International Crew Launches to Space Station

The Soyuz TMA-07M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 carrying the Expedition 34 crew to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

Heading off just as the Sun was setting amid frigid conditions at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a trio of international explorers launched to space, on their way to the International Space Station. Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, Tom Marshburn of NASA, Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) launched Wednesday at 12:12 UTC (7:12 a.m. EST, 6:12 p.m. Baikonur time). Their Soyuz TMA-07M performed flawlessly, and the crew is expected to dock with the Rassvet module on the Russian segment of the space station at 14:12 UTC (9:12 a.m. EST) on Friday, Dec. 21.

See the launch video below:

Temperatures were below freezing, with a windchill reported of -34 C at launch time. But as Hadfield told Universe Today, the Soyuz rocket is just as robust and one of the most reliable rockets ever. “The Soyuz launches all-weather, -40 degrees to +40 degrees,” Hadfield said. “It is rugged, built on experience, and it is not delicate. I trust it with my life.”

Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko will join their Expedition 34 crewmates already on board the ISS — Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin — to bring the crew back to the standard size of six.

Two minutes into flight, the Soyuz rocket’s four liquid-fueled first stage boosters were jettisoned. Via NASA TV.

Hadfield will make history on March 15, 2013 as he will become the first Canadian astronaut to take command of the ISS.

The focus of Expedition 34/35 is scientific research, with the astronauts serving as subjects for human physiology tests, including examinations of astronaut bone loss.

While not officially decided yet, Hadfield indicated a spacewalk may be in order for him and one of his ISS crewmates to perform some needed maintenance outside the space station.

Expedition 34 NASA Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), top, NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko wave farewell from the bottom of the Soyuz rocket. Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

During their stay, the crew will be busy welcoming both a Russian Progress and ESA’s ATV cargo ships, as well as two commercial resupply missions from SpaceX and the first flight of Orbital Science’s Cygnus spacecraft.

The crew also will also be conducting a wide range of physical science, Earth observation, human research and technology demonstration investigations. Experiments will investigate how fire behaves in space, which could help improve engine fuel efficiency and fire suppression methods in space and on Earth. Other research will look at fluids that change physical properties in the presence of a magnet, which could improve bridge and building designs to better withstand earthquakes. With the help of cameras set up by the crew, students on Earth are capturing photos of our planet.

For a look at the training done by Chris Hadfield in preparation for his flight, see our series “How to Train for Long Duration Space Flight.”

“One last kiss before I go – love under glass with my wife. It’s launch morning, I slept well, feel great,” Hadfield Tweeted this morning before launch.

How To Train for a Mission to the ISS: The Soyuz

Expedition 34/35: Canadian Space Agency Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield, Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA. The crew launches on Dec. 19, 2012 at 12:12 UTC (7:12 a.m. EST). For the second half of the mission, Hadfield will become the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has been sharing with us how much there is to learn and the training necessary for living on the International Space Station for five months. But astronauts and cosmonauts also have to learn how to fly on the Russian Soyuz, too, as right now, there’s no other ride to the space station.

“Soyuz is a wonderful spaceship,” Hadfield told Universe Today. “It has been refined and honed and perfected for decades, as if they took an early sculpture of something and have continuously whittled away at it to make it more and more purpose-built and improved.”

A view of Hadfield inside the Soyuz simulator. Credit: NASA

The most modern version, the TMA-M, is as good as they’ve ever made it, Hadfield said, with great modifications and improvements in avionics, sensors, computing power.

“So, it is a very capable, well-designed vehicle; a tough vehicle,” he said. “That is heartening and reassuring. It has the full ability to do almost everything on its own, but also full ability for us to take over and do almost everything manually if we need to.”

“There is an unbelievable thrill in getting into your own spaceship. This is the same hatch we’ll use on the launch pad,” Hadfield said via Twitter.

It is so robust that with just a stopwatch, the crews can bring it safely back to Earth and land within a 10-km circle of where they want to touch down.

All the training is in Russian. “Russian digital motion control theory is complex,” Hadfield said. “It took a full year of intensive one-on-one study to become ready to start flying the Soyuz.” This video shows Hadfield working in the simulator:

Hadfield said that not only does he have great respect for the Soyuz, but for the training provided by the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.

“They simulate it well, and they load us up to our limit of what they teach us,” he said, “getting into the very esoteric and complex things that can happen.”

For example, in full-up simulations where the crew are in the pressure suits, the trainers will do things like fill the cockpit with smoke as if there was a fire on board, so the “dashboard” can’t be seen, and the crew needs to know how to keep flying.

“Centrifuges make you dizzy while they accelerate & decelerate, & REALLY mess you up when you move your head. Otherwise OK,” Hadfield Tweeted.

In this video, Hadfield explains the Soyuz centrifuge, the largest human-rated centrifuge in the world, that puts the astronauts and cosmonauts in the same environment – G-force-wise – that they will be in during the harrowing descent when they return home, plummeting through Earth’s atmosphere and experience 4-8 times the force of Earth’s gravity.

