Fragile Oasis

Connecting Space and Earth: Learn. Act. Make a Difference.

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People always ask if it gets boring up here. I can unequivocally say NEVER! It seems like something is always happening. We were talking about all the activities we do in one day, and how they can range from vacuuming, to changing out the toilet can, to drawing blood, taking acoustic measurements, to ultra sounding your heart, to capturing an HTV, to unpacking and repacking, to doing a SPRINT exercise, to doing a spacewalk! Last week we did lots of science while vehicles were coming and going – it doesn’t get much better.

We have been busy so I haven’t had much dedicated window time and I will confess, my space photography skills are not where they need to be – I am working on it but this planet turns and we fly over it so fast…

Some of What We Did Last Week:

SPRINT (Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study)

SPRINT is an exercise protocol that consists of sprinting workouts on the treadmill, 8 x 30-second sprints, 6 x 2-minute sprints, or 4 x 4-minute sprints. These really kicked my butt and got my heart rate up in the 180s. This protocol also involves heavy lifting, but we are still trying to figure out the right amount of weight to do these sets with.

The ARED (Advanced Resistive Exercise Device) is amazing (more below). It can do bar exercises and rope exercises. It is free floating so we don’t put loads into the ISS, just like the treadmill and the bike. If they didn’t have vibration isolation systems associated with the exercise equipment, the ISS would feel lots of stresses, particularly on the solar arrays that are huge and “outboard.” Hence a huge moment arm of force would cause them to be damaged.


We ultrasound our hearts both resting and during exercise (Joe and I did this). We ultrasound our legs to see muscle size and development for SPRINT (above). We ultrasound our carotid artery, our portal vein and gall bladder, our kidney arterial and veins, our femoral artery and our tibial vein. These are for an experiment called vessel imaging so the investigator can make a 3D image. Pretty cool to look inside ourselves! I didn’t see anything I wasn’t supposed to see.


Aki and I have ramped up our exercise, and are doing regular twice daily workouts – one aerobic, one resistive with “weights.” The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, ARED, allows us to really get a good workout for things like squats and dead lifts. These are most important because we immediately start losing bone and muscle mass up here. This device has been awesome since it got here. It works on the concept of pushing against a vacuum, and it is very effective.

Acoustic Measurement

These are a periodic measurement on ourselves and in different parts of the ISS to record the amount and types of noises we hear all day long.

Maintenance & Housekeeping

We had to clean house and organize before we got a bunch more stuff – HTV is here so we have to make room for all of her stuff too.

Fire Drill

Reviewed of all emergency equipment and, just like in elementary school, we had a fire drill. We went through all our procedures to make sure we know who was doing what and how the control centers would act and help us.

Preparations for HTV (The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3)

We cleaned up the cupola and installed computers, reviewed our procedures and practiced on our simulator we have here as a crew of three. Everyone has a role and responsibility and it is best to make sure we all know what to expect. We practiced all this on Earth before we came up here, but the real robotic arm and the real vehicle make you want to practice a little more before it all happens.

The HTV came in close and just stopped! It was amazing, and the vehicle is beautiful. Joe drove the arm perfectly over the grapple pin and we grabbed her. It was awesome.

Then, the ground “flew” HTV with the robotic arm close to the docking port. Aki took over from there and “mated” the HTV to the docking port. The ground crew and I drove the latches and bolts (thru computer commands) to connect the HTV to the ISS. Next we had to pressurize the vestibule between the docking port hatch and the HTV hatch so we could open them both and get in. Lots of pressure checks and time to make sure there aren’t any leaks!


We opened the hatch to HTV and started unloading. One of the first things unstowed was a payload from the winner of a YouTube Spacelab contest. Thousands of kids from all over the world submitted biology and physics experiments via a 2-minute YouTube video. Two of them were lucky enough to come to the ISS to be tested by the crew.

We pulled out the first one, and we now have a zebra and a red-backed spider up here in their habitats. The spidernauts did a great job through launch and their first days in space. They seem to be adapting (like I know what that feels like for a spider). But their food, fruit flies, seemed to be having a slightly more difficult time. “Flying” by flapping your wings doesn’t quite work up here. They were flapping around and just floating. They were bouncing off the glass, but could cling on to the wood, which makes up the wall of the habitat. Very interesting to watch.


Lastly, space food is space food, but it is good. I must be getting used to it because I didn’t lose any weight these first weeks. I’m also getting used to HOW to eat it again. This isn’t always an easy proposition in space. Yes, stuff sticks together, but it isn’t like you have these things on a plate. You have to meticulously and tenderly put stuff together so it doesn’t fly away.

On Sunday, I had time to work my magic and imitate a Breakfast Burrito. That, along with some Kona coffee with cream and sugar (in a bag) was quite satisfying!

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