I enjoy floating around the ISS immensely. I am used to it now and move freely between the different modules. The space station has grown since I was here for Mission DELTA in 2004. It is great, there is more living space now. Sometimes it can be difficult to find my way around though. It is possible that I enter the same module four times and each time a different wall could be ‘up’. It takes a moment to look around and think before I get my bearings. It is hard to imagine this on Earth. A ceiling is always a ceiling and does not change into a floor or a wall. In our schedule we usually do not have enough time reserved for these orientation problems. Retrieving and looking for an object can take much longer than planned. Before you realise, it an activity takes more time than scheduled and you have to skip the evening meal together or miss looking out of the window. We are rushed off our feet here in space.
Anatoly and I measured the sound level in the Russian Zvezda module. Ground control wants to know how noisy the space station is in certain areas. All types of measurements need to be done. I measured the amount of iodine in the water and bacteria growth in different places in the ISS. The first time I do a measurement Dan or one of the Russians’ helps me. I am doing many more things on my own now. I like these kind of tasks. They are part of my job description as flight engineer and make my mission even more interesting.
Cargo ships in space
The equipment we use is mainly bought up by automatic cargo ships. The Russian Progress, the European ATV and the Japanese HTV. Soon we will welcome commercially developed cargo vessels: Dragon and Cygnus. Dragon was built by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). Some of these spacecraft we grab with the robot arm and secure it to the ISS. I enjoy working robotics tasks.
We heard last week that the Dragon launch has been delayed because more tests need to be run. That is also part of space travel…
We were visited by a new Progress cargo vessel last Saturday. Filled with supplies this Russian spacecraft is launched three times a year from Kazakhstan. Over the last few weeks we packed the previous Progress with waste. It undocked and then burnt up during re-entry in the atmosphere. Progress vessels approach the ISS and dock automatically. But we pay close attention so that we can intervene and manually adjust the trajectory if necessary. This time we did not have to. It will take at least a couple of weeks before we have unpacked everything.