Astronauts enjoy slightly more relaxed day
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: July 9, 2006
The Discovery astronauts are enjoying a slightly more relaxed day in space today, settling in for relatively routine supply transfers from the shuttle to the international space station and gearing up for a critical spacewalk Monday.
Fielding questions from reporters earlier today, Discovery commander Steve Lindsey said the flight plan was so loaded with activity the first five days of the mission - launch, heat shield inspections, docking and a spacewalk - that it was "a very hectic pace."
"We worked really hard with the timeline ... to be as efficient as possible," he said. "It has been very, very hectic, but we have managed to keep up with the timeline and get all the objectives accomplished.
"A lot of the lessons we're learning is how to be more efficient with our time to deal with these new (heat shield inspection) objectives we have to deal with and try to get everything done. We only have 16 shuttle flights left and we want to get the maximum out of them we possibly can."
Pilot Mark Kelly agreed, but added the crew was fortunate "not to have a lot of stuff to trip us up and we've been staying on top of it and the transfer's going very well."
"Today has been a relatively light day compared to the others, so it's really going great, I mean, we're really staying on top of it."
First time shuttle flier Lisa Nowak, Discovery's flight engineer, said it took her body several days to adapt to weightlessness.
"The first day, the first 24 hours, I didn't feel so great and it took me a while to adapt," she said. "Then I started feeling better and then after we got to space station and you have to turn different directions to enter each module, that took a while to get used to. But I'm happy to say I think I'm completely adapted now."
About half the men and women who fly aboard the shuttle experience space sickness in one form or another as their neurovestibular systems adapt to weightlessness. Symptoms usually disappear after two days or so but those first few days are typically among the busiest of a mission.
"We take our meals on the run, we really push to keep up with the timeline, we knew that was the way it was going to be," Lindsey said. "When you timeline a mission, you run a very fine line between squeezing the maximum amount of work out that you can or doing too much and pushing over the edge.
"The first few days we were walking that line. I think we stayed on the good side of that line and managed to get through it to flight day six today, where we're doing transfer, working hard, but not at the same intensity as we've been working the last five days.
"So we're watching that real close, that's one of my jobs as commander ... to make sure everybody gets enough to eat, gets enough time to sleep. So I push really hard to get us to bed on time every night. We haven't always been successful. Generally speaking, we're doing OK and we're certainly recovering today."
Lead flight director Tony Ceccacci agreed "it's been intense" going "110 miles per hour getting work done."
"Today it's more of a pack mule type of operation, where you've just got to move one thing from another, you've got to make sure it's in the right location, of course, but it's not that intense, paying attention to every second of every minute here. They're still pretty busy. And if they're not, we'll have to give them a call."
Spacewalker Mike Fossum, asked what he would write home about if this was a more normal trip, said he was awed by the view out the windows of the shuttle.
"First, using the mirror to look out the overhead windows as we lifted off the pad, just unbelievable to see all that conflagration taking place and the smoke billowing," he said of launch July 4. "The second would be (flying) across the California coast at an altitude of only about 85 miles. We had a beautiful view of the Los Angeles basin, came across the high desert and saw Edwards Air Force Base. I worked for Edwards for many years in the Air Force and it was really just an awesome sight to see it from such a low altitude."
He also marveled at the view of Earth and sky during a spacewalk Saturday to test the stability of a long robot arm boom as a possible work platform.
"The third thing would be just the incredible view being outside yesterday," he said. "We had a little bit of time when we were actually on the boom, all we had to do was ride it and hang on for the ride to the next test point, so that gave us time to look around. A lot of that was in pitch black and that alone was kind of stunning. But then to see a sunrise or a sunset from the end of the boom, just beyond words."
The 50-foot-long boom was designed to help astronauts inspect the shuttle's heat shield for signs of damage. But the boom, attached to the end of the shuttle's 50-foot-long robot arm, also provides a way to get astronauts to virtually any part of the shuttle if repairs are needed.
During tests Saturday, Fossum and crew mate Piers Sellers rode on the end of the long boom and found it more stable than they had anticipated.
"I think it was more stable than we feared it might be," Fossum said. "We were pleased in the amount of motion we got, and not necessarily the predictability but the repeatability of it. You could learn the motions at a certain position and then learn how to compensate for it. And the motion was not so great that it would be impossible to get things done from the end of it. It will be challenging, but ... in the realm of doable with due care and diligence."