Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

September 22, 2006

The Trip Up

Filed under: Space Explorer — by Anousheh @ 11:57 pm

Hi everyone,

It is about 11:30 GMT here on ISS. It looks like my first entry from space made it down there.. Amazing, isn’t it…?

So first let’s take care of a few housekeeping items… I do not have realtime access to email. The email process is a batch process so it happens three times a day. I will do my best to get at least one entry in per day.

I do not have access to a web browser so I cannot read all your comments. I get some of your questions and greetings forwarded to me and I know that many people are sending their well wishes and words of inspiration. You cannot imagine how happy you have all made me, by sharing this experience with me.

Every time I read a message saying how someone has been energized and motivated to pursue their dreams, I get Goosebumps. I get all teary eyed when I read how a young girl in Mashhad is watching me and is motivated to one day become an Astronaut.

I know all of you will realize your dreams, if you want it bad enough in your heart and are willing to work hard and sacrifice for it. I will be reading every single one of your messages personally, when I return… So please continue to write to me.

Now that we have taken care of that, let’s talk about the ride up here, as I promised…

Well I took a motion sickness pill on the launch pad which was great. When we got to orbit I felt fine and I was able to look out the window as the world kept spinning around us, or more correctly I should say, we spun around the world.

They usually say you should not do that the first day because it will make you sick. Well… I just couldn’t resist…

I felt fine and even had some crackers and cookies for dinner before I went to bed. Our time was shifted back so we were basically scheduled to go to sleep about 6 pm and wake up about 3:00 am.

The first night we were all so tired that going to sleep early was no problem. Ah! I forgot to mention… when the Soyuz is put in orbit to chase the space station, it spins on its axis the whole time. The trip to the station takes close to 48 hours…

Now I knew why we had those dreaded spinning chair trainings.

Misha told us that it would make us feel better if we would hang our sleeping bags from the ceiling of the Habitation Compartment and put our head in the center of the hatch. This way we would be close to the center of mass and would feel less of the spinning effect.

So I followed his direction and hung my sleeping bag upside down and slipped into the bag. L.A. hung his from the ceiling the other way and did the same thing. Misha went into the descent module to sleep.

I was taking a mental picture of how we must look in our sleeping bags and it reminded me of Bats who sleep hanging upside-down from their cave ceiling. Well here we were in our tiny cave, floating about the Earth and heading to ISS.

I decided to be on the safe side and took another motion sickness pill before going to sleep. These pills actually make you sleepy so I figured it would help me go to sleep faster. I was able to locate my iPod in my bag and I was a happy camper… I put on my headphones and went to sleep in my Bat sack ;-) I did not know how I would react to sleeping while floating. You are not in touch with any surface and I figured it would be kind of strange, but I loved it. It made me feel very calm, like I was floating on the surface of a lake.

So far so good… The next morning when I woke up, I was so excited I slipped out of my bag quickly and flew head down to the Descent Module and flipped around and flew right back up to the Habitation Compartment. As soon as I stopped I realized that what I did was not a good idea! I felt my internal organs doing a cha-cha inside my belly…

I stopped and tried to minimize my movements. I basically become a mummy from that point forward. I only did very small slow movements and even that would make me feel really sick…

On top of that, I was having two more space flight symptoms. The first one was lower back pain. Basically your spine stretches because of the fluid and you get taller. I was happy about being taller but the pain was not fun.

The second symptom was fluid shift to the head. Because gravity is not there to help the blood that is pumped by your heart go down to your feet, it accumulates in your head, so your face gets puffy and red and you get a headache. It sort of feels like when you do a headstand for a long period of time.

So here I was with a Big Headache, pain in my back and nausea. I told myself, “This is not a good start — what if I feel like this the entire time!” After vomiting a couple of times, I decided to go for the big guns…

The flight surgeon had packed some motion sickness injections to be used as needed. I figured I really needed it, so I asked Mike and Misha to give me a shot. They consulted on the instruction given to them and decided on half of the medication to be injected. Mike prepared the syringe and Misha administered it. They were both so worried about me and wanted to do something to make me feel better. I felt bad for ruining their first Soyuz flight…

It did not take long for the injection to put me to sleep. Misha prepared my sleeping bag for me. This time I asked to be rolled in a small area so I could be in a fetus position. It seemed to make my lower back pain better. He also recommended that I have my head pressed against one of the cargo bags to help with my Headache. I rolled up in my sleeping bag with my head pushed against the cargo and spent most of the day sleeping. I would occasionally open my eyes and see Misha and Mike moving about. They asked me couple of times if I wanted to eat anything or needed anything. they checked my temperature and made sure that I was not getting worse.

So the second morning I woke up and felt a little better but still not well enough to eat or move around. I decided I should take another injection. And this time, after Misha and Mike had consulted with the flight surgeon, they gave me a full dose of injection.

I was really disappointed in myself… Here I thought I was always meant to be in space and now that I finally was, I was so sick I couldn’t even look out the window… I kept telling myself “Stop this nonsense… You are stronger than this… Get ahold of yourself.. this is all in your head, you can stop it…”

I was getting really impatient and wanted to get to the station. Somehow I thought I would feel better, but everyone told me that when you first enter the station, you feel bad since you are going from a small volume to a large volume.

I did not care, I just wanted to get out of my little Bat sack and get in a brighter, bigger place. Misha told me that I have to suit up for the docking. Right after I got my injection, they helped me get into my space suit and got me strapped in my seat.

The docking process takes a long time. After docking, a leak check is done for the docking hatch area to make sure there is no depressurization. It usually takes close to two hours. I kept dozing in and out as Mike and Misha went through the docking procedure.

I was wide awake on the approach and watched us inch our way closer and closer to the Station. I was so excited. Every inch we were closer I felt better, until we were finally docked.

After a while I decided to get out of my seat and take my suit off. I knew there would be cameras as we entered the station and I did not want to look like a sick dog. As I took my spacesuit off I was feeling much better. I even felt hungry and ate a few crackers.

The time went by really slowly, but finally the moment arrived and they were ready to open the hatch. Mike and Misha called me closer and told me to take a good whiff because this would be the first time I would smell “SPACE.”

They said it is a very unique smell. As they pulled the hatch open on the Soyuz side, I smelled “SPACE.” It was strange… kind of like burned almond cookie. I said to them, “It smells like cooking” and they both looked at me like I was crazy and exclaimed:”Cooking!”

I said, “Yes… sort of like something is burning… I don’t know it is hard to explain…”

By this time Jeff and Pasha were ready for us and opened the hatch from the other side and hugged us and welcomed us to the station… As soon as I stepped on the station I felt like I was home… I felt 100 percent better… I had a hard time keeping myself from smiling… I could not believe it… I made it to my destination… I was finally home :)

And the rest you probably saw on NASA TV ;-)

until next Blog… have a peaceful day :)

Atlantis from Orbit

Filed under: Space Explorer — by Anousheh @ 4:11 pm

UNBELIEVABLE…

L.A. just called me to watch the shuttle Atlantis land… What a sight… This trip is just getting better and better. It was beautiful. First just a flashing dot of orange color light then a steady point of light… and toward the final stages it just looked like a beautiful comet in slow motion. A shining orange point with a streak of white tail behind it….

Just incredible… As I watched them land I prayed for their safe landing. We lost sight of them as the daylight began to obscure our view… But we later heard that they landed safe and sound…

Happy return Atlantis…

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