We arrived back in Star City on Sunday evening pretty exhausted. Dale and Karl have been very hard at work and the Progress payload is looking good now. We actually have a few kg's to spare, although we'll have no trouble filling it up over the next day or two. This week we will hand over the Progress payload items to Energia for testing, then follow them down to Baikonur for the packing and labelling.
There are a bunch of science, symbolic and tech items in the payload. Today I'll just cover the techie things. The laptop is an IBM A22P and we are taking two because we might have trouble with this new model. It'll be good to have a much faster computer up there, but we don't know what to expect since this one has not apparently flown before. The Russians think it will be fine but I'm going to run it on the lowest power settings to minimize heat production. Some of the local astronauts think there might be trouble with background radiation and the faster processors and RAM. The only way for us to find out is to fly it. If it works, it will make the lives of the crew much better indeed, since the speed of their current computers is a big drag on their productivity up there. If it fails, we're going to struggle to get everything done. The bleeding edge indeed.
The camera is a Nikon D1X, and we'll be taking several lenses: a 14mm non-distorting wide angle recommended by the good folks in Houston, a 16mm fisheye, a 28-80mm zoom and an 80-200mm zoom. There was a bit of oddness from Russia in the selection of the cameras. Originally we were told that the Kodak 760 and Nikon D1X were both OK, and based on the resolution I wanted to take a 760. Then the Russians came back and said that actually the Kodak was only 'proposed by NASA for certification', and asked us to take the D1X instead. So we bought the D1X (and had to jump through hoops to get it into Russia in time). But it turns out that not only is the 760 certified, there are 5 already on the station! And NASA would far prefer for me to have taken a 760, because it would require no new crew training. So I have a suspicion that the real reason for the change was that the Russians want a D1X up there. It's a bit frustrating not to be able to take any given statement at face value because of this kind of thing. Either it was a miscommunication, or someone was working to a different agenda, but the bottom line is that we just don't always know what the real agenda is.