Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

September 25, 2006

Space Travel Details

Filed under: Space Explorer — by Anousheh @ 2:13 am

…that everyone wants to know: How do you take a shower in space? How do you brush your teeth? How do you wash your hair?

Well my friends, I must admit keeping good hygiene in space is not easy! There is no shower or faucet with running water. Water does not “flow” here, it “floats” 😉 — which makes it a challenging act to clean yourself. So what do people do up here, specially the ones staying for six months at a time…? They improvise!

There are wet towels, wet wipes and dry towels that are used for cleaning yourself. Usually each person gets a wet towel a day and couple of dry ones. Each person has a personal hygiene kit where they keep their stuff like toothbrush, shaving kit, creams , etc. I got Dice-K’s kit so it had a razor and lots of shaving cream, but no makeup 😉

Now brushing your teeth in space is another joy. You cannot rinse your mouth and spit after brushing, so you end up rinsing and swallowing. Astronauts call it the fresh mint effect 🙂

The most interesting experience — or I should call it experiment — is washing your hair. Now I know why people keep their hair short in space. You basically take a water bag and slowly make a huge water bubble over your head and then Very Very Gently, using a dry shampoo, you wash your hair. At the slightest sudden movement, little water bubbles start floating everywhere. I’ve made some video of my hair-washing experience that I will share when I return 🙂

Of course water here is a valuable resource, and is recycled so anything wet is not thrown out, instead it is left out to air dry. There is a water conduction collection unit that takes the moisture out of the air and recycles and purifies it. This includes your sweaty clothes after exercising. One of the cosmonauts once told me, “We are all very close to each other, we are like brothers and sisters, it is very unique because we drink each others’ sweat.” Now I know well what he means…

There is exercise equipment here, a treadmill and a bike with the best view of the world in the Russian segment, and some resistance training equipment and another bike in the American segment.

Astronauts and cosmonauts train every day, sometimes twice a day, to make sure they reduce the effects of weightlessness on their muscles and bones. Just in case you didn’t know, when people are in weightlessness for an extended period of time, their muscles start weakening and shrinking because they are not used as much. There is no gravity to work against, so everything is effortless. You also start losing calcium in your bones so you have a bone density loss.

They always say you cannot have your cake and eat it too… So I guess all the beauty and excitement of space comes with a price. Of course I’m sure one of you guys out there will become a biologist or a doctor who will figure out how to counteract all these effects so we can travel long distances to Mars and other solar system planets and moons and continue our quest beyond our solar system…

Space Cadet,

September 23, 2006

Call from Orbit

Filed under: Personal Spaceflight — by Peter @ 8:22 pm

This afternoon I received my “longest distance call” ever! — a call from Anousheh on orbit.

My cell phone display showed a 281 area code, which is the area code for Johnson Space Center. I answered and heard Anousheh’s happy voice. “Hello Peter! This is Anousheh calling from ISS.” This time I was all smiles.

We spoke about how much fun she’s having, flipping and floating and looking out the window. She had always been jealous of how much zero-g time I had amassed on Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-Force One… about 7.5 hours total, 30 seconds at a time. But now Anousheh has blown me away in zero-g time!

Anousheh is thrilled about the space blog and how many people are logging in to read every day. Many thanks to Robin Snelson for doing an awesome job!

We spoke about how her experience is evolving her thoughts about personal spaceflight… what a private space station might look like, and our future need for an Orbital X PRIZE and a Lunar X PRIZE. We also spoke about how grateful she is to Space Adventures for making her trip possible.

I asked her if she had seen the Moon out the window yet, and she said no but she would try to find it. We laughed that she made it to orbit first, but I am going to try to be first to the lunar surface.

Thanks for calling Anousheh. Have a blast for me and everyone else too!

– Peter H. Diamandis (Chairman, X PRIZE Foundation).

Following Anousheh

Filed under: Personal Spaceflight — by Peter @ 7:28 pm

Thank you to everyone reading this blog and taking the time to share your thoughts and enthusiasm.

I guess I’m just like you are… excited, happy and inspired by Anousheh’s trip… and ready to go someday myself. The really cool thing about Anousheh’s flight and this blog is that she is one of us! A person with a dream! Whether you’re a young girl, a mom, an engineer, American, Iranian, from Dallas or just a dreamer… you can imagine taking this flight into space someday.

In the early days of the space program it was really the “fighter jock”… the person with the right stuff, who trained for a decade for a chance to fly, the person with a few PhDs in math and physics, or the test pilot…

But it doesn’t need to be that way. The same way that millions of people can explore the oceans, mountains or the rain forests, it’s time to make it possible to allow the general public to explore space. That’s what X PRIZE is all about. That’s why Space Adventures was created. That’s what Anousheh is doing… paving the path for many, eventually thousands, to follow in her footsteps.

There can be no doubt that it will happen, it’s only a matter of when. Humans have always explored — it is in our genes. When we find a new frontier, a few pioneers travel first… then the masses follow. Whether it was the European travels to the Americas, or the American Colonists opening the West… dreams, pioneers and eventually families followed. Space is no exception.

It is during our lifetimes that we will irreversibly open space for humanity. After all, everything that we hold of value on Earth… metals, minerals, real estate, and energy are in infinite quantities in space. I like to say that the Earth is a “crumb” in a supermarket filled with resources. The first Trillionaires will be made in space, but most importantly the resources to help humanity grow without destroying this precious planet we live on will be made available.

