The ISS repeatedly flew across the “terminator” over the last weeks. The terminator is the border between day and night on Earth. Flying in this orbit is a weird feeling as we see the Sun continuously on the horizon. It came in handy to take pictures of the Venus transit but night-time photography was out of the question unfortunately. I focussed on the golden-yellow reflection of the Sun on Earth instead. This makes beautiful pictures as well. I don’t have much time to take pictures at the moment. It seems like my mission has gone into overdrive.
Many maintenance tasks are planned as are scientific experiments. I wore a ‘cardiopress’ for 24 hours which meant that two bands were attached to my fingers that measure my blood pressure continuously. I also wore a ‘holter monitor’ for 48 hours to measure my heart beat. These measurements were taken for the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment or ICV. ICV is a NASA experiment that measures astronaut’s blood pressure and heart rhythm during long stays in space.
After a week in space my body adapted to weightlessness. Fluids are not pulled to your legs as on Earth. That is why I have thinner legs and a larger head on photos. The amount of blood in my body also decreases due to weightlessness. I have around two litres less blood than normal. We drink lots of water and swallow salt tablets as losing so much blood on Earth could cause serious problems. Hopefully my body will retain all the fluid until I need it on my return to Earth.
I wore the cardiopress for ICV. It was quite difficult. The batteries have seen better days so I had to change them every three quarters of an hour. Sleeping was difficult as I hear and feel the blood pressure bands pump and let out air as well as the batteries bleeping for attention. In addition I cannot use my left hand very well: if it hits something the measurements go haywire and the machine gets confused. Despite these small uncomfortable moments I think it is important to take part in these experiments. As a doctor I am interested in the results and it helps scientists on Earth to know how the human body adapts to space.
In between my tasks I heard from ground control the news on the European Championship football. Or to be precise: how the Dutch team has done. I would have loved to land on Earth on the day that The Netherlands played in the finals. Unfortunately this was not to be this time. Maybe I will be able to enjoy a championship final in two years’ time when I will be able to watch the match with gravity again.