My second week on ISS has started and it’s time to start collecting samples for a couple of human physiology experiments: Microbiome and salivary markers.
This morning, as I woke up and opened up my schedule on the laptop (conveniently located 10 cm from my nose in my sleeping unit), I have found a friendly reminder inserted right after wake-up time: no eating, drinking of brushing teeth before collecting the saliva samples!
I had already had a short activity yesterday: to go and gather all the necessary equipment, which I had then stowed in my crew quarters, so I had everything ready to take three samples, a collection that I will repeat daily for the next seven days.
A second short activity on my timeline contained the location where I had to store the saliva samples. Simply put, they go into the freezer within 30 minutes from collection, but where exactly? We have three MELFI freezers onboard, each has four drawers, each drawer has four sections and each section has multiple stowage boxes. Since it’s a freezer and it takes a lot of energy to keep it cooled, whenever we open the door we don’t want it open for longer than 60 seconds. It’s worth taking the time to be really sure of the location the samples go to. That’s especially crucial for retrieval, of course, when you need to quickly locate what you need to transfer out of MELFI and likely into a cold bag for transportation back to Earth.
Tomorrow morning, by the way, I will also have a blood draw. Since it’s my first one, one of our medical trainers will be on console in Houston, ready to assist and answer any questions.
My physical trainers were also on the ground ready to give feedback today for my supervised exercise session on the ARED: that’s when you setup a camera and the trainers can watch real-time your exercise form and give you suggestions.
The proprioception in space is quite different and you might be doing your exercises with poor form without realizing it, leading to reduced effectiveness or even injury.
ARED sure takes some getting used to: for example, when you do a squat, not only you move the bar “up”, but you actually push “down” the platform that your feet are standing on. And the entire machine is free to move on three axes (that’s how avoid inputting loads onto structure): the first couple of times I did squats I had the feeling, after every repetition, that the machine was forcing me to fall forward.
Anyway, however hard your workout was, when you get to benchpress or crunches and you’re laying with your back to the platform, one thing is sure: you have the best view a gym every had. You’re facing straight down into the Cupola and through the windows onto the planet!
Among the many other activities of the past two days, I had one that was particularly fun: I had to remove a connector in a hard-to-access location on the Lab endcone and for that I had to lower the Lab forward hatch. That’s quite a big deal, by the way: we always keep the hatches open, for safety reasons. In this case, even if I did not latch the hatch, but only lowered it, we had to make sure that everybody was in the Lab or aft of it, meaning that nobody was cut off from our escape vehicle (our Soyuz) in the unlikely event that for some reason the hatch got stuck in the lowered position.
In the picture you can see the hatch lowered, as I fly up to reach the connector. Also, on the right side, you can see one of the MELFI freezers with its four circular drawers.