Station resident Whitson describes life in orbit
Posted: October 13, 2002

Astronaut Peggy Whitson, 130 days into a planned 167-day stay in space, says getting callouses on the tops of her feet, relying on her Russian commander to cut her hair and losing her taste for her favorite Earth food - shrimp - are par for the course when it comes to living in space. All in all, Whitson said today, she's having a blast.

"I am having a great time up here, it is fun to live here and to do the science," she said. "And as long as I am busy, I'm quite happy to stay.

"I do miss my family, I miss my husband and my friends, but it's really great having email, our KU (-band satellite) phone system is great and it allows me to feel like I'm keeping in touch. So I'm doing all right and I'm quite happy to wait" for the shuttle Endeavour's arrival in November to bring her home.

Expedition 5 commander Valery Korzun, flight engineer Sergei Treschev and Whitson, the station's science officer, were launched to the lab complex in early June. The shuttle Atlantis' crew, which arrived Wednesday, is the station crew's first visitors since launch.

Among the supplies ferried aloft aboard Atlantis were fresh fruit for the Expedition 5 crew and a pecan pie. And, of course, salsa for Whitson.

"We can go through quite a bit of salsa in a very short period of time," she joked today. "We choose our meals based on what goes well with salsa! Pretty much everything. We could probably eat paper if we had it with salsa.

"Pecan pie is one of the few things that doesn't really need salsa," she joked. "We're really looking forward to finishing that off."

Many astronauts report food tastes different in weightlessness and Whitson said she's no different.

"One of the things that really interesting, when you come into space your tastes change," she said. "And one of my favorite foods on the ground is shrimp and up here, I can't stand it. The guys like it because they get all my shrimp that I selected on the ground before flight. I'm really hoping my tastes will go back (to normal back on Earth) and I will enjoy shrimp as much as I did before."

Whitson operated the station's Canadarm2 space crane to installed a 45-foot-long, 14.5-ton solar array truss segment Thursday. She will help install a virtually identical segment in November before returning to Earth aboard Endeavour. In the meantime, the Expedition 5 crew will entertain more visitors later this month when a three-man crew delivers a new Russian Soyuz lifeboat.

Asked if she might like to return to Earth aboard Atlantis, Whitson said "we've got a lot left to do."

"We're going to have visitors almost the whole time, so I'm thinking I'm going to be very, very busy for the remainder of the time," she said. "It was so much fun putting on S1, I'm looking forward to putting on the P1 truss (in November).

"I haven't really started to count down yet," she said. "Somebody was asking me the other day what my Christmas vacation plans were and I'm like, 'will I be there or not?' It's hard for me to imagine actually being back home because I guess I feel like this is my home right now. Unfortunately, I don't have my husband, but this is my home right now."

And what a home it is, moving five miles per second through space some 240 miles up.

"It is pretty amazing," shuttle pilot Pamela Melroy, making her second visit to the outpost, said today. "I was just floored at my first view of the station (Wednesday) as we were coming in to rendezvous. I kind of gasped and said 'it's a lot bigger!' I realized it was going to be bigger, but I think the part that amazed me was the solar arrays.

"I was looking at them last night out the shuttle window and they fill the entire window, they're so enormous. It was very exciting to add S1 and to start seeing the station expanding again in that direction. Probably the biggest change is having people to hug and kiss when we got on board. It was wonderful."

Providing yet another glimpse of life in space, Melroy said being docked to the station brings a few complications for female astronauts. The shuttle's lower deck, normally a dead end, is the crew's path to the station once the two vehicles are docked.

"I noticed this morning that even when I'm alone on the middeck, I can't change without checking both directions!"

First-time flier Sandra Magnus, Atlantis' flight engineer, provided a colorful glimpse of how one adapts to weightlessness.

"It's absolutely amazing," she said. "I was giggling for about two hours after we got up here. At first, I felt this constant motion of being pulled up and I think that's because my muscles were still trying to keep me in sort of a 1 G attitude and I was fighting it. And then after a day or two, you relax and you get used to being in very unusual attitudes.

"For example, I tend to like to hang out on the ceiling and be just a little bit off from everybody else because we're in zero G and you can do that," Magnus said. "And then the whole idea of just floating around the lab, it's just a real neat feeling, you feel like a feather, actually, just floating along."

Before departing, Magnus may get a chance to try her hand at zero-gravity haircuts.

"Valery did an excellent job cutting my hair, I was pretty impressed, thankfully," Whitson said. "I need to ge another haircut, so if we get a little time, Sandy got trained on the ground and she wants to practice with my head."

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