we are doing our integrated resistance and aerobic training study (SPRINT) aerobic workouts – which get my heart rate way up there.  We are also doing max rep exercises on the advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) now.  This is different from last time, because we only lift every other day with this protocol.  I was a little wary, but after this week, I think I understand, I need some recovery from this type of workout.  I am getting that 2nd day onset muscle soreness with these maximum repetition routine.  I like doing a lighter aerobic workout on the lifting days to try to get rid of some of that lactic acid.  That seems to help.


Also this week in exercise, I had my Maximum VO2 test.


Now that isn’t too much fun, I will admit.  We are again wired up, and the equipment measures the difference in what you breath in and what you breath out as the exercise intensity increases until you can’t take it anymore.  We do this on the cycle ergometer with vibration isolation and stabilization (CEVIS).  We have to do this with a nose clip – which is annoying – to make sure they can account for all the air exchange.  Of course we are breathing in and out thru a mouthpiece.  Lots of mixing bags, hoses, sample catheters, etc. in this contraption…but in the end, I think my VO2 max is pretty good!


Finally, I ran alongside a lot of friends during the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts!    We tuned into the pre-race festivities through our communication system. I was hoping to wish everyone good luck as well, but we lost communication.  However, I started on time (well, 10 minutes late, because of the torrential rain in Falmouth –no rain up here) with the rest of the runners.  I finished in around 1:03:52.  I had a couple of “water breaks”, but made it thru the 7.2 miles no problem.  The first half of the run was my SPRINT protocol and the second was a nice consistent pace until that final “hill” and downhill to the end.




Had a pesto pasta dinner to go along with the pre-race theme.  I had to dig deep to find it in the side dishes container, but I found it! We also have oranges from a Progress 48P delivery.  Nothing better than fresh fruit!!!


For pre-race breakfast, something light – I had vegetable quiche.  Only need to add hot water and it is ready.  Even some bits of broccoli inside – not bad!


Suni’s blog also appears at

Laboratory in Space

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Lots of fun and interesting science with a quick break for the arrival of Progress (unpiloted resupply ship). That means even fresher fruit and care packages for us, as well as lots of supplies, including our EVA cables…more on that in a later post.


We are not the experts in all the science that we do up here – there are many people on the ground ready to support us when we are doing the experiments.  Experts on the science and systems are located all over the world.  They get “patched” into our communications loops so at times we get to talk to them WHILE we are performing the tasks.  We usually have a video camera set up over our shoulders so they can “watch” what we are doing and how the experiment is going.  We have experiments that need our eyes on them to watch for changes, and to report.  Remember, things up here act differently than on Earth.  We all think we know what will happen, but the beauty of science is that sometimes we get surprised, especially when this is really the only place to do this type of stuff.



Cleopatra and Nefertiti


Cleopatra and Nefertiti are our two spiders.  Cleopatra, the zebra spider seems to be either very clever or very shy.  She has disappeared.  She was the first one I met and was pretty active when I first saw her.  She is sort of small, like the size of the holes where the fruit flies live…so, we think she was maybe really hungry and went into one of the holes.  If so, she was having a buffet in there.  There are cameras on them in the habitat so the ground can watch and they saw evidence that there was webbing in one of the fruit fly holes.  My only worry about her is that she will eat too much, grow a lot and get stuck in there…the life of a Spidernaut.


Nefertiti on the other hand is too big.  She is sort of scary; in fact I am so glad I am not a fruit fly.  I opened up the habitat and actually saw her running around at full speed looking for something to eat.  It was difficult to even get a steady picture.  Then a fruit fly came out. Nefertiti stopped, she stalked and then she pounced.  It was amazing to see this with my own two eyes.  Apparently they inject some acidic fluid in the fly body, which liquefies the insides, and then she sucks everything out of the fly.  The only thing left is the carcass…and I saw many carcasses floating around in her twisted web.  Note her 4 eyes and the fruit fly in her mouth!  I was told she has excellent vision.  Again, I am so happy to not be a fly – reminded me of that futuristic movie Starship Troopers. Yikes!


