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Tag Archive: International Space Station


Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station in 2015, has been in the news this month as scientists learn more about his health after such an extended stay in space.  NASA admitted Scott and his identical twin brother Mark into its elite astronaut program in 1996, and after many years the brothers’ back and forth missions resulted in Scott accepting a Russian mission to test human reaction to extended space travel, in part contemplating a trip to Mars one day.  At the end of his 2015 mission not only did his body change, but he encountered what travelers to Mars will encounter: living in weightlessness, relying on the tools, food, and oxygen processing technology, and experiencing work stress for a similar period of time as a voyage to Mars.  Although readers of his recently published memoir will learn the selection of the brothers into NASA and the selection of Scott for his record-breaking ISS mission initially did not contemplate use of the twin brothers as comparative test subjects, NASA soon realized the knowledge they could gain from such an endeavor.  Although scientists have since backed off on early claims that Mark and Scott now have different DNA, their analysis continues, and Scott said he and his brother will continue to be tested and observed as part of the study for the rest of their lives.

In his book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly recounts his life story and the details of his four trips into outer space: via the space shuttles Discovery (STS-103) in 1999 and Endeavour (STS-118) in 2007 and later via Soyuz TMA-19 in Expeditions 25/26 in 2010 and Soyuz TMA-18M in Expeditions 43/44/45/46 in 2015 with a record-breaking mission The Endurance in the title reflects both the ship captained by Sir Ernest Shackleton in the 1901 expedition to Antarctica (and Shackleton’s book Kelly took on his journey into space for inspiration and reflection) as well as the mettle and resolve required to push his mind and body to the limits to survive his many journeys off-planet.  Readers learn through his experiences the detail, perfection, and self-discipline that makes up “the right stuff” for the military fighter pilot turned test pilot, Navy captain, and astronaut commander are the same things that seem to make him so focused that he was perceived as less communicative and responsive to those closest to him.  Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is very much another chapter in a continuing history of books by astronauts recounting their circuitous and unlikely paths to NASA, yet Kelly’s account reveals less of a superman and more of a flawed but committed adventurer, and his flaws will no doubt engage any reader and fan of real-life adventure stories.  The personal details, openness to discuss his own reservations, concerns, and mistakes, make this unlike any other of the more famous accounts of human travels in space.  Kelly is most likeable when he’d seem unlikeable to us back on Earth–when he shows his frustrations, when at the end of a year in space little comments from his peers simply annoy him.  He seems preoccupied with the ISS toilets and carbon dioxide levels throughout his year on the ISS, both of which he knows could mean the end of any Mars mission if they can’t become more reliable.  And it’s these kinds of details he hopes will drive NASA to improve these components of space travel to hope to make a mission around the moon, around an asteroid, and ultimately a mission to Mars, a reality one day for mankind.

That’s Commander Scott Kelly (bottom right) in the crew photo sporting Jedi robes for Expedition 45.

Kelly credits another book, Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, as his inspiration for taking on a career as jet pilot and astronaut–he even called Wolfe from space to thank him at the end of his ISS mission.  Kelly’s descriptions of several of his experiences, especially his three harrowing spacewalks while aboard the ISS, provide for a riveting read, and readers shouldn’t be surprised if they find themselves breathless as they follow along with him as he floats 254 miles above Earth orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour.  Some sections of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery are as nailbiting as Jon Krakauer’s extraordinary account of his ill-fated Mt. Everest climb, Into Thin Air.  Some of Kelly’s more minor details are the most startling, like his description of hand rails outside the station that are riddled with bullet-sized holes, caused by space debris.  Any new arriving piece of debris could poke a hole in him, too, as he floated in space.  In one mission he encounters the same tile problem that caused the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia.  A chunk of an old satellite careening in the vicinity of the ISS provides another dangerous condition for the crew that illustrates another theme of life on the ISS–international relations.  Kelly speaks nothing but admiration for Russia, its space program and its cosmonauts, but their processes and procedures sometimes vary widely.  When the satellite approached, the Russians kept on working just as he and his team hunkered down.  The Russians figured any collision likely would kill them all instantly, so why worry about it?  Readers will learn a lot about those less exciting parts of being a 21st century astronaut, especially about the required extended stays required these days in Russia, the departure point for American astronauts in the post-Space Shuttle world.  In between flights, Kelly served as NASA’s Director of Operations in the legendary town of Star City, Russia, and we learn much about his many encounters with other astronauts and ground crew.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Like many of us, astronaut Chris Hadfield sees his life, both on Earth and off-planet, as a series of worst-case scenarios waiting to happen.  In his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, he not only shares his autobiography and pathway to space and afterward, he uses his life to provide a self-help plan for accomplishing your dreams and reaching whatever success you’re after.  Originally issued in hardcover but now available in a paperback edition, Hadfield’s Guide is just what you need to read if you’re in a slump, if you have a goal and can’t figure how to get yourself to attain it, or if you just need a pep talk.

