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

Agat and the Business End

July 12, 2012

We got to go into the Soyuz spacecraft one last time to check it out, to see where our stuff is stowed, and to make sure everything is where we want it. “Agat” is beautiful! I refer to her as Agat since that is Yuri Malenchenko’s call sign.

If you watch the launch on NASA TV you will most likely hear his call sign on the radio. Yuri is Agat 1, I am Agat 2 and Aki (Akihiko Hoshide) is Agat 3. Right now the capsule (and covering) is not mated to the booster and she is standing upright. They will turn her on her side to be moved and mated.

Soyuz TMA-05M - Photo credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

This is “our” booster – the business end! You can see it is on itsside, and is ready for the capsule. The entire stack will stay on itsside and be “rolled out” to the launch pad on Thursday!

Business end -  Photo credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov