Bruce Maccandless untethered spacewalk. Credit: NASA

Gravity

"At 600km above planet earth the temperature fluctuates between +258 and -148 degrees Fahrenheit. There is nothing to carry sound - no air pressure, no oxygen. Life in space is impossible..." I am reminded of the opening...

Star City Impressions – Part 2

I will fly back to Star City next Sunday to undergo water survival training with my crew. I thought it’d be a good time to post the second part of my “Star City Impressions”. See here for Part 1. Before leaving for Kazakhstan, Scott and his crew would pass their final exams in Star City: two full-day simulations in the Russian segment of the ISS and in the Soyuz respectively. I was particularly interested in this latter and my own training schedule did allow me to go and watch in short stints throughout the day. The beginning of an examination day is stiffly formal: the crew, dressed in their blue overalls,...

Star City Impressions

This is my attempt at giving you a glimpse into the peculiar life in Star City. The idea has come from a request of the friends at the Karemaski Multi Art Lab in Arezzo, Italy. They have sponsored a science fiction writing contest to honor Valentina Tereshkova’s spaceflight 50 years ago. The best short stories will be published in a collection that will also include an Italian translation of this text. This is the first of three parts. There’s something magical about Star City. I remember crisply when I drove past the entrance gate for the first time. I had been an astronaut with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a year...

BH9ttAGCcAElGQo.jpg-large

Luke Skywalker

Luca writes: I am in Moscow, Russia, five weeks till launch. These are the last weeks I will spend with my feet firmly on the ground (my head is still in the clouds, as always). I feel...

Training for ISS – Part 2

I have been a bit absent from this blog in the last couple of months: my apologies for that. Believe it or not, I was given a pretty long break from formal ISS training - although I have kept my head in the books! It’s been a busy time nevertheless: I’ve taken care of some personal matters, like a move, and I have worked my way through piles of documents, unanswered correspondence and all kinds of little and big open actions that had accumulated in over a year and a half of almost constant travel around the world for training. So I’m ready to start off with a clear mind, a clean...

Discharging the fire extinguisher (Photo courtesy: Milo Sciaky)

Fire!

The International Space Station is a very safe working environment, as I explained elsewhere. However, the fact of being in space does make some situations quite critical and potentially life-threatening, therefore crewmembers practice extensively the proper response...

Capsule Resource Management

A pie and a pint. A pint of British ale, to be specific, lukewarm and flat as it's supposed to be, and served in a cosy english pub, sitting close enough to the fireplace to let the flames warm me up a little bit from the chilly outside temperature (after all, it's May in Cheshire, so I can be happy with 8 Celsius). What does it have to do with CRM? Everything. I will explain. But what on earth is CRM, to start with? Don't worry, I won't start a theoretical lesson here, and I will mention beer again, just to keep your attention up... CRM has numerous meanings, from Certified Risk...

Why do we train with ATV?

The ESA-developed Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV, is the flagship of the ISS cargo spacecraft program. No doubt about that: even though I’m just a rookie, I’ve heard it so many times from experienced astronauts and cosmonauts to quickly become convinced. About as big as a London two-decker, the ATV has more than sheer size to amaze us. It’s the only cargo vehicle that stays docked to the Station for 6 months, thus greatly increasing its inhabitable volume: for the long duration astros and cosmos, a welcome luxury. It transports all kinds of dry and wet cargo, air, other gases, fuel (and a guitar that was specially modified so I could take...

A trip into vacuum

Whistling, of all things. Like my fellow “Shenanigan” Alex right next to me, I’m puckering my lips and trying diligently, but the results are modest. Whistling may be a trivial enough task, but not when the atmosphere in our Orlan suits is now down to less than half of the normal sea-level pressure, way too rarefied for any proper sounds to be produced. Even the pitch of our voices is changed as the thinner atmosphere blows on our vocal chords. And the hoarseness in my throat is accompanied by an overall unusual feeling in my airways: not at all unpleasant or disturbing, just very new to me. In truth, most of today’s...

All I need to know to fly to space I learned in Alaska…

Well, no, not really. I have only just started to tackle the great deal of skills and knowledge I will need to acquire on my journey to the launchpad. Still, the seven days I spent kayaking and camping in Alaska this last September under the expert guidance of two wonderful NOLS instructors, Josh and Ashley, taught me a lot of lessons that will hopefully make me a better crewmember on the International Space Station. NOLS expeditions are one of several space-analogue training environments that are meant to foster team-building and to practice “human behaviour and performance” skills – intangible, yet invaluable personal assets ranging from leadership/followership and decision making to self-awareness and...

CAVES Training Day 3

Editors note: Andreas sent us this update via email. "Ready Soichi? Ready Drew?" I yell out in the semi-darkness. Their helmet lights flicker in the cave, dimly indicating their positions twenty to thirty meters ahead of me. "Ready", they both yell back. "Alright, lights off please." The cave descends into a deep darkness that seems to suffocate me. Not even our instructor Francesco, standing besides me is visible. I activate the shutter on the camera and step away. Two seconds later, a soft click indicates that the tripod-mounted camera has opened the shutter and I yell, "Flash, please." For the next thirty seconds lightning flashes through the cave as Soichi, Drew, and I attempt...