“Most people, including me, tend to applaud the wrong things: the showy, dramatic record-setting sprint rather than the years of dogged preparation or the unwavering grace displayed during a string of losses,” Hadfield says in his book.  And Hadfield takes his errors and his stumbles and displays them for everyone to see so they can use them to learn how to adapt and overcome their own obstacles.  “Sweat the small stuff,” is his mantra, and it’s that attention to detail that he says allowed humans to get to visit outer space in the first place–the required discipline that allows the two other astronauts in your capsule to fully trust you will do your job, and vice versa.  As with astronaut Leland Melvin’s account of his pathway to space (reviewed last month here at borg.com), this meant years of brain work and physical preparation, monotony, and several false defeats and false triumphs before the final ride on that rocket to the stars.  “Since the odds of becoming an astronaut were nonexistent, I knew it would be pretty silly to hang my sense of self-worth on it.  My attitude was more, ‘It’s probably not going to happen, but I should do things that keep me moving in the right direction, just in case — and I should be sure those things interest me, so that whatever happens, I’m happy.'”

Chris Hadfield floating above Earth during a spacewalk.

Colonel Hadfield–who is afraid of heights–always wanted to be an astronaut, at least since he saw Apollo 11 make the first moon shot on television when he was nine years old.  But his path wasn’t easy, especially since Canadians weren’t yet astronauts when he was a kid.  “I wasn’t destined to be an astronaut,” says Hadfield, “I had to turn myself into one.”  He not only had to turn himself into an astronaut, he had to change the perception and rules of those around him as he climbed the ladder to fulfilling his dream.  Along the way that meant diligence, determination, study, practice, repetition, volunteering, and over-achieving to make himself stand out, and sacrificing all his waking hours and much of his family time.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Young Leland Melvin wasn’t the type of kid who dreamed about flying in outer space.  But he was guided by good parents and developed the right stuff to work for NASA for more than a quarter of a century that culminated in two space shuttle flights to the International Space Station.  Melvin has written his memoir and it has been published in a version for kids and a version for adults.  Harper Collins and Amistad Press’s Chasing Space is a book that every school library should carry, a book kids should read to understand that you can be anything you want to be.

Melvin credits a good mind-set for his ability to adapt to new situations and succeed in whatever he put his mind to.  But even with hard work, life manages to get in the way sometimes.  Unforeseen circumstances stopped him in his tracks at several points in his many pursuits, including college, where he was almost expelled for an alleged ethics violation.  In high school football he made a mistake that his coach allowed him to redo, resulting in him getting a scholarship to college.  His girlfriend and he were pulled over and a racist police officer tried to get him thrown in jail.  He played football for the Detroit Lions, but a recurring hamstring problem knocked him out of the sport.  He got another chance at football, this time for the Dallas Cowboys, but his leg stopped him again.  Only after returning to graduate school work did his career in science take hold, and once he graduated NASA was practically waiting for him.  But his pathway to space was tripped up by a problem with his ear while training.  And despite it all, and being one of the first African-Americans to forge a path where few had gone before, Leland Melvin worked hard, mentally and physically, and overcame everything thrown in his way to become one of only 550 humans to leave the planet and become an astronaut.  He is known by many as the astronaut that had his formal NASA photograph taken with his two dogs, Jake and Scout, who would later join him and Cesar Millan on an episode of Millan’s Dog Whisperer show.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis with Leland Melvin (left) and crew of STS-129.

