Departing station crew looks forward to home
Updated: November 29, 2002

Space station science officer Peggy Whitson, 177 days off the planet with just five to go before coming home, says she's looking forward to "a nice steak with a caesar salad with tons of garlic in it." Flight engineer Sergei Treschev wants "a big hot dog." And Expedition 5 commander Valery Korzun says he wants to "eat and drink, maybe, for a couple of days. And then diet."

"I'm really looking forward to getting some food that's not in a bag!" Whitson told reporters today. "There's an everyday routine that goes on here and some of that is not as much fun as the rest of it. But I really did have a good time and I can very easily say, without lying in the slightest, that it really was a blast being here and I am ready to come back."

Korzun, Whitson and Treschev are winding up a marathon six-month stay aboard the international space station, briefing their replacements on the intricacies of its operation and packing their bags for home. Even though she misses her husband and her garden, Whitson said leaving her space home will be a bittersweet experience.

"I do think I'm ready to go, but it's been kind of a gradual process," she said today during a news conference. "A month ago, if you'd asked me when I started packing for the (trip home), I was definitely not ready to go.

"I think it's been a gradual process of accepting that I should go," she said. "My husband reminded me that's it's much better to leave while you still want to stay than the other way around. So I think that's good advice and I'm happy to go while I wouldn't mind staying at all."

Whitson and her crewmates have exercised twice daily throughout their stay in zero gravity, following a program to combat the long-term effects of weightlessness. Whitson said she preferred resistive exercises while Korzun and Treschev favored the station's treadmill.

Whitson said today she and her crewmates are "in as good a shape as you can be when you're ion a zero G environment" and that she hopes to walk off the shuttle under her own power after landing next Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center.

"I do hope to walk off the shuttle, I've been working out very hard up here, very diligently, and I do hope to be able to," she said. "I know it's going to be a big adjustment getting back, everyone says it is even after a short duration flight. So I'm hoping I've trained up enough that I'll be able to recover relatively quickly."

As for her post-landing exercise regimen, Whitson joked "my husband says part of my rehab program is going to be getting back in my garden and get it trimmed up and weeded. So I think I'm going to have a lot to do in my yard, which is great for me because I love doing that. And it'll be a nice change from what I've been doing up here!"

Korzun, Whitson and Treschev have been replaced by Expedition 6 commander Kenneth Bowersox, flight engineer Nikolai Budarin and science officer Donald Pettit, an energetic researcher who had extra coffee shipped up aboard Endeavour because there is "nothing like having a bag of coffee in the morning."

The Expedition 6 crew plans to remain aboard the station until at least March. Based on first impressions, it won't be a hardship posting.

"The thing that has struck me so far is how big this station is," Bowersox said. "It's amazing that we've put this thing together. I get tired translating (moving) all the way from one end to the other. I've been sleeping in the (Russian) service module but working a lot in the lab (at the other end of the station) and sometimes I'll forget something and have to go back to the service module to get it and I go 'oh no, I have to go all that way again.' I've been told I'll get faster "I think it's really a tremendous achievement what our international team has accomplished here, to put this huge piece of hardware in orbit," Bowersox said. "And I don't think I'm going to feel cooped up at all, I've got lots of space to roam around, lots of things to look at and plenty of things to keep me busy. Right now, I think it's going to be lots of fun to be here for four months."

For the past few days, the outgoing Expedition 5 crew has been briefing their Expedition 6 colleagues on where critical items are stored and providing hands-on insights into the lab's operation.

Bowersox said Whitson has been "spending a lot of time showing us where things are."

"There is stuff everywhere on the station and we have a pretty good computer system that keeps track of it, but it's quicker if you just know where some of the common items are," he said. "And she's been steadily showing us little nooks and crannies where everything's located and I think that's what we're going to appreciate when they're all gone."

But first, the combined shuttle station crew must carry out a third and final spacewalk Saturday to complete the outfitting and activation of a new $390 million solar array truss segment that was attached to the station Tuesday.

At a change-of-shift status briefing today, shuttle flight director Paul Dye said the crew is ahead of schedule meeting the objectives of the 112th shuttle flight and that barring any unexpected problems, NASA's mission management team today ruled out extending the flight.

Kim Ulrich, the STS-113 launch package manager, said the crew was more than 75 percent complete with work to move equipment and supplies from the shuttle to the station and vice versa. As of today, some 1,705 pounds of gear has been moved from Endeavour to the station and another 756 pounds of equipment has been moved from the station to the shuttle for return to Earth.

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