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IMAGE: Expedition Four Flight Engineer Daniel W. Bursch
Click on the image to hear Expedition Four Flight Engineer Daniel W. Bursch's greeting (148 Kb).

Expedition Four
120 Day Report

Monday, 18 March 2002
GMT 077 / 2002
2 p.m. Houston, 11 p.m. Moscow
Time on orbit: 102 days, 21 hours 40 minutes

Saturday, 6 April 2002
GMT 096 / 2002
8 a.m. Houston, 5 p.m. Moscow
Time on orbit: 121 days, 15 hours 40 minutes

As you can see from the times above, I started this note soon after our 100th day in orbit. I had hoped to make this a "100 day report," but it has turned into the "120 day report!" In this report I hope to give you a feel for what it has been like the past 120 days for a "first time" expedition crew member.

Launch of Endeavour, STS-108/UF-1: December 5, 2001
The launch was the first time for me on the middeck and from there our view is a row of lockers with no outside reference. It surprised me that I noticed the roll shortly after liftoff more than I remember when I was on the flight deck, where we can see outside through the forward and overhead windows.

The docked phase was very high paced and things did not slow down until the Shuttle undocked. When the Shuttle is docked, there is always a limited time in which to accomplish everything (hand-over, transfer, robotics), so there was always the pressure of doing all of the assigned tasks as well as "handing over" with Expedition Three before the hatches closed for the last time. Yuri told us that it would be a strange feeling when the Shuttle undocked and we were the only ones left. It was like a fast paced family reunion that suddenly came to an end. It also felt like the first day of a Naval deployment where we knew that we just started a long journey and couldn't even begin to imagine the end. The pace did slow a bit for the holidays, but quickly picked up again as we prepared for two space walks (EVA's) in January, as well as completed unloading of the "Progress" (Russian cargo ship).

Just "Us" on Station
The holidays were a nice break from the rapid pace of a Shuttle mission. I kept thinking about what several experienced expedition crew members had told me; the Shuttle mission is a sprint, and the Station mission is a marathon. Of course, being away from family during the holidays is always tough. It was very hard for me to be away from my family, but I couldn't help but think of all of the service men and women that were away from their families as well. And I also couldn't help but think about the tens of thousands of people that were missing friends and family over the holidays because of the terrorist acts of September 11th. And for them there would be no future reunion. I suddenly felt very fortunate to have a healthy family on Earth, knowing that they were sharing the holidays with loved ones.

We spent most of the holidays catching up on sleep, writing e-mail, watching movies and calling friends and family using an internet phone application that uses our high-data rate communication system, otherwise known as "Ku" (frequency band in which it operates). It was very special to be able to call family and friends, but what became most entertaining were peoples' reactions when we said we were calling from space! I didn't expect to get the chance to talk to so many visiting relatives of my friends on Earth!

Daily Routine
Our days are based on "Universal Time" (Greenwich Mean Time) and start with an 0600 wakeup and end at 2130. Sometimes we shift our schedule to adjust to another upcoming event, such as a Russian EVA, Shuttle docking, or Soyuz docking. We do this to either maintain good coverage over Russian communication sites or to line up our schedule with a visiting vehicle (whose workdays are determined by their launch time, which is determined by our orbit).

Each day we get several messages that we need to read that are part of a daily "execute package." We access everything through one of the many laptops we have, and can print something if desired. We also review daily news and we need to import files that update our "inventory management system." We have a computer-based system that keeps track of everything on board. Without such an accounting system, most of our time would be spent hunting for some piece of equipment that got stuffed behind a panel by a previous crew…or by ourselves, just like you might misplace something at home. Unlike at home, however, we know that it is "in the house" somewhere!

Between 0600 and 0800 we read the daily mail, power up and/or restart some of the two dozen computers we have, "wash" up, eat breakfast, review the day's schedule and prepare any questions we may have for a morning conference with our teams on the ground in Houston (U.S. Mission Control), Huntsville (Payload Operations Control Center) and Moscow (Russian Mission Control), as they prepare questions and notes for us. We usually have about 2.5 hours of exercise every day and an hour for lunch. Breakfast and dinner do not show on our daily electronic schedule, but we do have time reserved after wakeup and before sleep for those meals. We usually try to fit dinner in between 1730 and 1830.

We have a combination of Russian and American food and it provides us with quite a large assortment. Yury said that our tastes would gradually change and he was right. The spicy food, like shrimp cocktail, is not so spicy anymore. The teriyaki chicken tastes just a bit different. I was used to tastes changing during Shuttle flights, but those changes I could associate mainly with how a "stuffy head" can affect your taste when you cannot smell as well. Also, some foods that we really liked on Earth are suddenly not appealing anymore. I am glad that we have such an assortment to choose from! Yury says that our tastes will continue to change. I still can't wait to try some pizza when we return!!