Pro K Investigation

Dietary Intake Can Predict and Protect Against Changes in Bone Metabolism During Spaceflight and Recovery


This is a controlled diet investigation.  It is interesting when you can’t choose for yourself…immediately you start feeling deprived.  I think this is why diets don’t seem to work in the end.  You just can’t wait to get off it and then go crazy!  At least that is my personality.  The idea has been to see if a high animal protein diet contributes to bone loss.  This is not as important on the ground as it is here in space. Living in space immediately starts to change the body, and one of the unfortunate side effects is bone density loss because we don’t need a skeletal structure to hold us up.  Immediately the body starts to redistribute calcium.  That is why we do weight bearing exercises up here – to help prevent it.  Well, an additional theory is that the acid created in breaking down animal protein also leaches calcium out of the bones as it is used as a neutralizing agent for the acid.  So, we are testing out a high animal protein diet versus a low animal protein diet.  Associated with the menu is how to test it.  Of course there is sampling after 4 days of these diets – that means 24 hours continuous of taking urine samples, which we insert in the MELFI freezer (Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer)



Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-5: Phase Separation


There are many different types of samples that potentially form colloids differently here than on Earth.  We get them ready, place them somewhere on the ISS in a certain orientation, let them sit for a while and then photo document them.  This is pretty difficult photography with micro lenses to try to take a picture of the potential crystals.  The depth of field is small with crystals, making it hard for the camera to “see” them.  It is like trying to take pictures of a prism.  I need more photography work on this small scale!  Very interesting though how the crystals vary from sample to sample.



Advanced Colloids Experiment


Working with a high-powered microscope to look at samples here in space.  I was essentially a technician.  We mix samples with a magnet, install samples that we have here, change out lenses for the microscope and get it all ready for the ground teams to run sessions to look at and analyze the samples.  Pretty meticulous work, but fun to see how we can work together with the ground teams.



Treadmill Kinematics

Biomechanical Analysis of Treadmill Exercise on the International Space Station

Treadmill Kinematics evaluates the difference between running in space and running on the ground.  We sort of assume that it is the same when the folks on the ground have us do exercise up here.  But in fact, with the harness and microgravity, we aren’t even sure we are working the correct parts for bone density and muscle mass deficits. By videotaping ourselves at different speeds, the folks on the ground can figure out the differences.  I saw a similar thing on training Olympic swimmers when they push off the wall – you’ve seen the dolphin kick thing they do now.  Folks analyze the position of the ankle, knee and hip to record and see the motion and see what the result is – speed in that case.  Maybe proper position in ours.



Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study


I am into SPRINT now.  The interval running workouts are getting intense.  Weight lifting workouts have been difficult with 12 repetitions per exercise.  We’re decreasing the repetitions and increasing the weight….should be fun?


After all that working out, and finally not having to eat “what I am told to eat” for the Pro-K, it was time to really EAT!  After all of us were off the “diet” we opened some of our bonus containers and had a smorgasbord while watching the Olympics together.  We had chips (corn tortillas broken in pieces) with bean dip from Joe, nacho cheese spread from me, fish in miso sauce from Aki.  Gennady, Yuri and Sergei joined in and we had fun all eating together and cheering for our teams.


I felt like continuing the Mexican theme and had beef fajitas the next day on a flour tortilla with spicy corn.


Notice our “table” in the background.   It just consists of a place to Velcro the food; stick it down with duct tape, and a place for baby wipes to clean our silverware.  We got some grapefruits and apples from the Progress cargo ship — crunchy and REAL!


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Go Curiosity!

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Week 3ALREADY!  Time is flying.  It seems like yesterday we arrived.  Hopefullyby the time you read this, Curiosity has landed on Mars!!!  We are gettingup a little early tomorrow to hear the results.  I wonder if she has hadas nice a view of the red planet as we are having of our planet?  Ourfingers are crossed for this new technology!!!  Go Curiosity!

