Sunday, July 21, 2013

Achievement Unlocked!

Sorry for the radio silence over here for the last week. Between a crazy work schedule, a crazy workout schedule, and Texas Legislature-related rage blackouts, I have simply not been able to put together a post.

Last weekend I worked the evening shift (3pm to midnight) on Saturday and Sunday. Weekend shifts come around every couple of months for me, because our console is one of 6 with constant support, every hour of every day.  (The six are SPARTAN-power and external thermal, ETHOS- life support and internal thermal, CRONUS- communications, and on-board computers, ADCO- attitude control, GC- ground control, mission control itself is their system, and the Flight Director- the boss)

When I came home from work on Sunday, I had to stay up to shift to the overnights. I made it until almost 5am (minus an accidental catnap on the couch, from which I awoke face down in a puddle of drool- sorry, we keep it real here folks!). I woke up again at 7 when Dan got up for work, ate something, and then hung out until a 9am telecon. After the telecon, I headed back to bed until around 4:30 (with the help of my BFF, NyQuil). That night I went to work at 11pm to prepare the ISS for a spacewalk.

The SPARTAN prep was not too difficult on our shift: parking the SARJs (the big rotating joints each of which rotates 2 truss segments, 4 solar array wings), doing some ISS system powerdowns, and configuring some onboard software. The next shift had an early start (5:30 am) and had the bulk of our actions for the day. If you follow space news, you already know how the spacewalk went.

I got home a little after 6:30am, kissed Dan who was on his way out the door for a 7am simulation, and went to bed. I set my alarm for 10, knowing I couldn't sleep the day away if I wanted to get to bed that night. When I woke up, the first tweet I saw said "EVA cancelled due to leak in spacesuit." Which immediately got my heart rate going, because I thought this meant a leak of the spacesuit atmosphere into the vacuum of space- an extremely dangerous problem. I felt a little relief when I learned it was a water leak into the suit... but not much.

Despite being a Florida girl with pool water in my veins, I am totally terrified of drowning. I'm especially afraid of enclosed water slides because there's no escape. What's scarier about water in space is that there is no up, so you can't just scoot to the top of the helmet and find a pocket of air, the way you could in a water slide tube, or a car that drove into a lake. The water can float anywhere, and has an almost-sticky quality due to water tension, unfettered by gravity (see how water behaves in space here). So, basically, being trapped in a spacesuit that is filling with water is worse than my previous worst fear. Eek!  Thankfully*, he was able to get safely back to the airlock and out of his helmet.(*I originally wrote "Luckily" but I realized it isn't luck, it's hundreds of man hours of training and planning that allows the ground team and crew to deal with potentially dangerous conditions like this.)

Tuesday I spent most of the day sitting on the couch trying not to fall asleep, although I did get a short workout and a trip to the grocery store accomplished. Wednesday I was back to the office for regular office hours, starting at 8:30 when I headed to the SPARTAN backroom console (SPOC, pronounced like Spock) to support an onboard test of our little rotating joints (the BGAs, which each rotate 1 solar array wing). I wrote the procedure we used for the test, and wanted to be there to help execute. And that is now I spent half a day on the day shift in mission control too, to round out my week supporting all three ISS shifts- evening, overnight, and day.

When I was discussing my crazy work schedule with a coworker/friend who is a video game enthusiast, he said that if my life were a video game this would be an achievement. (Hi Mike!) So, you know, I should have access to all the better weapons now, or something. (I hope it's Nap pods.)

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