“HabCom,” Mike radioed, “We’re ready to enter the airlock.”
There was no response.Mike tried again. The rest of us tried. We waved our arms at the tiny portholes on the second floor. But there was no response from Carla and Brian, who were (we hoped) still in the Hab. Now, we weren’t actually locked out. And we couldn’t actually run out of air. But this was only EVA #4, and in every previous case, there was immediate response from HabCom to any radio hail, and we always had someone in the EVA prep room to receive us. After five minutes or so, we decided to go in anyway. The sun was setting and the cold was setting in. Mike announced, “HabCom, we are entering the airlock,” and then we heard Brian’s most welcome voice: “EVA crew, copy that.” It turned out that the radio had been set with the volume too low for Carla and Brian to hear us, and they hadn’t expected us back so soon. We were soon in, de-suited, and de-briefed.
On our return, Luis tackled the least appetizing task of the day: cleaning the toilet and shower enclosure. Yes, the shower! Although it has been inoperable for weeks, Darrel used his ingenuity to find the burst section of pipe and correct the problem. We’re looking forward to our very first showers this evening, which will go to Luis and Darrel! We’re all thrilled.
But the biggest thrill of the day came right after dinner. Our Crew Astronomer, Mike, turns 21 today. He had a very eventful day, including leading both our EVAs today as EVA Commander, getting the radio telescope closer to completion, and (as a surprise) a chocolate birthday cake made entirely from scratch! (Not trivial when you have no milk nor eggs!) Carla sprinkled it with powdered sugar, and we lit 21 candles on top while Mike was downstairs. When he came back up, we turned off the lights, sang “Happy Birthday”, and then Mike leaned over to blow them out. And a blowtorch erupted from the cake. I’ve never seen anything like it! Apparently his breath lofted most of the powdered sugar high enough to combust in the candle flame and what had been 21 shimmering lights turned into a cloud of flame. Phenomenal! And… don’t try this at home! But no worries: no one was singed. We laughed uproariously, turned the lights back on, wiped powdered sugar off the table, and Mike opened a card and chocolates (from Russia, via Carla!).
Happy Birthday, Mike! Thanks for spending your 21st with us!