Comings and Goings

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Peoplealways ask if it gets boring up here.  Ican unequivocally say NEVER!  It seems like something is alwayshappening.  We were talking about all the activities we do in one day, andhow they can range from vacuuming, to changing out the toilet can, to drawingblood, taking acoustic measurements, to ultra sounding your heart, to capturingan HTV, to unpacking and repacking, to doing a SPRINT exercise, to doing aspacewalk!  Last week we did lots of science while vehicles were comingand going – it doesn’t get much better.

We havebeen busy so I haven’t had much dedicated window time and I will confess, myspace photography skills are not where they need to be – I am working on it butthis planet turns and we fly over it so fast… 

Some of What We Did Last Week:

SPRINTIntegrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study

SPRINTis an exercise protocol that consists of sprinting workouts on the treadmill, 8x 30-second sprints, 6 x 2-minute sprints, or 4 x 4-minute sprints.  Thesereally kicked my butt and got my heart rate up in the 180s.  This protocolalso involves heavy lifting, but we are still trying to figure out the rightamount of weight to do these sets with.  

The ARED(Advanced Resistive Exercise Device) is amazing (more below). It can do barexercises and rope exercises.  It is free floating so we don’t put loadsinto the ISS, just like the treadmill and the bike.  If they didn’t havevibration isolation systems associated with the exercise equipment, the ISSwould feel lots of stresses, particularly on the solar arrays that are huge and“outboard.”  Hence a huge moment arm of force would cause them to bedamaged. 


Weultrasound our hearts both resting and during exercise (Joe and I didthis).  We ultrasound our legs to see muscle size and development forSPRINT (above).  We ultrasound our carotid artery, our portal vein andgall bladder, our kidney arterial and veins, our femoral artery and our tibialvein.  These are for an experiment called vessel imaging so the investigator can make a 3Dimage.  Pretty cool to look inside ourselves!  I didn’t see anythingI wasn’t supposed to see.

Exercising on ARED


Aki andI have ramped up our exercise, and are doing regular twice daily workouts – oneaerobic, one resistive with “weights.”  The Advanced Resistive ExerciseDevice, ARED,  allows us to really get a goodworkout for things like squats and dead lifts.  These are most importantbecause we immediately start losing bone and muscle mass up here.  Thisdevice has been awesome since it got here. It works on the concept of pushingagainst a vacuum, and it is very effective. 

 Acoustic Measurement

 Theseare a periodic measurement on ourselves and in different parts of the ISS torecord the amount and types of noises we hear all day long. 

Maintenance & Housekeeping

We hadto clean house and organize before we got a bunch more stuff – HTV is here sowe have to make room for all of her stuff too.

 Fire Drill

Reviewedof all emergency equipment and, just like in elementary school, we had a firedrill.  We went through all our procedures to make sure we know who wasdoing what and how the control centers would act and help us.


Preparations for HTV (The JapanAerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3)

We cleanedup the cupola and installed computers, reviewed our procedures and practiced onour simulator we have here as a crew of three.  Everyone has a role andresponsibility and it is best to make sure we all know what to expect.  Wepracticed all this on Earth before we came up here, but the real robotic armand the real vehicle make you want to practice a little more before it allhappens.

The HTVcame in close and just stopped!  It was amazing, and the vehicle isbeautiful.  Joe drove the arm perfectly over the grapple pin    and we grabbed her.  It wasawesome. 

Then,the ground “flew” HTV with the robotic arm close to the docking port.  Akitook over from there and “mated” the HTV to the docking port.  The groundcrew and I drove the latches and bolts (thru computer commands) to connect theHTV to the ISS.  Next we had to pressurize the vestibule between thedocking port hatch and the HTV hatch so we could open them both and getin.  Lots of pressure checks and time to make sure there aren’t anyleaks!  