“You need to be able to understand how that feels on your body and whether you are going to be able to work in that environment,” Hadfield said.

“Hatch to Another World – what it looks like to climb into a Soyuz spaceship. We then crawl down into our seats,” Hadfield said, via Twitter.

The Soyuz rocket is just as robust and one of the most reliable rockets ever. “The Soyuz launches all-weather, -40 degrees to +40 degrees,” Hadfield said. “It is rugged, built on experience, it is not delicate. I trust it with my life.”

“It takes these 32 engines to get these 3 humans safely above the air. And that’s just the start,” Hadfield said via Twitter.

“My Soyuz Checklists – from L to R: Launch/Entry, Malfunctions, Orbital Flight. Colour-coded for easy spaceflight,” said Hadfield via Twitter.

Hadfield talks about the Russian technology for the rocket and spaceship he will be flying in:

Hadfield’s son and daughter-in-law gave him a Soyuz-like pre-flight Christmas present:

“My first Soyuz simulator! Summer 1964, nearly 5 years old. Never too early to start training,” Hadfield shared on Twitter.

Previous articles in this series:
How to Train for Long Duration Space Flight with Chris Hadfield
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Medical Mayhem
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Eating in Space

Russia’s Soyuz Spacecraft: 46 Years and Still Soaring High

In just a couple of days a Soyuz rocket will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko within the TMA-07M capsule on a two-day trip to the ISS. While many improvements have been made to the Soyuz rockets and spacecraft since the first launch in 1966, the bottom line is that the Soyuz have become the world’s most used launch vehicles due to their consistent performance and relatively low cost.

Here, CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield talks about the Soyuz, briefly describing the strengths of the Russian technology that will once again take him and fellow Expedition 34/35 crew members to the ISS, where in March of next year he will become the first Canadian to take command of the Station.

“This is a safe and reliable and proven way to leave the Earth, and each successive Soyuz is different; each one has small changes. The role of the astronaut is to learn those small changes… and learn to apply them.”

– Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

The T version of the Soyuz craft began flying manned missions in 1980 and in 1986 the TM versions were transporting crews to Mir. The TMA upgrade addressed previous astronaut/cosmonaut height restrictions and permits the Soyuz to be used as a lifeboat for ISS crews, if necessary.

Find out more about the long history of the Soyuz spacecraft here, and read more about today’s Soyuz rollout here.

Video: CSA. Inset image: NASA/Carla Cioffi

How To Train for a Mission to the ISS: Eating in Space

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (right)and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn participate in a food tasting session in the Habitability and Environmental Factors Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

Food is important for everyone, for reasons beyond dietary and health issues, as sometimes just the right meal can make (or break) your day. That’s just one of the reasons why the space agencies involved with the International Space Station put a lot of work into creating a variety of foods for the astronauts and cosmonauts that are on long duration missions in space. And variety is key.

“On Earth, we take for granted that if nothing in your fridge appeals to you, you just go out,” Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield told Universe Today. “But on a long-duration mission in space, you can’t just order a pizza or go out for a burger or Baskin Robbins.”

“Space Vegetables, before and after. Tastes better than it looks,” Hadfield Tweeted.

The primary food on the ISS is supplied by NASA and the Russian Space Agency. Each of the other space agencies provide supplemental food, or special items, too.

“Space food is fine, pretty tasty, and of good variety,” Hadfield said. “It’s limited to food that has a long shelf life, with no refrigeration and no microwave, so it’s a lot like camping food or Army rations. The majority of it is dehydrated, so we add cold or hot water to it, like Ramen noodles or instant soup or powdered drinks. But we have a mixture of Russian and American foods, plus specialty items from Canada, Europe and Japan, so we eat really well.”

“Astronaut Diet – on 4-day prescribed meals of low sodium to test how my body reacts. This is lunch,” said Hadfield.

Crews eat three meals a day, with two snacks.

Hadfield explained the way it normally works is that NASA and Roscosmos each have a menu of hundreds of potential food items.

“So, some days when it is lunch time, our dieticians and food preparation kitchen have us over for a food tasting, and we try a mouthful of about thirty different things for lunch one day,” Hadfield said. “We rank them from 1 to 9, with 9 being ‘I could eat this for every meal for the rest of my life,’ and 0 being ‘this makes me gag.’ We do that in Houston for all the NASA food and in Russia for all the Russian food, and limited tastings for all the food that comes from the other partners.”

Space-grilled chicken. Via Chris Hadfield.

From there, the astronauts put together a list of the food they would like to have in orbit, in addition to the ‘generic’ or staple foods that are always on board. “The food that all the astronauts on average have rated the highest, they try to keep in stock on the ISS,” Hadfield said. “We also have bonus containers that are personal, where you have food that you ranked as ‘9,’ or you can bring in supplemental food from your country – in my case, Canada– so I can enjoy it and also share it with the other crew on special occasions or holidays that you’ll be on orbit for.”

