ISS team feeling gravity’s pull after six-month mission

Just back from a long stint in space, ISS cosmonauts have shared with journalists their experiences of a tense mission prolonged by the Progress-M’s unexpected crash.

The re-supply module Progress-M crashed after its launch in late August, shattering both plans and hopes. The ship was supposed to bring the cosmonauts vital supplies of food and essential equipment for the mission.

As a result, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, NASA astronaut Michel Fossum and Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa spent a total of 165 days at the ISS – almost a week more than planned.

Volkov told journalists that in the wake of the crash the cosmonauts set about preparing toprolong their flight for an indefinite period – a contingency plan made possible by emergency supplies.

"I talked to Michael and Satoshi, and we decided that we would fly as long as necessary," Volkov said. “We were offered a chance to leave the ship, but we realized it was dangerous for the station. We didn’t want to take the risk.”

The crash of the Progress also resulted in a delay in getting the next team up to the ISS as the Soyuz rocket had to go through a barrage of tests to ensure its safety before launching.

“Three of us were implementing a program that is usually done by a six-strong crew,” Volkov said. "I had so much to do that I often had to work on weekends."

Despite the difficulties, the atmosphere on board was great and full of team spirit, the cosmonaut recalled. In the rare minutes of rest, the men were watched their favorite movies.

“Fossum showed us Lord of the Rings, and I was translating for the guys the legendary WWII movie Only Old Men Are Going to Battle,” the Russian cosmonaut added.

The astronauts were not only watching movies, but also making them. Volkov and Fossum compiled a video presentation out of photographs of the Earth taken from the ISS.

Now the team is adapting back to the Earth’s climate and atmosphere a process doctors say will take almost as long as they spent in space. Volkov, however, told journalists that he found this flight – his second – much easier than his first.

“I already knew what I was to expect, so there was nothing to complain of,” Volkov said. “My body remembered how to behave in zero gravity. It also took much less time to adapt.”