Weopened the hatch to HTV and started unloading.  One of the first thingsunstowed was a payload from the winner of a YouTube Spacelab contest.  Thousands of kids from all over the world submittedbiology and physics experiments via a 2-minute YouTube video.  Two of themwere lucky enough to come to the ISS to be tested by the crew. 

Wepulled out the first one, and we now have a zebra and a red-backed spider uphere in their habitats.  The spidernauts did a great job through launchand their first days in space.  They seem to be adapting (like I know whatthat feels like for a spider).  But their food, fruit flies, seemed to behaving a slightly more difficult time.  “Flying” by flapping your wingsdoesn’t quite work up here.  They were flapping around and justfloating.  They were bouncing off the glass, but could cling on to thewood, which makes up the wall of the habitat.  Very interesting to watch.

Breakfast burrito and coffee!


Lastly, space food is space food, but it is good.  I must be getting usedto it because I didn’t lose any weight these first weeks.  I’m alsogetting used to HOW to eat it again. This isn’t always an easy proposition inspace. Yes, stuff sticks together, but it isn’t like you have these things on aplate. You have to meticulously and tenderly put stuff together so it doesn’tfly away.  On Sunday, I had time to work my magic and imitate a BreakfastBurrito. That, along with some Kona coffee with cream and sugar (in a bag) wasquite satisfying!

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Jack of all Trades

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We are here!  Wow, what a ride here, what a place to end up.  I am so lucky and blessed to be doing the things I am doing.  I hope, and truly  believe, that what we are doing up here in space will eventually help all of humanity through exploration, innovation, education and to kindle the spirit of curiosity we all have to find out/figure out things we don’t know.

Although this is my second time living up in space, it is totally different this time.  Not only is the station bigger, and there are more people, the activities are different – science is king, logistics are totally different with visiting vehicles, the core systems of the “laboratory” are built and stable, allowing us to live and work with a little more regularity. 

Some things remain the same – cleaning up, cleaning and working on the toilet, planning for trash, taking out the trash, restocking the “shelves”, computer maintenance – but these are things that are common to any business or organization. We are a “jack of all trades”, which is sort of nice.  Keeps us busy!

Geography quiz:

Easy!  Of course I swam here, surfed here, snorkeled here, tried to spear fish here…

Easy!  Of course I swam here, surfed here, snorkeled here, tried to spear fish here…

A big ALOHA to Kiha and all our friends there! We were lucky to fly directly overhead and then later off to the side (Earth is turning…).

Also had a great pass over Europe starting with England, France, Italy, southern Greece, Crete, and Cairo, down the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, Somalia and southward.  It’s a clear day today except the sand storm coming off of the African coast.  It looked like a bulldozing of sand flowing over the Arabian Sea.

Things we did this week:

It’s Sunday night on the ISS, HTV is coming toward us, we just released 47 Progress –it’s getting to be a traffic jam in space!

Getting ready for this upcoming week. Of course we arrived and that was exciting to see our awesome station from the inside.  Aki and I could see it through our window in the Soyuz as we approached.  The Soyuz felt small at that time in relation to the ISS…

Tonight we let go of Progress 47, so we had to work late on Friday to get it closed up and ready to leave.  It will come back in 2 days…I will write about that in the blog post, but it is a test of a new KURS proximity system.

Joe and Aki did a lot of robotics practice to get ready for HTV, the Japanese cargo vehicle, which will be here on Friday.  HTV launched from Tanegashima, an island off of Japan, yesterday – Saturday – and will be here on Friday for us to “catch” with the robotic arm.  I am third wheel and have a lot less responsibilities in the actual capture than those two, so I got to do other things this week.  We call these “free flyers” and it is a totally new concept for logistics delivery since last time – no more shuttles for logistics so “this is how we do it.”

BASS – burn experiments in the microgravity glove box – checking out how combustion and fire work with different materials in space.  Pretty intense photo documentation, which is done in conjunction with the investigator in Cleveland, Ohio.

