Karen Sharwood - February 24, 2002: Better him than me - After the return of Dale and Karl (woo-hoo!) I have managed to reassume my role as "Karen Science". As much as I enjoyed my management position, I think I do a much better job of being the laboratory geek.
The week got off to a very (very) early start with the great new intention of an morning team-bonding workout with Mark, Dale and myself. Dale had made it quite clear to us that his new goal was to start training and to become (more of a) gladiator than he already is (!!!).
Well, Mark and I started off well but the earplugs in sleeping Dale’s ears meant that he didn’t quite get round to doing anything until a little later in the day, despite the bashing on his door for a good 10 minutes. The morning sessions seem to have made a great difference to productivity during the day for all of us, and as a result we did get a whole lot more done this week (even though by 9pm we are all exhausted and fast asleep).
Lara and I met a team from the Mission Control Centre (MCC) (“Tsup” in Russian - won’t even attempt to spell that one out), who have the unbelievable job of scheduling the daily activities of both the long-duration crew as well as all visiting missions. The scheduling logs are certainly a sight to see – a piece of paper extending from one side of a 5m table to the other, covered in drawings and writing and with activities planned for everyone on board, minute by minute.
Crossing the language barrier
These schedules are then approved and certified by approximately 20 people, all of whom sign it off along one side of the sheet. It is absolutely mind-blowing to think about the planning and logistics that go into this project. Can you imagine planning someone else’s day minute by minute? Just as well Dale and Karl are back, my management skills may have become very selective and accidentally disappeared with this task (phew).
The rest of the week was spent one of the specialists from the Institute of Biomedical Problems, who showed me the strength-testing equipment that they use to assess the cosmonauts. It is a rather old-looking piece of equipment, but has an amazing array of functions and provides a great amount of strength and velocity data.
Naturally, I thought it would be a great idea for me to check it out and to experience the whole situation. Hmmm, you’d think I have learnt by now. I was completely strapped in, from my legs to my chest, and although I made sounds of not being able to breathe, the strapping continued. Not much chance of using anything but your legs in this test. Anyway, everyone else thought it was very funny, but when my right leg had reached its end limits and I couldn’t move it anymore I think they realised that I was battling a bit – amazing how facial expressions can cross the language barrier! (Oops, hope Mark isn’t reading this … but of course, because of all the exercise training that he has been doing he is MUCH stronger than me and won’t have a problem at all … quick save).
Friday night, we all headed over to Shep’s Bar at the Nasa cottages to welcome home one of the long-duration crews. Quite an experience as there were a whole lot of Russian officials there too and we saw them in a whole new context, compared to them sitting behind their desks. Dale and I had a great bonding session and took full advantage of trying on every piece of fighter pilot and cosmonaut memorabilia that we could possible find (see attached picture of Dale – call name: Gladiator). I think I should try the medium helmet…
And in other news, I successfully managed to semi-electrocute myself on a camera flash - yet another reason why it is probably best for Mark to be the one going to space and not the scientists!