Monday, May 13, 2013

space and time

This is what my laptop screen has looked like lately:

    Like hundreds of thousands of people, I've been following International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield for months, as he has posted image after unbelievable image on Twitter: @Cmdr_Hadfield

    On Saturday, I watched NASA's realtime video stream of Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy making repairs outside the International Space Station.  The spacewalk lasted over five hours, through multiple day/night sequences.

    I found it absolutely riveting.

    And speaking of rivets, I may never again use my power drill to drive screws without picturing - if just for a moment - those giant white astronaut gloves using a similar tool for a similar task.

    I have reason to believe this will make my tasks seem much simpler.
    The livefeed from the NASA website is the center window on my screenshot above.  When it is not showing the interior of the spacecraft (or the sudden solid bluescreen which makes me go "Oh nooooo!" every time it appears) it is the view from the space station.  I have been following that view in tandem with the live map of the ISS location (upper left window on the screenshot).  

    It has been breathtakingly wonderful to watch (amazing!) Here from (magical!) There from (comfortable!) Here.  Last night I was watching, mesmerized, as the blue and white of sea and clouds moved smoothly past beneath the ISS.  Suddenly I recognized the Red Sea! and central Saudi Arabia! and the edge of the Persian Gulf!  Then the NASA screen went solid blue again...oh nooooo! 

    Yesterday there was a Change of Command ceremony, in which Commander Hadfield handed over the keys (I'm paraphrasing) to Commander Pavel Vinogradov.  As Commander Hadfield repeatedly gestured with both hands, each time leaving his wireless microphone floating in place, I had to wonder:

    how many things will he drop on his first days back on Earth?*

    Because today, Chris Hadfield is one of three ISS astronauts preparing for their return to Earth.  After 146 days in orbit, Hadfield, Marshburn, and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko will be boarding the Soyuz module and waving farewell to the crew on the ISS.  The return trip in the Soyuz, from departing the ISS to landing in Kazakhstan, is expected to take less than three and a half hours.

    Can you imagine?

    When was the last time ANY air travel took you only 3.5 hours?

    I expect to be staying close to my laptop til late tonight.  I don't know how much NASA will stream live, but my fingers are crossed.  There is nothing quite like this real-time visual stuff.  I won't say "riveting" again, but, well.
    (It is.)

    Anyone else following the International Space Station?
    *If he keeps tweeting from Earth, maybe I'll find out.