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Question: I'm reading your bio, and it says you enjoy horseback riding and jumping, mountain biking, running, wind surfing, playing classical guitar, so unless there's more room up there than I know about you must be doing something else for relaxation. Can you tell us what you're doing? Thomas: Those are activities I've done at various times in the past. I have to confess that I don't do them all at the same time. There is somewhere here, although I've yet to find it, a guitar, and one of the things Talgat and I want to do is play some music together, because he's actually a very good guitarist and shares a common taste in music that I do, and so we're hoping that we will actually be able to play guitar and I've brought some sheet music to do that. Some of the other activities, basically I've been passing recreational time by looking out the window and taking photographs of the planet, which is a lot of fun, or late at night, just before bed, I do like most people do, I pick up a book and I read, and I've just been reading some books to help get to sleep. Question: How is it as a place to live and work? Thomas: So far it's proving to be a very interesting place to live and work. Living in zero gravity is a really unusual sensation. If you want to have fun, zero gravity is a great place to do it. But I would have to admit that if you want to do a very careful, detailed work, zero gravity is tough because you'd be amazed how easily you lose things. You take something and you just let it go for a minute, and you turn your back and you come back and it's gone somewhere, and you won't find it again. And I've had a terrible time just losing things, putting things down and forgetting about them, and they come loose and go flying off somewhere, tools and personal equipment. So that's a big adjustment you have to make, to remember to always put something down and tether it so that you can get back to it, no matter what it is. Your toothbrush even. Your comb. So those are big adjustments in the lifestyle that you have to make when you're in this kind of environment. Question: You said before the mission "This is going to be hard." Has it turned out to be as hard as you anticipated? Thomas: Yes. It is hard. It's hard because you're isolated. I mean, I have a very stimulating work day every day. A lot of challenging activities, and of course the view is always there and it's an amazing view. But each day tends to roll into the next and there comes a certain monotony and you have to use your own resources to make the life interesting, to keep your motivation going. And it's undeniably a challenge because you're in a confined space. It's crowded, and you have some difficult objectives, so there are great challenges of taking on a mission like this. There's no doubt about it. Question: Six people are on Mir. What extra measures are you and the other crew members taking to make allowance for the extra mouths to feed and bodies to keep alive. Thomas: The resources of Mir can support the additional crew persons here with oxygen and we have an abundance of food. I have to tell you, I'm eating very well up here, perhaps a little too well. There's plenty of food, so we're very comfortable. We're very confined in our work areas because there's not a lot of additional space. We've got experiments set up adjacent to one another throughout Priroda, for example, and you have to work around a colleague while you're trying to get from one experiment to the next. But we understand that and we do that together because we just understand that that's par for the course right now. Question: Anything surprising to you about physical changes, intellectual changes, emotional changes. Your longest mission before was 10 or 11 days, and now you've been up there a lot longer than that. Anything surprising you about how you're changing. Thomas: I don't notice personal changes. The biggest surprise is that I've come to expect and adapt very quickly to the idea that things are weightless. You get used to the idea that you can have things like this in front of you and that's normal, that's the norm. And if you think about it, that's really a bizarre concept. After 40 something years of living on the planet, that I've not been able to do this, now I can do this, and yet I've adapted in really the space of few days to accepting that to be a perfectly natural thing, which was a very unexpected occurrence. Question: What do you eat and how does it taste? Thomas: We have plenty of food. We have essentially a mixture of two meals a day of American food, two meals a day of Russian food, and it's a variety of foods of freeze-dried variety like you might use if you went on a camping trip, as well as prepackaged food, as well as regular canned food. It's got a good cross section of tastes from chicken, fish, red meat, a whole variety of vegetables and soups, and of course snacks like cookies and crackers, peanuts and cashews, and things like that. So it's really a very full diet. A good selection of juices and tea and coffee. I have more than enough to eat. Probably too much actually. Question: What's your impression of the support you're getting from the ground and what could the Russian controllers or your NASA people in Russia do to make this an easier four and a half months? Thomas: They've been pillars of strength. The flight surgeon is taking care of my e-mail and forwarding my e-mail to me so I get personal communications. The people in the Mission Operations Support area are providing me regular dialogue of what needs to be done each day and what the expectations are of the experiments, and any problems I have, they're all happy to step forward and help out with them. The NASA organizations have provided me a lot of psychological support. They've provided a nice selection of video greetings from friends and family, which I replayed the other day and to my very great surprise and enjoyment there was one there from Alan Alda, no less, who happened to be at Johnson Space Center one day and they asked him to do this and he did a wonderful piece wishing me well on Mir. Question: Are you getting along with all you crewmates? Thomas: Yes, very well. We're working well together, and I think it's going very well. I think the interpersonal relationships are sound. Of course, we all know each other, we've all spent time together last year off and on at various stages of our training together in Star City, so it's not like we're new to each other. We know each other quite well and the interpersonal relationships are good I think. Question: There was an incident this week where the Mir went out of control for a minute or two when somebody put the wrong program into an onboard computer, we heard. The Russians say it was no big deal. Was it? And how often do things like this happen? Thomas: That's the only such incident that's happened in the time I've been here. And from my perspective, I never even noticed it. I didn't see any sign of it. In fact, if someone hadn't told me about it, I wouldn't even have know. It was quite benign. Question: How would you describe living on Mir compared to what you were led to believe it was going to be like? Thomas: The biggest issue is that we're really short of storage space and we're always fighting this problem of storage, of where to put things in order to do work, and that, I see as being the big surprise from my point of view.
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