Melvin flew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis during missions STS-122 and STS-129 and worked closely with astronauts that were lost on both the Challenger and Columbia disasters as well as current astronauts like Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams, who have continued to set new records in space aboard the International Space Station.  In Star City, Russia, Melvin worked closely with and trained alongside former Navy SEAL Bill Shepherd–the famed astronaut “who knew how to kill somebody with a knife”–as Shepherd prepared for the very first long-duration flight by an American and becoming the first commander of a crew based at the International Space Station.  Melvin even helped Russian scientists translate tech manuals into English in Moscow.  Surprisingly astronaut training for Melvin included extreme survival training and adventure hikes across America and giving talks around the world, learning to stretch the boundaries of his own abilities.  When one of his crews was without a medical officer, he volunteered and trained to add that role to his list of duties.  He spent months stitching up cadavers and working on emergency room patients to be ready for any kind of emergency in space, training under the eye of famous skilled surgeon Dr. Red Duke, the doctor that had admitted President Kennedy and Governor Connally at the Dallas hospital in November 1963.  All these seeming tasks and trials are not obvious things the average person thinks about when they hear the word “astronaut.”  Yet all prepared Melvin to be able to think on his feet should a problem occur, and that according to Melvin’s account, is the way of astronaut training.

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The International Space Station’s Expedition 50, discussed previously here at borg.com, is readying for the 199th spacewalk in support of ISS activities this morning, to be televised at 7 a.m. Central.  It will be the eighth spacewalk for Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson, who will surpass NASA astronaut Suni Williams for completing the most spacewalks by a woman in the history of space travel.  At age 56, Whitson is the oldest woman to fly in space.  Stacking up some impressive space travel records, she is scheduled to command Expedition 51 later this year, which will make her the first woman to command two ISS expeditions.  By the end of her stint on ISS this year, Whitson will have spent more time in space than any other U.S. Astronaut–male or female–to surpass the record of 534 days set by Astronaut Jeff Williams.  Whitson is a biochemist from Mt. Ayr, Iowa.

This past weekend the ISS robotically moved the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3)–a pressurized interface between the station modules and the docking adapter–between modules.  In what is scheduled as a 6 hour and 30 minutes spacewalk Whitson and Expedition Commander Shane Kimbrough will manually reconnect cables and electronics and install the second of two upgraded computer relay boxes on the ISS’s truss and install shields and covers on PMA-3 and the unused module port.

NASA’s most experienced female astronaut, Whitson has been onboard ISS since November 2016.  This is her third space flight.  Her first flight was in 2002 as a member of the crew of Expedition 5.  In 2007 on her second flight she became the first woman flight commander, leading Expedition 16.  Whitson had previously been tied with Suni Williams for an earlier spacewalk record that Whitson had also surpassed.  Whitson continues to expand extravehicular activity (EVA) duration records.

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cernan-2017

Yesterday the last man to walk on the Moon, Apollo 17 commander Capt. Eugene Cernan, passed away at age 82.  Of the 24 men who visited the Moon and the 12 that walked on its surface Cernan leaves only six remaining men who actually walked on the Moon’s surface: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), Dave Scott (Apollo 15), John Young (Apollo 16), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17).  A three-time space traveler, Cernan was the pilot on Apollo 10 and had previously flown on a Gemini mission.  He served as backup crew for Gemini 12, Apollo 7, and Apollo 14.

“Curiosity is the essence of human existence and exploration has been part of humankind for a long time.  The exploration of space, like the exploration of life, if you will, is a risk.  We’ve got to be willing to take it,”  Cernan said.  Cernan passed away on the annual day America observed the contributions of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he, too, recently recounted a dream.  “I was just a young kid in America growing up with a dream.  Today what’s most important to me is my desire to inspire the passion in the hearts and minds of future generations of young men and women to see their own impossible dreams become a reality.”

