Returning Astronaut Wants Fresh Coffee and Crunchy Salad

After more than six months in orbit, returning U.S. astronaut Bill McArthur longs for two simple pleasures: a hot cup of fresh coffee and a crunchy salad.

"Life up here is an extraordinary experience ... but we miss the richness, the texture, the three-dimensional nature of living on our home planet," McArthur said Wednesday in an interview from the international space station with The Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle.

"I'm a big coffee drinker and I always like a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning," he said. "The coffee on board tastes good but it's all in bags."

McArthur will fly back Saturday on a Soyuz spacecraft, landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan. Also aboard will be Russian flight engineer Valery Tokarev and Marcos Pontes, Brazil's first man in space.

McArthur and Tokarev have been at the space station more than six months. They are being replaced by Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. flight engineer Jeff Williams, who arrived at the station with Pontes last Friday.

McArthur said he also is looking forward to biting into a crunchy salad and feeling "that sensation of pressing into a nice fresh lettuce or a nice raw carrot."

This week, the crew tested a new method of preparing for spacewalks and produced sufficient data, even though the test was cut short, McArthur said.

Before beginning spacewalks, crew members usually have to breathe pure oxygen for several hours to purge their body of nitrogen and prevent a condition known as the bends. The new method could reduce that preparation time.

McArthur and Williams had planned to spend eight hours sleeping in an airlock. But the test was stopped after five hours when two alarms went off while the astronauts slept.

The alarms were triggered by a software glitch that gave an erroneous message about oxygen pressure.

"We were never in any danger," McArthur said. "There was never any problem with the atmosphere."