In reality, the greatest benefits for exploring space are not yet known… how could they be? To borrow from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, to try to pre-judge what we will discover in space is like asking the first colony of lungfish crawling onto land to predict fire. Fire is one of the most important technologies ever, but something totally unknown to the underwater dwellers.

What will be the equivalent of fire that humanity will discover as we travel toward the stars?

-Peter H. Diamandis (Chairman, X PRIZE)

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


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…

September 21, 2006

Hello World

Filed under: Space Explorer — by Anousheh @ 7:36 pm

I’m finally here… the trip was long but definitely worth it… well let me start from the beginning…

The day started early for us in Baikonur. We got up at 1:00 am Baikonur time and had a short breakfast, followed by an alcohol rub down 😉 Then we were given a set of white long johns to wear under our flight uniforms to go to the launch site.

We had a brief prayer and blessing session and as we were leaving our rooms, we signed our bedroom doors. This is a tradition that they say started with Yuri Gagarin. They also say that the cleaning lady who came to clean the room the next day started scrubbing down the signature until she was quickly stopped. So, my signature now rests next to Greg Olsen, the 3rd Private space explorer and Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian Astronaut.

I called my grandmother before I left since she could not be in Baikonur. She wished me good luck and safe return.

We then proceeded to the bus to go to the Launch site. From the Cosmonaut Hotel door to the bus is a short walkway. On both sides of the walkway there were family and friends and journalists snapping pictures and taking video footage. In the blinding lights of the cameras, I was able to identify all my family members who came for the launch. They were up in the early hours of the morning to see me off on my great adventure. My Mom was crying and everyone else was trying hard not to show their tears.

We got on the bus and headed to the launch site. During this whole time I was surprisingly calm. I thought that the morning of the launch, I would be a nervous wreck, but to my great surprise I had no fear or anxiety.

We drove to the building where we would prepare for our launch and we went in the room to get suited. One by one, we entered the room, first Misha Tyurin, then Michael L.A., and then me.

After we were all suited up, we went into a room with a glass wall on one side for the final approval from the officials and a suit leak check. On the other side of the glass wall, my mom, sister Atousa, and my husband Hamid were already in the room and seated in the front row. So were Misha’s family and Mike’s. The room was full of reporters. We sat there for a while waving and trying to talk using sign language with our family members as they would come into the room in small groups and leave to make room for the next group of people. We must have looked really funny on camera since we were making strange faces and gestures…

We did our leak check and were officially good to go. We were then escorted back to the bus as we waved to the crowd and reporters. The next tradition was the short stop of the bus for the boys to take a leak;-) This also apparently started with Gagarin and still goes on… Fortunately, I was excused from this exercise and was able to just mentally participate.

We stopped at the foot of the rocket and got out and walked up the ladder that leads to a tiny elevator barely big enough for the 3 of us. We got in and were lifted to the top section to enter the capsule. We went through a tent and then into the habitation module.

I was the first to enter. I was still very calm, excited… but calm. I don’t think my heart rate went over 100 (I’m usually in the 80’s). I had a permanent smile tattooed on my face. I was seated and strapped in.

L.A. came down next and got situated in his tiny space and last was Misha Tyurin. we were still about 2 hours away from launch and there was a series of procedures the two of them had to go through. I was responsible for three simple actions — to turn the condensation valve and switch it between habitation module and descent module, to open and close the oxygen supply valve as needed (pretty important task! ;-)), and to hand the other crew members the flight data files that were situated next to me. Fortunately, not too complicated and I was able to perform my duties as needed.

I followed their actions step by step through the flight data files and made some personal notes on the margins of my book, when I had a chance. Finally the moment arrived and the countdown started. LA, Misha and I put our hands together and said “Ready… here we go.” I thanked God for helping me realize my dream and for everything it has given me. I asked it to fill the heart of all its beings with its love and to bring peace to this beautiful creation we call Earth.

5… 4… 3… I’m really going…2…I love you Hamid…1… and a smooth lift off.

Watching Soyuz TMA 8 launch, I never thought it would be this smooth inside the capsule… It was like an airplane takeoff — then the G’s started but very mild. I think we hit about 2 or 2.5 Gs max… then the separation and the Nose Fairing ejected. Still very smooth. A ray of light filled the capsule and warmed my heart. I think I was laughing out loud. The joy in my heart was indescribable…

The separation of final stage was the most noticeable to me and then Weightlessness…

This wonderful feeling of freedom that puts a smile on everyone’s face. I slowly lifted off my seat and continued giggling. I just couldn’t believe it… to be honest with you, the whole thing is still like a dream to me… I was strapped in so tight that I couldn’t look outside. Finally when we were safe in the orbit, we were able to open our visors and to loosen our belts…

L.A. took his glove off and it started floating in the cabin. I could not stop giggling the whole time… I was finally able to take a look outside and saw the Earth for the first time… Tears started rolling down my face. I could not catch my breath… Even thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes. Here it was this beautiful planet turning graciously about itself, under the warm rays of the Sun… so peaceful…so full of life… no signs of war, no signs of borders, no signs of trouble, just pure beauty…

How I wished everyone could experience this feeling in their heart, specially those who are at the head of the governments in the world. may be this experience would give them a new perspective and help bring peace to the world.

I think that is enough for now… I shall let you know about the ride up here in the next entry… I’m hungry for some space food now and will catch up with you in the next orbit… right now we are flying over the Pacific Ocean approaching Mexico…

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