I stopped by Starbucks tonight on my way to work, because I thought that it’d be nice to start my 9:30 pm – 5:30 am shift with a yummy hot skinny cinnamon dolce latte. Alas, Starbucks was closed. Apparently it’s Sunday night. Who knew? When I work the night shift, the first thing to go is any knowledge of what day it is.
The rather spectacular lightning pictured above kept us from launching last Monday as scheduled. (Note that the shuttle on the launch pad is the bright dot on the lower left. The light splash in the middle is the countdown clock.) A tricky bit of data kept us from launch for 3 days after that. But late Friday night, the combination of shuttle hardware and Florida weather finally came together. STS-128 launched, and it was most excellent.
All looked fabulous on my computer screens in Mission Control, and all looked fabulous on the launch replays I got to watch after Discovery was safely in orbit. About an hour and a half after launch, I walked from the back room to the front room and sat down for my first official shift as a Rendezvous Guidance and Procedures Officer! That was very exciting and, to my surprise, a little bit scary. Fortunately the scariness passed very quickly as I got to work.
For all of you who have been asking for years when you’ll see me on TV: the day has finally arrived! The only catch? You have to stay up late or get up early, since my shift if in the middle of the night. Also, I must be honest and say there’s not all that much to see. The camera’s pointed at my back most of the time, and the low quality of NASA TV reduces me to a blob of hair in the middle of the room. I suppose it could be worse.
My first shift was a doozy, a back-to-back of the ascent shift plus my first orbit shift, and I was pretty wiped out when I got home at 7 am, 14 hours after I’d left. For the rest of the mission, I’ll be working much more normal 8-9 hour shifts. Oddly enough, there’s a twist to working the night shift — so far, I’m actually getting MORE sleep than I usually do. During a normal week, I probably average 6-7 hours per night. But with this odd schedule, I just set the alarm for 8 hours from whenever I climb into bed. Voila! Eight hours of sleep every day! After a week of this schedule, I feel more well-rested than I have in months. Talk about bizarre.
I spent my first two shifts helping the team get ready for rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. That happened earlier this evening, so now things are pretty quiet. There’s some data to look at, but for the most part I just start counting the days until undocking. (Next Tuesday, if you’re interested.)
The highlight of my shift so far has been the “crew choice” video, which they send down each night before they go to bed. We get to watch whatever video the crew shot that day in HD on the big screen in Mission Control, and thus far the crew’s actually been taking time out of their schedule to narrate it as well. Tonight they showed some great clips from the final 30 feet of the rendezvous, which was really fun to watch.
Space is cool.