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The best tribute to Cernan and his contemporaries is the continuing exploration and discovery missions of NASA, which will be the subject of several documentaries this year on PBS.  In particular, August will be a big month for space aficionados.

The documentary The Farthest will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager space program.  As discussed extensively previously here at borg.com, the Voyager probes continue their role as the farthest humans have stretched their technology into space.  The only objects to ever enter interstellar space are Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.  Voyager 2 was the first to launch forty years ago, on August 20, 1977.

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Expedition 49 official crew portrait with 47S crew (Anatoli Ivanishin, Kate Rubins, Takuya Onishi) and 48S crew (Shane Kimbrough, Andrei Borisenko, Sergei Ryzhikov). Photo Date: January 13, 2016. Location: Building 8, Room 183 - Photo Studio. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

American NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takuya Onishi safely landed their Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft in Kazakhstan at about 1 p.m. CDT on Saturday.  The Expedition 48/49 trio completed hundreds of scientific research experiments throughout 115 days in space aboard the International Space Station, working with three other ISS crewmembers who remain on the station.  The world class space lab, bypassing international politics and cultural conflicts, continues to demonstrate how humans, when they set their minds to it, can rise above any barrier to work for the betterment of all people and life on Earth.

iss_expedition_48_patch

The ISS has been continuously occupied for 15 years and 363 days since the arrival of Expedition 1 on November 2, 2000–the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, surpassing space station Mir’s previous record of 9 years and 357 days.

expedition-49

Expedition 49/50’s Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, will operate the station for three weeks until the arrival of three new crew members from Expedition 50/51, Peggy Whitson of NASA, French spationaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos.  The new crew is scheduled to launch November 17, 2016, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

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NASA space station photo

While we have all been busy here on Earth, the international assemblage of astronauts on the International Space Station have been moving on with their scheduled work week far up and away in Earth’s orbit.  The Expedition 45 crew has been busy this month with biomedical science, Cygnus mission preparations, and routine maintenance.

But this crew is not above letting its fanboy flag fly, donning the Jedi Knight look of Obi-Wan Kenobi, complete with lightsabers, for their NASA expedition poster.  What better way to keep the tie between science fiction and science fact?  You often hear about how many astronauts and NASA engineers and crew were influenced by Star Trek, but clearly Star Wars must have had a similar influence.

Expedition 45 includes flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui, who both have been in space for more than 100 days.  Yui has been working on experiment hardware inside Japan’s Kibo lab module.  Lindgren is conducting research on growing food in space for the Veggie botany experiment.  Commander Scott Kelly is prepping for the December arrival of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft. Continue reading

Chris Hadfield album space sessions cover songs from a tin can

International Space Station astronaut Chris Hadfield has another “first” in store for us.  You’ll know Commander Hadfield as the rock star astronaut who recorded his own version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” back in 2013.  We discussed his rock video filmed in space here back then at borg.com.  Hadfield is now releasing the first ever album recorded in space.  And yes, Space Sessions: Songs From a Tin Can will include his hit “Space Oddity,” the song heard more than 26 million times by Earthlings via YouTube.

If an album was ever begging to be released in vinyl, this may be it.  Luckily it will be released on CD, digital, and vinyl.

Hadfield has recounted his missions in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and via his photos in You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station.

Ground control to Cmdr Hadfield

Here is a trailer for the album:

And here is “Feet Up,” a single from the album:

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Planet Earth and Hadfield

Tuesday night Commander Chris Hadfield met with a small group of Kansas City patrons at a reception in the Linda Hall Library of science and technology, in advance of a lecture on the release of his new book You Are Here to 800 attendees at the Unity Temple on the Plaza.  Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who flew twice on the space shuttle and commanded the International Space Station last year, fielded a barrage of questions on everything from his tight fit in a Russian Soyuz space capsule to his favorite moments in outer space to his famous viral rock video.

