The outgoing and incoming international space station crews are keeping busy with the change in command while visiting space shuttle astronauts clean the outpost of its trash and prepare for a spacewalk Thursday. The first woman to inhabit the station says she is reluctant to leave after more than five months.
Susan Helms calls the space station home. Before taking up residence as part of the second station crew last March, she gave up her apartment and put all of her possessions in storage. She told reporters that she does not want to leave.
She says that before the shuttle docked Sunday, she and her two station partners discussed how much they would miss their experience. Then, like children, they played by performing orbital gymnastics.
"We didn't play around a whole lot during the five months, but the last night before the shuttle got here, we actually did play around with the microgravity by doing spins and flips and things like this just to get one last go [chance] at it," she said.
Ms. Helms says one of the things she will miss most is the quiet of orbit. She says it put her at peace. "I don't think I appreciated until I got here how much noise we have in our daily lives, everything from phones ringing to driving cars to you name it," he said. "When you come up here on the space station, it is incredibly peaceful. It is basically living a life style that is quite a bit simpler than what people have gotten used to in the United States."
The work aboard the station has created a little more bustle than she has become used to. Astronauts from the space shuttle Discovery stashed dirty laundry, empty food containers, trash, and used equipment from the station aboard a stowage module. Unloading new cargo from the module took only one day, but the mission control official overseeing the refilling, Sharon Castle, says it will take three times longer because the module must be carefully balanced.
"That's a far more complicated task than getting it out. From here on, every day is probably going to be a little more struggle getting that stuff packed back quite like the way we want it to be packed," she said.
Two shuttle astronauts will embark on a spacewalk Thursday, the first of two during this shuttle docking to install new equipment on the outpost and make repairs.