Our daily activities include maintenance (preventive and when something breaks unexpectedly), experiments/payloads, inventory audits, taking pictures inside and outside. Depending on future events, we may operate the SSRMS (Station robot arm) and/or study material for upcoming space walks or robotic activity. Our "planning team" assembles all of these varied activities on the ground. I am constantly amazed at how they can put together so many activities while working with three different centers, different time zones and different languages! I really enjoy taking pictures of our beautiful planet. The best days are when I have accomplished everything on the schedule, plus a little bit more, and I've been able to take several pictures throughout the day!! A few times I was disappointed that I missed taking a picture, but now I understand that on an expedition flight there will always be another chance!

The Tallest Peak
One morning I happened to be up early. I glanced at our world map and saw that we'd be passing near Mt. Everest soon. I checked the computer, realized that we were in an attitude that would allow me to open the window shutter and there was Mt. Everest! It almost seemed to jump out at me. The low sun angle (it was close to orbital sunrise) gave tremendous relief to the mountains. It was just one of those sights that will be forever burned into my brain!

IMAGE: This photo of the Himalayas and Mount Everest was downlinked with the original document containing the 120 day report.
This photo of the Himalayas and Mount Everest was downlinked with the original document containing the 120 day report.

Flying through Station is more fun than I thought it would be. We fly like Superman from one end to the other, being careful to know when to slow down and what big pieces of structure to miss (if you hit something hard, it still hurts!). We get to know our favorite handrails and paths from one place to another. After a month I tried using the ceiling. It seemed as though I had discovered another new Station! Everything looked different from the ceiling view, and I discovered that in some ways it was a better route (better hand-holds, fewer obstructions)! It still is a little disorienting when I am upside down and try to instantly decide which way to turn, but I am learning!

Another interesting trick is to "fly formation." Pick something to translate with, then let it go and fly on its "wing." You really have to watch out how fast you go…stopping can get pretty messy sometimes! My grandmother used to say "The faster I go, the behinder I get!" That is also true for flying in space! That idea came in handy during the EVA's.

First Space Walk: January 25, 2002
I was a little nervous before my first space walk. I took that as a good sign. I felt it helped me stay on my toes a little more and take it slowly. In the weeks prior, I asked several other folks who had been on space walks before for their advice. The most common advice was to "take it slow" and/or "not to go fast, slow down." Things move in response to an outside force. The more force you use, the faster it will accelerate. You control best by slowing down. I am thankful for the advice!

The Russian EVA suit (Orlan) and U.S. EVA suit (EMU) provide the same basic capabilities, but have some important differences. Each suit reflects the mission for which they were designed: the Orlan for a crew of two and less pre-breathe requirements, and the EMU for a larger crew and for tasks requiring more dexterity. Because we go to a much lower pressure in the space suits, we have "pre-breathe" requirements to prevent the bends or decompression sickness, the same things that concern scuba divers. We are at risk at the beginning of our "dive," where divers are at risk at the end of theirs. The Station is pressurized close to sea level, about 14.7 psi. The Orlan is pressurized to about 5.6 psi and the EMU to about 4.3 psi. Lower pressure means more mobility and dexterity, but the disadvantage is a longer pre-breathe protocol. The Orlan prebreathe is shorter, but the suit is harder to work in as we are working against higher pressure.

The advantages of the Orlan include faster donning and it is also designed to be "self-donning." You enter the suit through the back and you can close the back without assistance. All of the Orlans are nearly identical with the exception of gloves. Sizing is accomplished through sizing straps in the arms and legs, and can be done in about an hour.

The EMU is pressurized to 4.3 psi and we need someone to help us put it on. It is nearly "custom fit," but the size can be changed using different sizing rings. In fact, I used the same suit that Dan Tani used on UF-1 but with different sized arms, legs and gloves. During STS-110 (8A), Rex Walheim will use the suit I used, with again different sizing and different gloves. The lower pressure in the EMU makes working in the suit easier and the gloves give you better dexterity.

Second Space Walk: February 20, 2002
In January Houston told us that Carl and I would get the opportunity to go outside again, but this time in the U.S. suit, or "EMU." Many people on the ground worked endless hours preparing us for this walk. Not only did they send up procedures and pictures, but they also sent up special files that we used in a software program called "DOUG" that allowed us to perform our EVA on a laptop. It has the same graphics used in a "Virtual Reality Laboratory" at the Johnson Space Center, where we had trained for EVA's and robotics before launch. We had several weeks to prepare equipment and ourselves for the walk. It was the second time that the U.S. airlock had been used and the first time by a Station crew without the Shuttle present (often called a "deferred EVA"). We did a dry-run of the procedures the week before, worked out some kinks, then went out for real a few days later. Yury suited us up and then passed over the communication to Joe Tanner who acted as our "IVA" during the walk. Yury was inside controlling cameras, much like I did when he and Carl went out on their EVA mid-January. It was very successful and, once again, we are very thankful to our great team on the ground that prepared us and guided us through the EVA.

