Mark Shuttleworth - February 06, 2002: nightmares and jetlag and zero-g, oh my! - Today's plan called for a zero-g flight first thing in the morning, then the debrief, then an ISS systems lecture and finally physical training. I was a little nervous about the zero-g flight, having been ill on the previous occasion. And we had the whole situation with baseline data collection blow up on Monday too.
It didn't help that in total I'd had about two hours sleep. Finally crashed late last night only to wake up at about 3:30am from the most bizarre nightmare - I was somehow convinced that my entire room at the Prophy had been installed in the Ilyushin-76 and was about to start looping parabolas, and that all the loose equipment scattered about the place (it's a boy's room) and especially our Progress payload items were not tied down. I had visions of the one and only critical camera floating around the room and smashing into the floor after the zero-g came to an end. Yes, I know how bad this sounds. Pretty weird stuff to wake up to at 3:30am. And for those of you who've read the ISS partner requirements for non-professional spaceflight participants and think this sort of thing could be a disqualification, I'd like to state for the record that no substances were involved in the fabrication of this sleep-depriving nightmare.
And then I was wide awake. At 4am. Jetlag. Not sure what time I finally crashed again, but when the alarm went off this morning I felt like death warmed up. Or just defrosted.
To gather the baseline data with both Russian and Polar ECG equipment we needed to wire me up before climbing on the bus. Karen arrived bright and breezy with a razor blade to clear the patches where electrodes need to go, and shedloads of very sticky plaster to keep everything in place.
That took a while, which meant we forgot about breakfast and had to dash to catch the bus to Chkalovsky. So bang went the two things I'd wanted to do to have an easy ride - lots of sleep, and a light breakfast. Oh well.
At the Ilyushin we wired up the cameras, met the Japanese news crew that would train on the same flight (there is almost always a commercial crowd on the plane when the cosmonauts are taining - in fact I think whenever someone charters the zero-g flight they bring some cosmonauts along for training opportunities) syncronized watches with the different sets of data recorders and re-checked everything for take-off. The training program was ten parabolas, with only two new exercises: working with 100kg weights and working with mechanical apparatus. For the rest, we would repeat and polish exercises done on previous flights.
Everything went beautifully. Managed to get the suit on, twice, and to work effectively with the big weights. 100kg (220 pounds) is a lot of mass to pick up in one hand and then waft over in the direction of your work partner while sitting in a plane that is doing its best to fall out of the sky at 9,8m/s/s. And while I was definitely a little queasy at the end, everything stayed where it should.
Back on the ground, however, I learned that there was to be another flight immediately (the plane had been chartered by a film director looking to find a good way to simulate zero-g) and I was invited to join the crew for some relaxed floating around. This seemed to be an extraordinarily bad idea at first, standing on a sheet of solid but very slippery ice on the once-tarmac. Having just handled 10 parabolas very well but sensing some discomfort on the way I wasn't sure at all that another 10 would be a lot of fun. And the removal of all that tape and the electrodes didn't exactly improve the situation - I wished ferventy that Karen had shaved EVERYTHING rather than waiting to rip it out by the roots with the tape. But after a few minutes warming up in the bus while the plane was refueled and checked I figured why not! The more zero-g training I can get the better, and doing 20 parabolas in one day would be unusual.
And it turned out to be a fantastic experience. For the first time I flew in zero-g without having a detailed work plan for every parabola. The instructors were all 'off-duty', and I'd completed the training program, so basically we just played around in weightlessness together. It was fantastic. Just floating through this huge cargo hold, playing around with the instructors who do this regularly, was wonderful. The highlight was executing graceful loops with Oleg the chief instructor (well, being a geek, 'graceful' is probably unlikely - we'll have to see the footage - ed.) from floor to ceiling, pushing gently off the floor and twisting slightly so that our feet hit the ceiling at the same time, then pushing off the ceiling to arc down to the floor. What a pity we can't do this at home!
The extra flight took us overtime, and I then missed quite an important ISS lecture. Will have to catch up on that this Saturday. Things were a bit compounded by some celebration at the debrief, which then took care of PT altogether.
On the upside, apparently the Polar ECG gave really great data, which we could sync to the parabolas. Whew! This time it worked. Now we are waiting to see if we got the critical link data from the Russian Holter ECG.
This evening Ravi Naidoo and Barak Geffen, from Interactive Africa in Cape Town, arrived in Moscow for the first time. It's great to have them here. They are coordinating the program from Cape Town, and it's their guys who have made all the difference in the past few weeks. We're laying the groundwork now for some of the communications and media ideas they have dreamed up for the time preceding the flight.