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Tag Archive: Soyuz


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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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