30—10—2021

NASA 3: Learning / Eytan Stibbe

The Local Lingo - Since We’ve Run Out of TLA’s (Three-Letter Acronyms), We’ve Moved On to FLA’s And More

And Also: What have We Learned in the Meantime


Immediately following the first orientations on Security, Information Security and Rules of Conduct, we switch to the local lingo. We accustom ourselves to words like Don, Doff - to put on and take off (clothing) - suites, masks, gloves and the rest of the items of clothing. The abbreviations have morphed into words, and the words have become part of our language, and since we have run out of TLA’s (Three-Letter Acronyms), we’ve moved on to FLA’s and more. This is what it sounds like:


On the ISS ARED in N3 above CUP next to PMM and BEAM, ATM from ECLSS caused by IFHX release of NH3 from ETCS to ITCS. Check WHC, bump into RC in N1 on their way through PMA1 to FGB and MRM1. In LAB QDMA PBA, silence ATU, on S/G1 update MCCH. In N2 Verify CQ, JEM and COL empty, cross PMA2, IDA, NDS to the USCV.


Translated into plain English, this would mean:

While practicing weightlifting, an alarm was sounded alerting to an ammonia contamination. I donned my mask, hovered via the modules to make sure there was nobody there that didn’t hear the alarm, I bumped into the Russian crew that was making its way in the opposite direction toward their spacecraft, I silenced the alarm, reported to the control center in Houston and entered my crew’s spacecraft.


So what have we learned this first week

This first week I have undergone CPR training. This may sound simple, except that there’s one small hitch - the absence of gravity and, as a consequence, there’s a need to find a way to apply pressure to the chest. This is what it looks like:


Doing CPR with no gravity
Doing CPR with no gravity

· We were given lessons on stills photography and video photography: planning shooting vantage points, aiming the camera, background and lighting for whatever it is we want to photograph as part of our experiments and for the educational programming. The International Space Station is filled with cameras. Documentation is a highly important, even critical part of the mission.

· Communication: it seems that when there is TDRS satellite reception, one can communicate freely between the Station and Earth. It’s so simple it’s incredible: outside line - 9 - 011 - 972 and so forth. Video calls can be arranged only from Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston.


The second week

· We practiced using the equipment on board the Station and learned about the difficulties of doing this while hovering in weightlessness, whereas down on Earth these actions may be trivial - collecting things, using a kitchen or a toilet.

· When we learned about the dangers of ammonia poisoning, we were introduced to the White Book, which is the procedures for handling an ammonia leak into the Station’s interior. For us Israelis, the White Book * has been etched into our common memory as a negative thing, so it’s easy for us to perceive it as a procedure for the most severe of situations, contrary to what others might have expected, and strangely the Red Book contains the procedures for the less-critical emergencies such as fire and pressure loss.

· We made plenty of progress this week, including practice on the models themselves. We were introduced to tools, use of the laboratories, electricity and communication systems. We practiced work in the Japanese glove compartment, which is going to be used in one of our experiments.

· While in space, a daily bulletin is released every morning, which contains information ahead of the workday. It also includes an intriguing section entitled Wanted. This is where lost & found items are listed, parts which have been lost and that we are looking for, mislaid parts which have not been returned to their place, and even whatever has drifted off to some unknown place.

This is the first time all four of us have been together in Houston, practicing as a team - mainly emergency drills - and the atmosphere is super. The Alaska teambuilding session has proven its worth.



Eytan Stibbe in the teambuilding session in Alaska
Eytan Stibbe in the teambuilding session in Alaska

The third week


· Radio: We were given our first lesson in the ham radio course. We will be able to plan short conversations in advance as we pass overhead of the terrestrial ham radio operators, and in particular over the schools that have ham radio labs.

· Galley: While in Israel cooking-related reality shows are aired in rapid succession on TV, here we have undergone training on how to use the Station’s galley, including how to cook and a sampling lunch. There’s an oven to heat precooked meals, there are bags of dried food to which hot water is injected - kind of like those Cup A Soups. I have tasted chicken pasta and a precooked serving of turkey - delicious and nutritious but still, they’d have been a lot better with a dollop of tahini and hot chili paste.

· Order and cleanliness: We have practiced our skills at storing things, which include finding the storage location, taking something out, using it and returning it to its place, all according to detailed, computerized procedure sheets. Each and every item is controlled and accounted for from the ground. We are likely to be asked to do maintenance on the equipment at the Station, and there’s absolutely no doubt that a few hours are going to be devoted every week to general cleaning tasks and to cleaning filters. After all, air and water are things without which no human can survive, particularly in space.

· Managing the schedule: the schedule management software is called Optimis. I don’t know whether our tasks are going to be put together on this system or not. (Note to self: find out). I am incredibly impressed by the planning of our schedule . The complexity of planning down to the individual item and what is being done at a 5-minute resolution, and of course - integration of everybody’s work on the Station. The more we invest in planning and preparation, our tasks will flow more smoothly, more enjoyably and more successfully! NASA normally schedules a maximum of 6.5 work hours per person. We intend to plan a longer daily routine, but we have been advised that we are bound to be disappointed.


· Respect: I have immensely enjoyed watching the lesson plans from our educational staff, which have been lucky enough to be chosen out of the hundreds of suggestions sent. They seem great and cover a healthy mix of topics.

* The White Book - a policy document that was presented to the British Parliament (in May 1939) by Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Malcolm MacDonald, and which was a complete reversal of the Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people a homeland in the Land of Israel.



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The Rakia Mission is an example of the extraordinary collaboration between a great number of different entities. It is an expression of the values of peace, innovation, leadership and social responsibility. The combination of dreams this mission represents, and the proof that anything is possible - these are a major part of our vision.

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