June 09, 2008
Dancing in Space
While we folks on the ground were preoccupied with politics, the STS-124 and Expedition 17 crews were busy completing another chapter in the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).
The crews delivered the Japanese Kibo module, performed three spacewalks and lots of fancy arm work, relocated (with help from the Expedition 17 crew) the Japanese logistics module, and created the largest, coolest space station ever.
Every night at midnight CST, NASA replays the highlights of the day on NASA TV. This coverage is especially appreciated by those of us who are members of the nightowl club. My favorite video downlink this week was the scene of the ten crewmembers bouncing and floating and spinning around inside the new Kibo. It reminded me of a snow globe with people instead of snow inside. Maybe Mike Fossum's spinning routine will become the basis for a new show of "Dancing with the Stars." I know I'd love to give it a whirl!
I also tuned in the coverage of Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and his commander, Mike Kelly, speaking with the Japanese prime minister and a group of school children. The children's questions--how does being in space compare to swimming (Hoshide was on the swim team in high school), reminded me that young people everywhere are curious about space and what it is like. Hopefully, some of those students will have an opporunity to find out for themselves.
Speaking of experiencing freefall on the space station, someone in NASA Public Affairs asked me (because they know how I love to track space stuff!) just how many people have been to the space station to date.
It took me hours to go through all the shuttle, expedition, and Soyuz crew lists, to find that, as of June 9, 2008, 174 people have been to the ISS, including 26 women, 50 foreign nationals (27 Russia, 10 ESA, 4 CSA, 4 Japan, 1 Uzbekestan, 1 South Africa, 1 Malaysia, 1 Korea), and 6 spaceflight participants. 24 people have had two trips, and 5 (4 shuttle commanders and Krikalev) have had 3 trips. (View details at http://www.mdyson.com/isscrews.htm.)
That's pretty impressive, but obviously only just the beginning. Next spring, the crew size will grow from 3 to 6. Unfortunately, until there is an alternative to the Soyuz for reaching the station, the numbers will not grow very fast. But once we have Orion, and hopefully some new commercial options discussed at last week's ISDC, the number of people headed to the station will shoot upward.
The next human space flight--TMA 13 in October to change out the crew--also includes another spaceflight participant. Mr. Garriott is sure to enjoy the expanded accomodations, and especially the big new window in the Japanese module. The rest of us, including those eager Japanese students, will have to wait for the commercial options and research opportunities to drive the cost down.
I was among the crowd of members at the Capitol Hilton who watched STS-124 launch on May 31. Hopefully, in the not too-distant future, NSS members will instead share an ISDC inside a floating hotel.
To the stars!
Posted by m_dyson at June 9, 2008 02:41 PM