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Clocks A Day in the Life

You're having pleasant dreams when a whining electric tone suggests it's time to get up. You find yourself zipped into a sleeping bag, which is strapped onto the wall of one module of the Russian space station Mir, which is hurtling through space in Earth's orbit. Click on the highlighted hours of the clocks to find out what the day has in store.

It's 8:00 a.m. in Moscow—though you may be up to 300 miles over Buenos Aires—and a new day is beginning.

You dress in your Mir uniform—a simple zip-up suit over a tee-shirt—and pull yourself through the module, named Kvant-2, to the Transfer Node that links to the other five modules. A ninety-degree-turn in the Node, and you float into the Base Block, the main module, where your colleagues—two Russian cosmonauts—have woken to the same alarm. They have already dressed and used the Personal Hygiene Area, so you enter it, use the water-recycling toilet, and join them in the main cabin.

You say good morning and talk a bit, and then you all don headsets for the first communications pass, or "comm pass," of the day. Once every orbit—about every 90 minutes—while passing over one of the communications ground sites in Russia, you talk to mission control. The Russians speak with their supervisors, and you generally talk to the NASA flight director, who is at Russian mission control. He or she is coordinating your activities with the scientists whose experiments you're running.

You discuss how your experiments are going, receive instructions from the scientists whose projects you're working on, and exchange any other information necessary. These comm passes also provide you with welcome 10-minute breaks during your work day and give you a few minutes to hang out with your colleagues.

After the morning's first comm pass, it's time for breakfast. The three of you eat together, floating around the galley table in Base Block. You may have a bag of Russian soup, and a bag of fruit juice, both of which you "cook" out of dehydration with hot water, as you do most of your food.

After breakfast, the work day begins. Work schedules for the following day are sent via radio and faxed to Mir every day after supper on Russian Space Agency Form 24; your Form 24 entries are based mainly on assignments from NASA. While your crewmates spend most of their day maintaining Mir's systems, you also get to work on experiments.

Clocks Today you're working in the Priroda module on a biology experiment. Priroda is packed with instrumentation to allow a wide variety of experimentation on everything from developmental biology to air pollution to geological surveys.

This feature is based in part on an article by astronaut Shannon Lucid published in Scientific American, May, 1998.

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