I was more nervous than I'd ever been in my life. After many months of training, we were finally boarding the shuttle. I was extremely frightened, and my friend Alice was not making things any better. She was rattling off all of the things that could happen and result in our death.
"Don't be afraid," she scolded me. "Why do you think we had to train so long? They take extreme precautions against all those things."
In my opinion, she looked a little nervous as well.
We clambered into the shuttle and strapped in. "I'm a little nervous about this part. There are so many things that could go wrong. The shuttle could explode, or we could run out of fuel, or..." Alice again began to rattle off all the possibilities.
The countdown began. I nearly vomited with nervousness. Seeing my face, Alice started to say something, but was droned out immediately by the noise of the rocket engine.
The countdown got to six. I kept my finger poised over the button. I vaguely heard the words "three, two one" and felt myself press the button. I screamed along with Alice as we pushed higher, higher, higher on our journey to the International Space Station.
Finally, we reached the point where we were allowed to get up and move around. I stretched and did so, floating several inches off the ground. I laughed and floated into a different room, Alice behind me calling, "Nellie! Wait for me
We reached the next room together, laughing. "Alice, you know how different the same person looks floating fifteen inches off the ground?!" I howled. She hollered back, "How could I not! You're right in front of me!"
An hour or so later, we drifted toward the dinner table and picked out a meal. It consisted mainly of macaroni. I popped it into my mouth. It tasted a lot better than I'd expected it, although I was sure that the food on the I.S.S would be even better.
We began to have fun with our food, poking it with our forks until it drifted into our mouths. The liquids were especially fun. We would allow them to float around and then either catch them in our mouths or suck them out of midair with our straws. I even was able to take different colors such as yellow and red and mix them to get orange.
After we were finished playing with our food, we went to bed. I snuggled into my sleeping bag (attached to the wall) and shut the compartment door so I wouldn't float away. It felt odd to be sleeping on the wall, but I was so tired that I didn‟t really care. I shut my eyes and was asleep in moments.
"Wake up, wake up, rise and shine!" crowed Alice behind me. I opened my eyes and immediately shut them again.
"Alice, why? It must be so early, I'm so tired," I said.
"No, silly, I've been up for nearly twenty minutes. Come on, let's get something to eat."
I opened one eye. Alice said, "I'll wait. Meet me in fifteen minutes for breakfast."
I got up and put on my clothes for the day and went to meet Alice. We had a little bit of fun with the food, and were almost done when an alarm rang shrilly, startling us.
"This is not good. Something is damaged, and one of us is going to have to go out and fix it," Alice said.
There was silence for a moment. Alice finally muttered, "I really don‟t feel like a repair job right now. Could you do it?"
I said, "Well, I'm not really in the mood either, but better I do it then let it stay damaged."
Alice helped me put on the spacesuit, and I left the spacecraft. I moved around slowly, checking everything until I found it. It was one of the wires that had come loose.
I started repairing it and found that it was a trickier repair job than it looked. I was nearly done when I noticed myself slowly floating away.
Curious, I used my jet pack to go back to the repair job. I found that I had accidentally disconnected myself from the line that tethered me to the ship. I reconnected myself and went back to repairing the object.
I went back in and reported to Alice, "It's not going to last forever, but it will last as long as we need it to.
We arrived at the I.S.S. a little later, waiting to see it for the first time. It was much bigger than the modest little spacecraft we had come in. We got on, looking forward to our next meal, as we hadn't eaten in a while.
The food on the I.S.S. was far better than that of the little spacecraft we had come in. It was almost like the food at home except, of course, the fact that this food floated ten inches off the plates. We played with our food a little longer and finally ate it. Laughing away, we launched ourselves toward the treadmills.
We strapped ourselves in and began to run. It soon got quite tiring, but what could we do? The treadmill shook back and forth, and I knew that was because it was floating. This was even stranger than the vertical treadmill that we trained on.
We kept running and finally finished. I fumbled with the bungee cord-like straps of the treadmill and finally freed myself.
We drifted off to the place where we would do our experiments, laughing on the way there. I stepped inside. I let Alice in and we went toward the equipment.
We did experiments of all sorts, recording many different results. I was particularly interested in the crystal growing experiment that Alice was conducting. Finally, it was time for my spacewalk.
Alice helped me get on my suit, and I was soon ready to go. I went outside.
I did work on various parts of the station, fixing things along the way. I was out for several hours. I began to eat the fruit bar that I had been supplied with.
Finally, I came back in. I couldn‟t find Alice. "Alice!?" I shouted.
She shouted back, "Help! Help! Help!" Her voice grew weaker each time.
I ran toward the room with our experiments and found Alice in the middle of a fire. She was trying to fight it off, but not having much luck. I immediately began to help her.
A little later, I successfully put out the fire with a carbon dioxide sprayer and rescued Alice. "Alice, how did this happen?" I questioned.
She replied, "While you were out, I started to finish my crystal growing experiment. Then something behind me caught fire. It quickly spread and surrounded me. Luckily, you came in at that time. You saved me. Without you, I'd be dead."
I surveyed the damage around the room. Luckily, there wasn‟t much. "Well," I said shakily, "I guess we better go to bed then."
I got into my sleeping bag and immediately fell asleep.
The next day, we got up and had breakfast. Alice was scheduled for a spacewalk to attach some new solar panels, so she put on her stuff and out she went. I stayed in, floating around. This little space was where I'd be staying for many months, having only Alice as my companion. I felt a pang of homesickness and wished I had been picked for a shorter mission. It was a curious place, space. It was the biggest thing you could get, but without my family and friends, it seemed smaller than my bedroom.
Alice came back in. We went to the treadmills again. We ran, quickly tiring out. When we were finished, we went and had lunch.
While we were eating, Alice said, "Nellie, are you homesick?"
I considered lying to her, but felt ashamed of myself. Alice was the only person I had around, why hide things from her?
I sighed and said, "Yes, Alice. How about you?"
Alice sighed, "Yes, I am too. It's strange here. You sleep on the wall, you wear three hundred pound suits, and you're alone."
I said, "No you're not, Alice. You have me. At least we're not alone."
Slightly cheered, we went about the business of playing with our food. We went through the rest of our day with a slightly smaller burden of homesickness.
The next day, another two-man crew showed up. They had a great sense of humor, and cheered us up a lot.
I laughed at one of their many crazy jokes and wondered if a person could get used to this strange environment of space.