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August 25, 2006

The Power Team

As I read the article “Crew puffing up for building tasks” by Mark Carreau in the Houston Chronicle yesterday, I reflected on what it takes to be an astronaut. What comes to mind first? Courage? Experience? Four of the STS-115 crew joined the Navy, and Dan Burbank joined the Coast Guard. Academic achievement? Four members of the STS-115 crew have masters’ degrees in engineering, and Steve MacLean has a Ph.D. in physics.

These are certainly important criteria, but poor health will ground even the bravest most accomplished genius, and also those who hope and save to buy trips into space in the future, as Japanese businessman Enomoto discovered when he failed the medical exam required to fly the Soyuz to the space station.

So children who aspire to become astronauts, and aging space enthusiasts who still hope to win the lottery, take note: the most important thing you can do to get ready for your future in space is to work out!

“We’re required to go to the gym,” Joe Tanner told reporters. “And by the way, we like it.” Dan Burbank said he spends a lot of time lifting weights and running. These guys would make good calendar models, but I think many women and young girls will find no better role model for physical fitness than spacewalker Heide Piper. Anyone who can flex the fingers of a spacesuit glove over and over for 7 straight hours would not even need to run a jar of pickles under water before opening it—with one hand.

This strength will be needed as the spacewalkers install and connect the bus-sized solar arrays to the space station truss. Stamina will be vital to all the crewmembers because problems inside or out of the shuttle or station can arise at any time during their long busy days. I hope they won’t mind if I therefore call them the “Power Team.” It seems appropriate because of their fitness and also their mission to add electrical power to the station.

The crewmembers are now in quarantine awaiting launch. Even if they indulge in a little bit of TV watching or blog reading, I bet they make time for jumping jacks, lifting weights, and pushups. Staying in shape is a way of life for astronauts. And what are you doing to prepare for YOUR trip? In between reading that space physics text and sharpening your math skills solving orbital dynamics problems and the occasional Sudoku, be sure to schedule time for that work out. As Pilot Chris Ferguson said about exercise, “It keeps you in a good mental state and improves your overall performance.” So if you want to go, then get up and go!

Marianne Dyson, hurrying off to martial arts class

Posted by m_dyson at August 25, 2006 06:28 PM



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