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Skipper: Station life is noisy and hectic, but never dull
By MARCIA DUNN
AP Aerospace Writer 
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Life aboard the international space station, 
Alpha, is noisy and hectic but never dull, its skipper said Wednesday.

The three station residents, three months into their inaugural mission, say 
they're too busy to be bored or depressed.

"We've definitely been kept on our toes with the schedule the ground's given 
us," commander Bill Shepherd said in an interview with The Associated Press. 
"We've had full days and really sleepy nights, put it that way." 

The men have to wear ear plugs in order to sleep, because of machinery that 
makes intermittent clicks and clacks.

"We'd like to see the noise level come down," Shepherd noted.

The loud -- and balky -- equipment has frustrated the crew at times, as has 
the heavy workload.

"Yesterday was a good example," Shepherd said. "We wrestled all day with a 
software tool we're trying to use to organize all the logistics (supplies) on 
board." 

"For me, the most frustrating thing has been to try and do our best for 
people's expectations on the ground. Everybody wants to get things done with 
every good intent, but sometimes we just can't make it happen." 

Shepherd said he and his crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and 
Sergei Krikalev, are doing their best to be patient with flight controllers.

"We're trying to preclude starting a food fight," Shepherd said. "We know 
there's a lot of things that could maybe go better, but try not to be too 
critical because in the long run, all that won't matter. What matters is that 
we have people up in space. Space station's working and we're making progress 
building the station. That's what's important." 

Shepherd and his crew already have had their four-month mission extended two 
weeks because of space shuttle problems, and face yet another delay in coming 
home.

Space shuttle Atlantis was supposed to be docked to the space station right 
now, after having delivered the U.S. laboratory Destiny. But last week, the 
launch was postponed until Feb. 6 at the earliest so NASA could inspect more 
electrical wiring on Atlantis' booster rockets. That delay is expected to 
have a domino effect on Discovery, the ride home for the station crew in 
March.

Shepherd doesn't seem to mind all the delays.

"Actually, send us some more fuel," he joked. "We'll keep this thing going 
for a while." 
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