Fragile Oasis

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Southern Lights

Our time of solitude is rapidly coming to an end. Our new crew mates successfully launched very early this morning. With the 2 days they spend in autonomous flight to reach us, they will arrive around 4:00am GMT on July 17. All of the preparations have been made for their arrival. Since it was not too long ago that I arrived, I clearly remember those first few days on the ISS. While the traditional hatch opening and having the opportunity to talk with family and friends that made the trip to Russia are wonderful experiences, I remember being tired and wanting desperately to take a “bath” and put on some regular clean clothes.


Arriving at the International Space Station and wanting desperately to take a “bath” and put on some regular clean clothes

While we do have facilities on the Soyuz and lots of opportunities to take cat naps, it sure was nice to be home on the relatively spacious Space Station. While all of the new crew members have been here before, we will do all we can to make the transition as comfortable as possible. For Gennady, Sergey and I, we will begin another sleep shift tomorrow. We will wake up at our normal time of 6 am and are scheduled to go to sleep at 3:30 pm with a wake up at midnight. The day of docking is a long day for all of the crews and we will be back to a normal schedule on Wednesday. As I mentioned previously, HTV will be arriving 10 days later so we will all hit the road running.

Knowing what is ahead, Gennady, Sergey and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. While some work had to be done, overall it was an opportunity for us to recharge our personal batteries and just enjoy the time. We were rewarded with the results of the recent solar activity – the southern lights.

I remember seeing the auroras during my Shuttle flight and I thought it was the coolest thing. Then I arrived this time and Don Pettit showed me the auroras and they were much, much better than what I seen previously. I was happy as could be. Then on Saturday, I was working out and in between sets I saw that we were heading south during a night pass. So I decided my workout could be postponed for a few minutes and I turned out all of the lights in Node 3. Within a couple of minutes, I could not believe what I was seeing. It was absolutely incredible.

I enjoyed the show for a few minutes and then felt I had to inform my crew mates so they could also take in the view. Even Gennady, with all of his time on orbit, was amazed. I am no expert with a camera but I tried to capture at least a small reminder of the experience. The pictures were not great, but they would do. So today, at around the same time of day, I thought I would take one more look. Just when you think it can’t get much better, it gets way better. I of course took some obligatory pictures, but then I just sat in the dark, in the peace and quiet of this incredible man made, orbiting laboratory and just looked out the window in awe.

What a truly magnificent planet we live on and solar system we live in. I could not have asked for a better way to mark the middle of my Expedition and to start what will be a challenging and rewarding time on the International Space Station.