The past week ended with Mark's final sim, in which they had to do a manual emergency descent. (Click here to read Mark’s log on the final sim.) The sim went off extremely well. The group's mark was a 5, which is the top grade.
From the exercise side of things, the early-morning training sessions have become increasingly less frequent as the focus has now turned towards exercise testing and lower body-strength training. Mark has completed three of the four pre-flight exercise testing sessions, with the final test being performed early next week.
Each pre-flight testing session consists of resting, exercising and recovery periods during which physiological responses in heart rate and blood pressure are monitored. These tests also include measuring hamstring flexibility and mid-thigh girth. Mark will perform the same testing protocol while on board the International Space Station, which will allow a direct comparison of the changes in the cardiovascular system on Earth and in space. He will also repeat these tests on his return, so again we will be able to compare physiological responses and use this data to determine whether space flight effects the physiological system, and if so, how long these effects will last.
In all these tests, Mark has performed exceptionally well and his physiological responses have been well above average. Marks's resting heart rate is very low, implying that his heart is able to pump significantly more blood with each beat compared to the average healthy person. Mark's heart also responds well to exercise and recovers relatively quickly after the cardiovascular exercise test.
Mark has also performed two pre-flight quadriceps and hamstring muscle-strength tests. He will also perform these tests after the flight so that we will be able to quantify the loss of muscle strength, if any.
Discussions with Tsup (Moscow Control Centre) have been great to date. We are in the process of finalising Mark's onboard activities schedule. Due to the delay of the shuttle launch, the timings for onboard experiments and activities will change slightly. This will also affect the communication sessions with mission control.
All experiments are still on track. The mice bred for the ESCD (stem cell) experiment will leave for Baikonur within a couple of days. Dr Barry also received confirmation that the other essential part... the sheep will be delivered to Baikonur on time. Dr Barry will be based in Baikonur from the 9th to oversee the preparation for the ESCD experiment.
Nicolette has survived her first week at Star City, after going the three-hour initiation of being left at the airport.
Freddy arrived this weekend (he was in Dale's room for five minutes and already we're missing a wallet and car speakers). Freddy and Dale will work closely on Mark's onboard activities scheduled this coming week.
Freddy's objectives in Star City are to synchronise a workplan with Dale for the daily update of the activities schedule; to gain an understanding of the modus operandi of TSuP in order to add value to the daily input; as well as simulate situations during the actual flight, in order to not be caught flatfooted.
Freddy’s take on Star City: Freddy found the cameraderie in Star City to be very warm, and was highly impressed with the colourful personalities, especially Technicolour Pete and Mannenberg Grey Dale. Karen baked a scrumptious apple pie, which almost convinced Freddy that he should stay out the rest of the time in Star City. Nicolette and Mark walked on water (frozen). Easy, compared to some of the stuff expected from both of them