Newly returned station crew coping well
By Amanda Barnett
(CNN) -- The three members of the second crew to live and work on international space station Alpha quickly are getting their Earth-legs back -- and their appetites.
"We came back just over a week ago and we're adjusting very well," Susan Helms said in a morning round of television interviews on Wednesday. "It's been a very surprising experience to have returned to Earth and have such quick adjustment."
After the interviews, Helms, fellow astronaut Jim Voss and cosmonaut Yury Usachev had a big breakfast, according to NASA spokeswoman Eileen Hawley.
"They are doing robustly well. They're sitting down the hall eating," Hawley told CNN.
The three were brought back to Earth by space shuttle Discovery on August 21 after spending 163 days on Alpha.
Helms said she found it easier than expected to spend several months away from home. She told CNN she would miss the quiet of the space station.
"I think I got very used to the peaceful life that we have up there without things like phone, mail and cable TV and all the noise that you get from daily life." she said. "It was just one of those aspects of living in space that I didn't expect, but that I really enjoyed."
Helms, Usachev and Voss were able to walk off the shuttle after landing, but they still are undergoing physical therapy at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to adjust to Earth's gravity.
Hawley said it's a gradated process that will take about 45 days. The early part of the therapy involves soft tissue massage and water therapy -- basically soaking in a whirlpool and swimming, according to Hawley.
Information about a bone loss, a documented downside of life in space, would not be released for individual astronauts and cosmonauts, said Hawley. But NASA is compiling the data and eventually may release reports without naming names.
Back to work
For now, the three are gradually returning to their Earthly work routines.
Hawley said NASA is trying to limit Voss and Helms to 6 1/2 hour workdays. Mostly, they're undergoing technical debriefings and doing medical follow-up tests. When they are done with rehabilitation, they will take vacation time to be with their families.
At some point, Voss and Helms will meet with Charlie Precourt, the chief of the astronaut corps, to get their next assignment.
Usachev, who heads back to Russia in a few days, also said he would miss Alpha.
"I flew twice on Mir station. And now we have two mission controls. It's a real international space station. It was a very good experience to me," Usachev said.
And Voss, often seen doing flips on Alpha during his mission, said he misses being weightless.
"It's a little bit harder this past week to get up and to walk to the bathroom in the morning. It's much easier in space," Voss said.
New crew still unpacking
Meanwhile, the new space station crew is busy unpacking 6,000 pounds of equipment and supplies left behind by Discovery and another 3,000 pounds of items delivered by a Russian Progress supply ship that docked on August 16.
U.S. commander Frank Culbertson, Russian pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Russian flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin will be on Alpha for four months.
The space station's next major component, a Russian docking compartment named Pirs -- the Russian word for pier -- is scheduled for launch in mid-September.
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