Just three more weeks. I am counting down to my return. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I want to go home and see my family and friends. On the other hand I do not want to leave because I know I will never return to space. I have accepted that I will not be able to do everything that I had planned for this mission. I will not be able to take a daytime picture of The Netherlands without any clouds for example. It will not be possible as the Space Station’s orbit is not optimal for taking pictures of The Netherlands in the coming weeks. I tried many times in the last few months but the weather was usually not good. The Netherlands lay beneath a white cover of clouds. When the clouds cleared we orbited Holland early in the morning and the view was hazy.
Taking pictures from the Japanese module will also be difficult during the following weeks. We are plagued by the beta-angle. This refers to the position of the Sun towards the ISS. The beta-angle is important for generating electricity from solar panels. The windows in the Japanese modules have to be covered for the time being, otherwise sunlight would shine on hardware that would overheat. We have to consider so many things in space.
I can tell that my return flight is near from the emails I receive. Many emails refer to medical tests and my recovery on Earth as well as debriefings. ESA colleagues and other space agencies can improve procedures and prepare future space missions on the basis of my feedback. My flight is just a small part of a larger whole: humankind learning to live in space and to explore and use it for our benefit. I am pleased to be a part of this endeavour. My post-flight tour is also being organised. I will visit many places in The Netherlands and Europe with the rest of the crew to tell people about my mission.
Before I can go home, every day I must run on the treadmill T2 and train hard on ARED , the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device. ARED is a fitness device that trains almost all my muscles but especially the ones in my legs and back. The exercises also increase my bone mass. I no longer need to work out on the exercise bike. My fitness instructor on Earth said: “When you climb out of the Soyuz you need to walk away and not ride a bicycle.” I do not mind running on T2 or training with ARED. I can watch science fiction films and listen to music. I saw all three Terminator films again and Starship Troopers. I watch action films as it helps me run. During weight training I listen to music: heavy rhythms such as rock and trance, dance or techno.