Everyday life on the ISS – part 2
How does Alexander Gerst spend his days on the ISS? After getting up, washing and breakfast, he attends the 07:30 – 07:45 early conference with the entire crew and the five control centres operated by the ISS partners, which are located in Houston (USA), Korolyov near Moscow (Russia), Saint-Hubert (Quebec, Canada), Tsukuba (Japan) and for Europe at the Columbus Control Centre at DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, close to Munich.##markend##
Over the course of his working day, Alexander conducts experiments or builds new units. Last week, for instance, he installed a new part of the liquid laboratory and then the corresponding German experiment 'Soft Matter Dynamics', which analyses the behaviour of granular matter like sand, washing powder and other bulk goods in a weightless environment. Scientists hope it will yield new insights to optimise filling processes.
And just like our houses and apartments, the supply systems on the space station need to be checked regularly – the water quality, power supply or the oxygen levels in the interior rooms. Then he has other assignments like capturing and docking the US Space-X and Orbital freighters using the large robot arm on the ISS. Afterwards the transporters need to be unloaded and then loaded back up again. The Space-X freighter carries all the things that will be transported back to Earth, while Orbital is used to stow all the debris that will burn up together with the freighter during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Besides that, the astronauts have a one-hour lunch break and 2.5-hour slot for exercise every day – the latter is used mainly as an 'antidote' to the muscular atrophy that takes place at a much faster pace in a microgravity setting. They have three pieces of gear available: a treadmill, an ergometer and a weight-lifting device. The next conference with the ground control centres is from 19:15 –19:30, after which they have dinner and then leisure time. Chatting and eating together is also important for team bonding on the large ISS, as the astronauts may not see each other all day. Lights out is at 21:30, and the day begins once again when the alarm clock goes off again at 06:00 the next morning.
Freya Scheffler-Kayser is a manager for the horizons mission at DLR in Bonn. She studied physics and worked in the space industry for 15 years - including a period as process engineer for the German D-2 mission in 1993 - before joining the DLR Space Administration in 2002. Since 2009, she has worked on the ISS operating programme and astronaut issues in the department for human spaceflight, ISS and exploration.