Reversible Figures – ESA experiment on how one perceives shapes and motions in space while floating.  I looked sort of funny with a 3D looking headset on floating in the Columbus module with a mouse…but it is pretty neat.  It is like the picture of the pretty lady and the old lady in one – depends how and what your brain picks up on.

Reaction Self Test – done pretty soon after we get here to check our reaction times.

WINSCAT – another reaction type test.  But this one is to see differences in motor skills, perception, reaction time in case we bump our heads.  Gives us a good idea if we are functioning okay.

Suni Williams exercises on the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation System (CEVIS)Integrated Cardio Vascular – intense monitoring of our cardio vascular system with Holter monitor and Cardio Press – you can see it on the CEVIS photo.  I was wired!!!

General moving in.  We had to find our clothes, get our computers started up with email, etc., and, there is a new toilet! It is similar to the Russian one that is still here, but has that added feature of turning urine into water (urine recycling).  It is great!  Surely better than the Soyuz toilet in which it is best to moderate your “flow” – suction on that vehicle is a little less than here.  It is simply amazing how much fluid you (well, maybe just me) lose right away.  We simply don’t need it, so I evacuated my liquids for a couple days.  I think I am evened out now.  You can also see the fluid shift in people’s faces.  We get rounder and rounded for a while until we are all evened out.  The sleep stations are pretty cool too.  Four of us sleep in Node 2, all adjacent to each other – remember you can use the floor and the ceiling too.  I am on the floor – it is sort of like a coffin.  Two sleep in the Russian segment sleep stations.


We are just starting out getting used to everything again.  It is amazing how much your muscles change in just a couple days.  I knew this so I quickly jumped on the treadmill, T2 a.k.a. COLBERT on the second day I was here.  Wow that felt funny, even my feet felt funny.

The lifting machine, ARED, is awesome.  I got warmed up on it on the third day and did a full lifting session today.  It is just like working out at the gym at home.  It is right below the cupola and we have a laptop with music on it nearby.  I got up early this morning, cranked the tunes, looked out the window and had a great lift. 

CEVIS, or the bike, is the same one from when I was here last time.  It is an old reliable friend.  I got on it yesterday and a little today to go thru the exercise test and see how my leg strength is.  Not too bad for an old lady – I made it through the protocols without too much effort.  Biking is the weakest part of my triathlon, so I think I will work on it when I am here.   I was wearing ICV (integrated cardio vascular) equipment that we will download this week for the investigators to look at.  I have a Holter monitor on as well as cardio press on my left hand.  I think my heart is in pretty good condition – at least that is what one of the Russian managers said during our welcome to the ISS (very interesting comment and I was told about it by a couple different people – I guess I was pretty calm during the launch).


Space Food is good in space!  Eating it on the ground is torture since there are so many good things to eat at home, but here, it is great.

I just ate standard menu things. 

I’ve been hungry and I have been eating like a horse!


The cupola is awesome.  I was hanging out in there yesterday evening and I felt like I was in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea with the sea of stars and the glow of the earth below.  Remember how Capt. Neemo had great windows in the movie? That is what it felt like.  I had been there in the day and I kept looking around at the bottom of the ISS, because it is really cool too, but at night you can’t help but look out! What an awesome set of windows.

Earlier in the week Joe pointed out the Southern Lights.  I had seen a lot of “flashes” before going to sleep on the Soyuz and since I have been here.  No wonder – there was some solar activity just recently and that made the flashes and the intense Southern lights.  Pretty cool to see.  To me they seem a little more flowing than last time when I saw Northern Lights.  I remember Northern Lights as more active and intense, the Southern Lights seemed to flow. 

Working a lot, you forget where you are…Friday was a full day and I sort of didn’t even remember we were in space, just getting stuff done, one thing after another.  Having a real weekend has been nice.  It reminds me of where I am and what we are doing – not just going to work without a commute.  This is real space stuff and it is cool!

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