Christer Fuglesang's newsletter - Houston, 30 November 2006

Nick, yesterday, during the last practice exercise in the Space
Nick, yesterday, during the last practice exercise in the Space Shuttle simulator, which I participated in. Those sitting on the flight deck have a final launch/lift-off simulation on Friday.

Hello all readers!

The last hours of 'freedom' and Lisa and I have just bought this year's Christmas Tree. Unusually early, but when I come back it might be too late, or at any rate difficult to get hold of a tree. The quarantine will begin soon – after a lunch-dinner with 'management'.

The quarantine means that we sleep in the JSC’s 'crew quarter' and stay there most of the time. We can go to the gym and sneak up to the office after office hours, but in the main we should avoid meeting people. Those that must have anything to do with us have to undergo a minor medical examination by a doctor and have strict orders not to touch us and if they don't feel well they should naturally stay away. Those that we will come into contact with are certain instructors for the final reviews (mostly in order to refresh our memories of activities that we practiced a long time ago) as well as spouses and children over ten years old, who are allowed to come and visit. On Sunday we fly in the T-38's to Cape and continue the quarantine, with the last minute preparations at KSC. There I will surely eventually have the time to complete my notebook!

In conjunction with the quarantine we will also change our circadian body rhythm. In Florida time we will sleep between 03:45 and 11:45 and in principle we will try to get into that rhythm straight away. The bedrooms in the 'crew quarters' don't have any windows, so that certainly helps a little. Even at Cape we will have opportunities to meet some of those closest to us. On Tuesday we will eat breakfast (lunch for the guests) at the Beach House, with up to five guests each. In addition to Lisa and the children, my cousin Frederik from Norway will be my guests. On Wednesday NASA are giving a few of the closest relatives and friends a tour around the KSC, which will conclude with the traditional 'waving ceremony'. This is where the crew stand on one side of a large ditch and all of our friends stand on the other side. When the waving stops the wives/husbands can cross the ditch and be reunited with their respective partners and they can then go together up to the launch tower – very exclusive. On the launch day however, we don't meet anyone from the outside.

The local ESA office organised a little farewell lunch yesterday
The local ESA office organised a little farewell lunch yesterday.

Otherwise, the week began with medical examinations and sampling. Not only to check that we are healthy before the launch, but also to obtain 'basal measurement data' for a number of parameters that will be compared with data after the flight. A whole lot of these tests are routinely performed for all flights, others are special experiments that some of us have agreed to take part in on this flight. They took nine tubes of blood from me, a lot of which are for the experiments. One of these will be carried out for ESA and that concerns studying how much the radiation in space damages chromosomes. Another experiment will study latent herpes virus, which can be a risk during long space journeys. Apart from blood, urine over a 24 hour period was also required, so during one day I had to carry a refrigeration bag around with me, with plastic bottles to fill, in it.

A 'tilt-table' test examines the orthostatic system, that is how well the body regulates blood pressure when you go from a lying to a standing position. One problem associated with space travel is that the body 'forgets' to regulate blood pressure and for some it can take several days before this gets back to normal. Everyone does this test, but on top of this I will take a pill just before landing that hopefully will help the body. The pill (midodrine) is under trial and I will be the first to test it during a flight. The only drawback is that if I feel ill during landing for other reasons (which is quite usual) then I can't take the most common medicine that does help (phenergan), as mixing them can result in unpleasant side effects.

During Tuesday I did my final interviews. The very last was late in the evening, which was already Wednesday morning in Sweden. It was for the Swedish TV4 morning news and they had in the studio at the same time the Swedish space minister Maud Olofsson. There was a whole lot of interest said and Maud was very positive to space activity and agreed that Sweden should be active in this area. On Wednesday the Swedish Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called and wanted to hear how things were going and wish me good luck personally. Very nice.

Now we are 'the untouchables'!
Now we are 'the untouchables'! A reminder to all at the JSC not to spread anything contagious to the crew.

Yesterday we completed the 'Flight Readiness Review' (FRR) and the 7th December (Florida time) was set as the official launch date. No problem for the Space Shuttle! On the other hand some minor problems have occurred on the ISS. One concerns the rotation of the new solar panels. The problem will be studied in detail and a number of tests will be performed in the next few days so that Ground Control can understand in detail what has happened. At present it is a little unclear. It could eventually mean some changes to our work schedules; e.g. to replace a broken electrical unit during our first spacewalk if it turns out that that is shown to be the cause. We will know more in a few days.

The launch window extends until 17th December. If we have not left by then, then the issue of us flying over the New Year period will be discussed again. The launch window may eventually extend until 26th December.

As already mentioned, this is the last web newsletter, but I am planning to send a few short, quick reports from quarantine, although they will be published by other means.

Soon the REAL fun will begin!!

Thank you and best wishes to you all,

Christer

Last update: 4 December 2006

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