Author Archives: lucaparmitano

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...

Robotics

As an avid Science fiction reader, the word robotics used to remind me of two things: Isaac Asimov’s literary universe (with the famous 3 laws that he created), or the wonderfully conceived duo of C3PO and R2D2, made famous by Star Wars (contrary to a common belief, not all astronauts are fans of Star Trek…). However, that word assumed a whole new meaning to me shortly after starting training as an astronaut, 2 years ago. My first encounter with the world of robotics has a name: B.O.R.I.S. This robotic arm only exists in the virtual world of computer based training, and all astronauts train initially on this simplified version of a real...

Training in the Soyuz

Strapped in my cramped seat in the small cockpit next to my commander, I scan the instruments looking for trouble. There’s nothing obvious, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll have a failure, probably more than one. We only undocked a few minutes ago, and already we had to use a reserve procedure because the automatic undocking sequence never started. So, as we wait for the spacecraft to reorient itself in space, I check every parameter and mentally compare it with the numbers I have memorized, knowing that I’ll find something, hopefully before it’s too late. I hear the commander talking to Ground Control, because one of the infrared systems...