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Bill Oefelein's STS-116 Mission Blog


Bill Oefelein's STS-116 Mission Blog

  /Astronaut Bill Oefelein takes time to answer student questions and 
provide his thoughts about his training and STS-116 space shuttle mission./

*Dec. 16, 2006* -- Hi. First Blog from Space. As you may be able to 
imagine, we have been pretty busy. I don't have a lot of spare time, but 
let me share a few thoughts and try to answer some of your questions.

First, the launch was 10 times more exciting than I thought!! The sights 
and sounds and sensations were, literally, out of this world!

Space is fun! I quickly adapted to the zero gravity and have had no 
problems eating or sleeping. It's fun to eat "upside down" and sleep on 
the ceiling.

The sights are incredible. Whenever I can, I try to take a peek out the 
window. There is always something to see. We've seen thunderstorms, city 
lights, the Northern Lights, rivers, jungles, deserts, oceans, and so 
much more. It is quite an experience.

Mainly, though, we have been very busy re-wiring the space station, 
adding a new piece of hardware to the ISS truss, and transferring a lot 
of gear. The days are long, but we have a great crew and we work well 

Unfortunately, I don't have time to answer all of your questions, but 
let me answer a few:

*Questions from Dillingham Elementary 5th Graders:*
  	/Christopher: Do astronauts use any robots to help them in space?/ 
Yes. We have two robotic arms up here. I have operated the one on 
  	/Sean: How do you get air to the ISS?/ We bring the air up on the 
Space Shuttle or Russian Progress re-supply ships.
  	/Kenny : Do you have to be in the military to be an astronaut?/ No. 
In fact, most astronauts are not military.

/What happens if the astronauts get sick on the ISS?/ We have medicines 
and equipment, much like a paramedic, to take care of sicknesses and 

/How do they take a shower if they are going to be up on the ISS for so 
long?/ We can't take showers. We take sponge baths with a wash cloth, a 
towel, soap and water. We just have to make sure our soap doesn't float 

/How can we identify the ISS in the night sky from earth?/ The ISS will 
look like a bright star, quickly going across the sky. However, Alaska 
is far enough north that the ISS will not fly directly over it. Even 
with that, we are high enough that when we get close to Alaska, we can 
sneak peeks at the very southern part of the state.
  	/Conner: How does zero gravity affect your body during long 
missions?/ It makes you lose bone density and muscle mass unless you 
exercise a lot.

/What happens if there is a leak in the ISS?/ We have procedures to take 
care of most emergencies we may come across and have received a lot of 
training and practiced many times in the event an emergency may arise.

Thanks for the great questions. I hope to have time later in the mission 
to write again. In the mean time, study hard and enjoy your upcoming 
Christmas break. And enjoy the snow for me. I don't get as much as I 
like these days.

Your friend -

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