Two days later I was knee-deep in spacesuits, cleaning and organizing the airlock for spacewalks to come. As I merrily worked my way through some of my favorite activities, Fyodor floated into Node 1, tools in hand.
“What’s up?” I queried my Russian commander.
“I have task,” he replied in understandable but grammatically incorrect English.
I thought nothing of it, expecting his usual perfect execution. But as he began to remove the very same stowage bags I had so carefully returned to their place two days earlier, my focus turned to his timeline. “Fyodor, what are you doing there?” I asked.
“Task behind panel here,” he informed me.
“Show me,” I ordered, flying to a station laptop displaying the daily timeline.
He showed me the task and its location. As always, he was correct. He needed to be behind the exact same panel I had opened just days ago, but the task he was to perform was totally different. I was making a premature assessment, but at that point my gut was beginning to boil as my frustration grew with the ground control team’s poor attention to detail. Fyodor successfully navigated the stowage, and the panel and hardware behind it, and all returned to normal.
As the end of the workweek approached, I was once again staged in the airlock. I had nearly completed preparing the space suits for the STS-120 crew’s upcoming walks when I glanced up to see Oleg performing the Russian version of a Superman impersonation as he flew through Node 1.
“What’s up with you today, Oleg?” I offered.
“I have a task here in Node 1,” he replied, with English as good as most Americans’.