Frank De Winne's diary from space

Thin blue layer
Very thin blue layer: the atmosphere protecting our planet
12 November 2002

During his mission on board the International Space Station (ISS) Frank De Winne was able to take a look at our planet from above. At a height of 400 kilometres you can clearly see the vulnerability of the Earth. "We have to take good care of our planet", concludes De Winne.

"From space you can see the Earth and just above it a very thin blue layer", Frank De Winne told after his return. That thin layer is our atmosphere. It becomes gradually darker and darker and eventually as black as coal.

De Winne was very awed by the thinness of this atmosphere.

"You know, the Space Station is orbiting the Earth at a height of 400 kilometres. The outer layers of the atmosphere reach a height of no more than twenty kilometres. It is an incredible feeling to know that this thin layer is protecting life on Earth. This has made an enormous impression on me."

Frank De Winne in ISS
Frank De Winne on board the ISS

Day 6
Today we performed the Cardiocog experiment for the last time. This experiment has really been working great. And it is also a very nice sign of cooperation. It is a combined experiment of four universities with equipment from CNES [French space agency] that has already been used during the Andromède mission of Claudie [Haigneré].

Unfortunately one of the experiments (Nanoslab) in the Microgravity Science Glovebox is not running as planned. Ground control has been of great help trying to fix it but so far no succes. But this is also space! 100% success is not yet for today in space, we are still learning a lot as we go on. And I'm sure that we will also learn a lot from this!

This afternoon I will have educational experiments. This will be really fun. Talking to a group of future scientists. I hope that for them access to space is a lot easier and a lot more people can fly to space, to work, to do science or just to relax, because it is really fun to fly up here!

Yesterday Sergei taught me some tricks to do acrobatics in space, making saltos and loops! Or how to really fly!! We really had good fun. It is necessary to relax from time to time!

Frank De Winne working with MSG
Frank De Winne on board ISS

Day 5
Today I had another ARISS communication. This is amateur radio communication used to get in touch with school children. Really good fun. I enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately I missed Belgium because of it. The weather was fine but during the passage over Belgium I was sitting by the radio, and unfortunately there is no window there. But between talking to the scientists and engineers of tomorrow and looking through the window, the choice was quickly made.

I also stopped the DCCO experiment and this afternoon I will start with the Nanoslab experiment.

I have to be careful now, I'm getting more used to flying in the Station, so I start to fly faster, but sometimes I miscalculate my speed. This morning I bumped into Sergei, luckily it was not the wall! I could have hurt myself!

This evening I will have also two conferences with Belgian TV stations. I'm looking forward to it. It's great to tell people what we are doing up here, that it is a lot of fun, but also that we do good science.

That's all for now, Frank.

Frank De Winne and Sergei Zaletin inflight call to ESTEC
Frank De Winne on board ISS during an inflight call to ESTEC

Day 4
This morning I did a second set of the Neurocog experiment. Again there were some small problems but ground control as always was very helpful and we succesfully finished the experiment. Thanks for all your support on the ground there.

I'm really looking forward to another day in the US Lab [Destiny] tomorrow. We will do the Nanoslab experiment.

Today I made a 'morning movie', getting up, washing, breakfast... really good fun. I hope that it can be used later to show how life is going on board the Station.

TOCC at ESTEC
TOCC at ESTEC

I just missed Belgium this morning looking outside the window... I really need to start working on that! There are still so many things to see but I'm just so busy. Well, maybe on my next flight.

Ciao all, Frank.

Frank De Winne
Students from Frank's hometown had the opportunity to communicate with him today

Day 3
The whole crew of Taxi-flight 4 performed the Cardiocog experiment today. I continued the experiments that were already underway and we also started with the new Cardiocog experiment.

Tonight I have a special event with the city of Sint-Truiden [Frank’s hometown]. This morning I had a 10-minute communications session with a school, also in Sint-Truiden.

The Cardiocog experiment is really great. In one setup we perform four experiments for different universities in Belgium. The people on the ground did a great job preparing and planning for it. I'm really happy everything went well.

This morning was a little bit hectic, running between having breakfast, getting washed and shaved (we take pictures and videos every day, so I have to look decent!), setting up the Cardiocog experiment, talking to the school kids and listening in to the daily conference... I was glad when I could start with the experiment and concentrate on just one thing, although talking to the kids in Sint-Truiden was really fun... I really hope they enjoyed it as well down there!

Now its time to work on some symbolic events… so I have to run. I'm already behind schedule... I enjoyed the Russian lunch too much at noon...

Talk to you tomorrow!

Frank De Winne
Frank De Winne on board ISS doing the Neurocog experiment

Day 2
Today we started the Neurocog experiment. After some initial problems, everything worked just fine! It's really fun working with Sergei [Zaletin] and Yuri [Lonchakov]. Valerie [Korzun] helped us out with setting everything up.

We have found a quiet place where we can work without disturbing the main crew because they are also very busy packing and preparing for the next Shuttle arrival. As well as the Neurocog Experiment, we’re busy with blood sampling for Sympatho, Message, DCCO and Promiss monitoring.

Frank De Winne
Frank De Winne on board ISS doing the Neurocog experiment

After three days in space, I could finally wash my hair and have an almost normal morning toilet (washed with a wet towel and washed my hair – although it's already messed up again due to the paste for the electrodes of the Neurocog experiment). Still, it felt very good.

For breakfast, I had an American-style omelet with Russian bread. The main crew is really treating me well and giving me all the best things. They are perfect hosts!

Yesterday I was worried about the Promiss experiment, so many people worked so hard on it and it didn't want to start. But with the help of Peggy [Whitson] and a last try by the ground, everything is now up and running - great! My day couldn't have had a better start than to see that green running light this morning!

Frank De Winne
Frank De Winne on board ISS during an inflight talk with family and friends

Day 1 (1 November)
Today was the docking day. Lots of work in the Soyuz, but everything went well. We had a great welcome by the main crew, Valeri [Yorzun], Sergei Treschev and Peggy [Whitson]. We were also able to do a conference with our friends and family, really great to keep the spirits up.

We started work, we installed and activated Message and Aquarius (Sergei did that with my help) and had lots to do in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG).

Later today we'll have our first meal in the station. I'm looking forward to it! This station looks really great, a real paradise in terms of room, after the journey in the Soyuz. That's it for today, still plenty of work to do so I'm off.

Odissea and ISS crews together
A warm welcome from Expedition 5

31 October
We really got some sleep tonight. And I took my first pictures of this beautiful planet. I had my first meal in space, chicken omelet - really tasty. Sergei [Zaletin] and Yuri [Lonchakov] are a great crew.

30 October
What a ride on the rocket! Although we got up early, I’m feeling quite fit. A lot of work though on the first day, so not much time to write.

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