Just feet from a 1543 first edition of Copernicus’s On the Heavenly Spheres in which Copernicus first introduced humans to an image of the Sun at the center of the universe, and a 1610 hand-notated first edition of Galileo’s treatise Starry Messenger in which Galileo first documented his discoveries via telescope, Hadfield was a living representation of mankind’s greatest achievements so far.  Confident and razor sharp, Hadfield conveyed those traits you’d expect from a test pilot and astronaut required to know how to repair every part of his spacecraft if necessary and conduct experiments in outer space as planet Earth soars in front of him at 1,000 miles per hour.

Hadfield signing

Commander Hadfield signed copies of his new book You Are Here, and earlier work An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

Hadfield, known for his transmission of images via Twitter during his five-month stint on the International Space Station (ISS), said he personally follows very few people on the Internet.  “I follow a few friends I know who have some humorous things to say,” he said.  On the space station Hadfield produced an unprecedented rock video sung and performed on guitar by the commander–a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which we reported on here at borg.com back in 2013 (and referred to Hadfield as the coolest man on, or off, Earth).  He said his son, who produced the video from back home on Earth, “really wrote the book” on using social media to convey something as enormous as sharing what Hadfield was doing in outer space, including the millions re-introduced to the space program who watched his video on YouTube.  “We have something like 20 million hits,” he said proudly (actually now more than 23 million).

Librarian for history of science Bruce Bradley

Linda Hall Library history of science librarian Bruce Bradley displays rare original texts from Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton.

Before the private reception, Linda Hall Library history of science librarian Bruce Bradley showed off the facilities collection of original historic astronomy texts, and Hadfield said he was impressed by what he had seen.  The Library previously hosted Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, seen here.

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Major Hadfield as Major Tom

Twitter just won’t be the same anymore.

International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield, along with flight engineers American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko, returned safely to Earth aboard a Soyuz space capsule Monday night at 9:31 Central Time, landing by parachute in Kazakhstan.

We at borg.com have been watching Canadian astronaut Hadfield and his stunning photography on his Twitter feed since we became addicted to Twitter.  In fact I got addicted to Twitter almost entirely because of Hadfield’s tweets and have been raving about his photos and commentary for months.  Probably no person in Earth’s history has shared such a perspective and love for Planet Earth as Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.  Through his stunning photography of the details of Earth from so far away, like images of Stonehenge from outer space, hundreds of cities alight at night, and hidden paradises and geological formations among unreal blue seas, Hadfield has shared his rare world view with thousands of Twitter followers.

Ground control to Cmdr Hadfield

Hadfield has been orbiting Earth for five months.  He and his fellow astronauts undocked from the space station at 6:08 p.m. Central Time for his three-hour ride home.  It was Hadfield’s first trip home in a Russian Soyuz capsule–he had traveled in space shuttles in past missions in 1995 and 2001.

As a farewell to the space station, Hadfield, who sports a Major Dad moustache, released a video of a slightly modified version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, the “ground control to Major Tom” song, this time referencing his Soyuz ride home among other personal references.  It is the first music video made in space, including Hadfield’s own vocals and guitar, put together by Hadfield and the crew and musicians back here on Earth, over the past several months.

Planet Earth and Hadfield

Hadfield has been a huge presence on Twitter, with more than 850,000 followers as of Monday night.  Hopefully Hadfield will continue posting photos taken aboard the space station, and sharing his great insights about Earth from above.  And I can’t wait to see him host Saturday Night Live (rumor intentionally started here in the hopes it comes true).

Moonrise by Cmdr Chris Hadfield

Enjoy this superb music video, where you can see someone clearly fulfilling a dream that began 44 years ago when Bowie first released the song and when Neil Armstrong first walked on the surface of the Moon.

The best rock video ever?  The best YouTube upload ever?  The coolest thing ever done in outer space ever?  Yes, yes, and yes.  And someone should point out this video to J.J. Abrams on how to effectively use lens flares.  Right on!

And frankly, Hadfield’s heartfelt rendition of the classic rock tune leaves Bowie’s original in the dust.  You might just tear up a bit when you think how awesome it is Hadfield did something we all wish we could do–as Bowie’s lyrics take on new meaning–and how Hadfield has shared his experience with everyone in such a cool way.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com