Astronaut aboard ISS can't wait to eat on plates
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, February 16, 2008 9:53PM EST
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - After four months aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Daniel Tani can't wait to get back on the planet so he can dine with a plate and spit after he brushes his teeth.
Atlantis will take Tani home Wednesday, but he expects to have mixed emotions when it comes time to say goodbye. He moved into the space station in October and had his stay extended two months because of fuel gauge trouble that bumped Atlantis' flight from December to February.
"I look forward to some odd things,'' Tani said. "I'm looking forward to putting food on a plate and eating several things at once, which you can't do up here. I'm looking forward to spitting my toothpaste out in a sink rather than swallowing it.''
NASA wants Atlantis back on time so it will be out of harm's way when the military shoots down an ailing spy satellite, and consequently is prepared to direct the space shuttle to California if the weather is bad for landing at Cape Canaveral.
"Certainly, on the shuttle, we're not worried about it,'' Atlantis' commander, Stephen Frick, said at a news conference Saturday.
Added the space station's commander, Peggy Whitson: "Hopefully, NASA and DOD love the station crew as much as they love the shuttle's.'' She laughed and said, "So no, we're not worried about this, either.''
The satellite will be well below the space station when the Pentagon takes aim, "so we don't expect any problems'' from debris, Frick noted.
NASA has stressed that Whitson and her two crewmates -- one Russian and the other French -- will not be exposed to any additional risk. Their activity will not be altered in any way by the satellite shooting, managers said.
The 10 astronauts have until midday Sunday to finish hauling supplies and experiments across the threshold of their linked spacecraft. That's when the hatches will be closed in preparation for Atlantis' departure early Monday morning.
Flight director Bob Dempsey said he could not be more pleased with Atlantis' visit. The two crews installed the new European lab, Columbus, and conducted three spacewalks to hook it up and do other space station chores.
"The mission has gone, by many measures of success, extremely smoothly,'' he said.
Tani's mission was marred by the death of his 90-year-old mother. She was killed in a car accident near Chicago just before Christmas.
He said he's putting together a tip sheet for future space station residents who might have to deal with a family tragedy while they're in orbit. The advice involves ways to improve communication between grieving astronauts and their families back home, he said.
"I love living here on the station. It's comfortable. It's fun. It's exciting. The view, of course,'' said Tani, a 47-year-old mechanical engineer and the father of two young daughters. "But obviously, I want to get back and see my family.''