I felt more comfortable during this walk, perhaps because of the extra mobility of the EMU; perhaps because I had more experience in the EMU. I wasn't as tired as I was after the Orlan. Having both suits on board gives us some flexibility that will no doubt come in handy in the future. In fact, one could say that the quick-donning and short pre-breathe features of the Orlan already was demonstrated when Expedition 3 had to do an EVA prior to our launch on STS-108. They removed part of a seal that was preventing a Progress from docking properly.

One very important aspect of long duration space flight are the mental challenges associated with living in the same "can" with two other people. I finally realized the other day that living in the same enclosure with two other people for more than three months is a pretty unique experience. Working closely with someone is a big jump from an acquaintance. Living with someone is a big jump from working with them. And living and working together with only two other people for several months is yet another big jump. If you have a bad day, you can't just go for a walk. I have come to accept that all of us will have (and have had) good days and bad days. Frank Culbertson told us some good advice…some days you just need "to let go"…meaning (I think!!) that sometimes some things will get to you…but you have to let them go. And soon you will realize how insignificant they are and will probably laugh that they even bothered you in the first place. But I have also found that it is important to let the others know when something bothers you, because just like any other relationship…whether with a friend or spouse…if you let things go all the time, they will collect inside and always come out at the wrong time. So, the balancing act of life is the same in space as it is on Earth!!

Columbia and Hubble
It was fun following the STS-109/Hubble mission. The ground sent up daily reports on their progress and we were also able to watch their launch real-time via a live video feed over the Ku band to one of our computers. We also got to talk to them after their EVA's. It was neat knowing that for a short time there were 10 people in space…and even though we were in very different orbits, I felt somehow closer to them knowing that we were in "space" together. It is also hard to believe that their mission has come and gone.

An Extension
We just got news that our Shuttle flight home has been delayed about one month. That should send us over the six-month mark and we should break Shannon Lucid's U.S. record of 188 continuous days in space. That feels nice to be able to share in a record…but I sure do miss my family. During a deployment in the Navy, it is difficult to return home, but it is always possible. It is definitely different when your only ride home is with a spacecraft that also happens to be your only lifeboat when the Shuttle isn't present. Again, though, I think of all the men and women serving our country that are deployed right now in far way places, and my job seems pretty easy. I also know that the immediate families of these people have perhaps the toughest job. And I know without a doubt that my wife has the toughest job between the two of us with three little ones at home!

Cargo Ship Arrives: March 26, 2002
Every four to six months a Russian unmanned cargo ship, called a "Progress," arrives bringing supplies including fresh fruit and care packages from home. When I was on a Naval deployment on the carrier, I remembered that we always knew when the "Carrier On-board Delivery" airplane, or COD, landed on board. Its arrival was announced over the loudspeaker, including how much mail was on board. It was also nice after we did underway replenishment (UNREP) with other cargo ships because it usually included fresh food. My experience on carriers was all before e-mail and phones on ships. I was amazed at how much I anticipated the arrival of this Progress. I thought that because we had e-mail and the "phone," that I wouldn't think the Progress was such a big deal…but it was! I underestimated how much I would anticipate the arrival of fresh fruit and care packages…something from Earth…something from home…that my friends and family had touched not too long ago!!

The entire approach and docking is automatic, but the crew can take over and complete the docking remotely if something doesn't look right during the approach. We simply follow the approach based on time and do our best to follow the vehicle with cameras located inside and outside. Yuri and Carl stood by the "TORU" remote control system on board and were ready to take over if necessary. Everything went well and after pressure checks we opened the hatch about midnight. I felt as if it was Christmas morning! Everything was tightly packed, but we managed to get to our care packages after about an hour. I honestly forgot that we hadn't been visited for the past three months…and something "fresh" from home was VERY welcome!! We got new books on CD, cards, letters, pictures and some new DVD's.

STS-110/8A Launch: April 4, 2002
Today is the scheduled launch of STS-110, which will be bringing up the S-zero truss segment. It will form the backbone of the truss structure that will eventually hold the four solar array "wings" of the U.S. segment. I am very much looking forward to the arrival of Atlantis and her crew. They promise to bring new care packages from home, fresh "smells" of the Earth and old friends. We know that the work pace will once again speed up, but we are ready! We worked many hours together on the ground developing procedures to use the Space Station robotic arm (SSRMS) as a "cherry picker" as we maneuver space walkers "flying" on the end of the arm. This will be the first time that this new arm will be used in such a capacity. The SSRMS will first be used to install the S-zero truss, then we will continue to use it for all 4 space walks.

Later, we heard that the launch was delayed. It is disappointing, but I am fairly familiar with launch delays and understand what the crew is feeling right now. There are many things that need to come together before the SRB's ignite. Some we can control, some we can't.

As we await the arrival of Atlantis, I wish all of you a great weekend!

Dan Bursch
April 6, 2002

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 09/04/2002
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