American Morning

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April 2nd, 2010
02:30 PM ET

Counting Down Cady: Boiling water at room temperature

Editor's Note: Cady Coleman, Ph.D. is a NASA astronaut – a veteran of two space missions, who has logged over 500 hours in space. She is assigned to the Expedition 26 crew and is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz 25 in late 2010. Below is a blog written by Cady exclusively for CNN via NASA's Astronaut Office.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson waves while getting into her space on April 2, 2010 for launch to the International Space Station.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson waves while getting into her space on April 2, 2010 for launch to the International Space Station.

By Cady Coleman, Special to CNN

Woo hoo! My friend Tracy Caldwell Dyson is in space! Tracy blasted off last night in a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan along with Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov and fellow flight engineer Mikhail Kornienko.

That is just the beginning of an exciting month at NASA. Two days from now they’ll dock with the International Space Station (ISS) and begin their six month expedition. Meanwhile, the Space Shuttle Discovery is poised on the pad for an early morning launch Monday and their crew of seven will dock with the ISS on Wednesday.

Those seven astronauts include three women that I’m proud to call friends: Stephanie Wilson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Naoko Yamazaki. Let’s hear it for girlfriends in space!

The same preparations that got Tracy for her journey last night have kept me hopping as well. Since I last wrote in late January, I’ve traveled to Russia and Japan for training, spent weekends in Massachusetts to see my husband Josh and my son Jamey, qualified on the robotic arm to "catch" our supply ships, picked out pants, shirts and workout gear to wear on the space station, helped Sandra Day O’Connor celebrate her 80th birthday and got a decent start on organizing the many piles of stuff around my house and office for next December’s launch.

Remember back in January, when I said that launching on Dec 10th of this year seemed soon? Well, suddenly in February, it seemed really soon. Then in March, it seemed really, really soon! Now it is April! Blogging fell off the plate for a bit when I realized that the only time to catch up on life and get set for the mission was now! Even though I don’t launch until the end of the year, I serve as the backup for Army Colonel Doug Wheelock. He launches as part of the Expedition 24 crew in June. So far, there are no signs that I would need to fill his shoes, but my job is to be ready, no matter what!

This past week was a busy one for the Expedition 26 crew and also for the Coleman-Simpson family as a whole. In Houston, Paolo and I got the latest news on the critical spacewalking tasks that every crew has to be ready to perform. Then we practiced some of those tasks during a six hour simulated spacewalk in the pool at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). On Tuesday, I spent the entire day helping to test my real-no-kidding-not-a-simulator spacesuit.

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The final test for the suit is to simulate the vacuum of space by removing all the air from a metal room we call a vacuum chamber – with me inside the space suit! Just to prove to me that we were really at vacuum, they placed a small pan of water in the chamber beside me. The water boiled at room temperature because of the reduced air pressure in the chamber, but I was safe and sound inside my suit. I had to brag to Josh that night that I really could boil water – and at room temperature no less!

Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts, it was a daunting week as well. Jamey took his first-ever standardized tests as a 3rd grader to make sure he hadn’t been left behind. Then the entire 3rd grade of Jamey's elementary school descended on my husband Josh’s glass studio for their spring field trip! I’m pretty sure that even 6 hours in the NBL this week didn’t compare with a visit from forty 3rd graders… I’m married to a very brave man indeed!

He is also a nut, which I just love about him. Now that the sap is running in Massachusetts, Jamey and Josh decided to tap our telephone pole instead of our sugar maple trees. We were hoping to end up with either unique maple syrup, or at least some extra minutes on our phone plan. Actually, the tapping of the phone pole or other non-maple trees is yearly joke between Josh and the local maple syrup makers!

I’ve tried to get to Massachusetts for as many weekends as I can during this long stint in the states, but there is never enough time to be in both places. I try not to think of the special moments that I miss when I’m not there, but instead try to treasure the ones that I do get to be there for. My son Jamey is a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes and has read every book… (Let’s hear it for reading!)

Just last night he asked me to give him some food so that he could go exploring – in the winter rain – around our house in Massachusetts. After carefully stowing his very own small cuddly version of Hobbes, cheese, crackers and an advance taste of Josh’s amazing beef stew, he was off to the woods. A half hour later, he returned in triumph with reports of multiple footprint sightings, both animal and human, and great success in digging a really deep hole. Oh to be nine again – not only searching for adventure, but finding it!

The astronauts of space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission assemble at the shuttle launch pad following their countdown dress rehearsal.

The astronauts of space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission assemble at the shuttle launch pad following their countdown dress rehearsal.

I think that Tracy and her crew may be feeling just the same way at this very moment! They’ll be joining TJ Creamer (USA), Oleg Kotov (Russia) and Soichi Noguchi (Japan) from Expedition 22 to form Expedition 23. As a six person team in space, they come from different corners of the world and bring different skills to the ISS. Every crew brings a pretty marvelous mixture of talents and personalities – and always some surprises.

Check out this line from Tracy’s official biography: “Tracy enjoys sports, hiking, and auto repair/maintenance. She also designed and built peripheral components for a variable temperature, ultra-high vacuum scanning tunneling microscopy system.”

Are those E 22 guys going to be glad to see her or what??!! We’ve had some troubles recently with our water recycling equipment, and my guess is that it won’t stand a chance in the trained hands of veteran astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson!

What an exciting time for our space program. Tracy’s launch to the ISS makes my training all that more real for me, and the 131 crew will be bringing up experiment equipment that we’ll be using on our mission! Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to catch you up with a series of short blogs about our training, as we draw closer to our trip to Baikonur in our roles as backups for the E 24 launch.

Next on the horizon: STS-131 launch is set to launch to the International space Station on Monday 06:21 am EDT. Go Discovery!

Til next time!

Cady

Program Note: Watch American Morning on Monday for live coverage of the Space Discovery launch, set to lift off at 6:21 a.m.


Filed under: Counting Down Cady • NASA • Tech
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