ESA title
Pedro's sleeping area during his stay on board ISS
Science & Exploration

Pedro Duque's diary from space

27/10/2003 645 views 1 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Cervantes Mission

All you know is that you've just woken up. Nothing, really nothing, squeezes you or pushes you, nor do you have to make any effort to raise your arm and rub your eyes. In fact, strangely enough, your hand seems to want to get closer to your eye all of its own accord. You feel you have slept very deeply, and the world around you calmly comes into focus. A noise… engines? No, it's the fans - a light breeze.

You open your eyes to a weird light and laptop computers switched on all around you. Why are they up on the ceiling? Of course, you are waking up in a space station, after a night inside your sleeping bag, with your arms floating in front of your face - as usual - and legs in that semi-curled position in which the push and pull between the different muscles is evenly balanced. It's amazing how well you can sleep in here, thanks to how much they make you work and the softness of the mattress.

You check the time and it's a quarter to five. Soon, you think, the alarm clock will ring. You could sleep a few more minutes - it would do you good. The mist clears and the daily plan comes to your head. Let's see, biology, medicine, physical experiments... and TV interviews. Then you suddenly remember the first interview is at 06:00 and that can't wait.

If you start an experiment 15 minutes late you may be delayed for the rest of the day, but the orbits are a relentless clock and the Station will pass over the antennas picking up the television signal at 06:00, not a second more, not a second less. Will you have time for breakfast after the connection?

Forget about sleeping a bit longer, quickly get out of the sleeping bag and look for the precise plan of the day, even if you have little hope: most likely you have to be ready for work very soon. Oops, too quickly! The sleeping bag and the daily plan, which was hanging on the wall, quickly move away.

Pedro during an interview with Spanish TV
Pedro during an interview with Spanish TV

Without your reflexes fully awake you don't manage to find a handle and you end up in the laptops, which are luckily attached to the wall and for the nth-time they cushion you. It doesn't matter, the laptops have an electronic version of the daily plan - in fact, after the television interview it's straight into the experiment activities, and you have to hurry.

You take the clean clothes, the soft-soled shoes and the paper with the details of the interview. Flying towards the 'bathroom' you meet no-one, everything is quite dark and you are the first up. The bathroom is just a point in the corridor with a large mirror and everything stuck to the wall with Velcro - combs, water bags, soap bags, no-rinse camping shampoo, etcetera. You find your towels and wet one of them with the soap. You get cleaned, more or less - this is not the day to be meticulous. Comb your hair, get dressed... now for breakfast.

Luckily your commander is already up and, even if he hasn't had time to get dressed, he is already switching on the Station's television system and setting up the camera. What does the note about the interview say? With the Spanish flag in the background, this television, this commentator, these are the possible questions.

Stretch the flag, which of course in zero gravity stubbornly persists in becoming all tangled up. This is not the first time, all is under control and the background is ready in two minutes. Its 05:30.

You take some tea bags, a canned omelette and a bag containing pieces of white bread. You begin filling the bags with lyophilised products and in the rush you burn your hand - nothing serious, the temperature is such that it avoids people getting badly burnt.

With the can-opener you uncover the omelette, which at first sight could be pâté or cheese. Fortunately the spoon has not flown away during the night, this time you won't have to recover it from a filter; you are not making beginner's mistakes anymore.

Its 05:48 and the lights have to be turned on. Your commander shouts to you "balans bieloie!!" and you immediately grab a piece of paper, put it in front of the camera to help define the white for the camera - that's what your commander was asking you to do in Russian. The focusing process makes you leave your breakfast for a while.

It's 05:58, you leave somewhere, half-eaten, the last bits of omelette, most likely they will stain something. You squash the can to save room in the garbage, and they are already calling through the radio in Moscow. Yes, we are ready (not true, you are still cleaning your face). Ok, you can start the interview.

When the interview ends, you share a burst of laughter with your mates because of the near miss. This relieves tension - there's still a full day of work ahead. Thank heavens it ends back in your sleeping bag - a pure feather mattress.

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