Hadfield launches this week, on Dec. 19, and so will be on orbit for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

During Hadfield’s Expedition 34/35, the Canadian specialty food includes candied wild smoked salmon, smoked salmon pate, cranberry buffalo stix, cereal, dried apple chunks, fruit bars, green tea cookies with orange zest, maple syrup cookies, organic chocolate, honey drops, chocolate bars and maple syrup.

SeaChange Candied Wild Smoked Salmon that will heading to the ISS.

Some of this food was chosen as part of a contest held by the Canadian Space Agency, Canadian Snacks for Space.

The first shipment of the Canadian treats were delivered to the ISS on board the SpaceX Dragon capsule that brought supplies to the space station in October. The second shipment should be sent on an automated resupply spacecraft in February 2012.

Hadfield said the addition of Japanese and Italian modules on the ISS has also resulted in tasty international food being part of the regular ISS rations.

“Italian space food – scallopine, lasagne and freeze-dried pea and carrot blocks. Their tiramisu is delicious!” said Hadfield via Twitter.

Hadfield said the dieticians are interested in the balance of salt content, protein and carbohydrates as they want to keep the astronauts healthy, and to have them maintain their weight. But they also need to have food that is appealing. A well-known problem is that astronaut’s taste buds seems to go flat while in space, so spicy food is appreciated even though it might not be a favorite on the ground.

“The food is important, but sometimes things can happen,” said Hadfield, “like one of the resupply ships get delayed and your favorite food isn’t there, and you have to eat the leftovers of the previous crews, or eat a future crew’s food. So it never goes perfectly. So, part of being an astronaut is not being too picky!

Hadfield said they are provided a wide variety of lots of different food, and you can see Hadfield’s potential menu here.
But, like on Earth, mealtime is vital for other reasons, too.

“The food is important, but we also use dinner as a good time to get together and talk, relax, and be human,” Hadfield said.

“Crew at Breakfast – with our new Expedition shirts shining. Roman (left) is going to be a hoot to fly with,” Hadfield Tweeted.

As for what Hadfield’s last Earthly meal will be before he launches on Wednesday morning, it won’t be anything big or fancy.

“Imagine what it is going to be like to be in a small, cramped spaceship for two days,” he said. “My last meal will be beef broth.”

Note what Hadfield has in front of him in the image above, which he shared this morning via Twitter and Facebook.

Previous articles in this series:
How to Train for Long Duration Space Flight with Chris Hadfield
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Medical Mayhem

How To Train for a Mission to the ISS: Medical Mayhem

Astronaut Chris Hadfield with biomedical equipment attached to his forehead. Credit: Chris Hadfield.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is scheduled to launch on Decemer 19 with crewmates Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko on a Soyuz rocket, heading for a long-duration 5-month mission on board the International Space Station. We’re taking a look back at his 2-plus years of training for this mission, which Hadfield shared via Twitter and Facebook, letting the public get an inside look at what it takes to prepare for a long-duration spaceflight.

The movie “The Right Stuff” depicted the grueling array of medical tests the early astronauts had to undergo in order to determine if they had… well, the right stuff to go into space. Now, more than 50 years later, with scientists and the medical community knowing quite a bit more about how the human body reacts to micro-gravity, the pre-flight medical procedures aren’t quite as intrusive. But astronaut Chris Hadfield says it is still part of being an astronaut.

“They do a nice job of telling how hard it is going to be, how invasive,” he said in an interview with Universe Today, “but none of that matters when it’s time to go to bed at night, when you’ve got six different probes stuck in you or a loud machine next to you, and you know you you’re not going to get a good night’s sleep.”

“Whether you are flying a spaceship or a T-38, it is good to be prepared,” Hadfield said, along with posting this image via Twitter.

Another part of medical training is having a forced special diet where “you have to document everything you eat, evaluating what happens at the other end,” Hadfield explained, “and they try to be as good and non-invasive as they can, but by its very nature it is invasive, and that’s the way it is.”

Hadfield said he knew about this going into the job. “It is absolutely part of the business so it is OK,” he said.

Hadfield participating in the VC Reflex test, an experiment for orthostatic hypotension, or dizzyness from low blood pressure, one of the most common physical complications of spaceflight. “Space Science: applying electricity behind the ears affects balance and thus blood pressure regulation,” Hadfield said.

Not only are there pre-flight medical tests and procedures, but all space station crew members undergo continual medical tests and evaluations during their time in orbit, becoming test subjects for various experiments as well as keeping tabs on their health while in space.

“We do regular urine, saliva collection and blood draws. We have to be able to take blood from each other or yourself. If you’ve never taken blood from yourself…” Hadfield said, letting the sentence trail off. Fun? Not so much.

“Astronaut physical for Space Station today – 18 tubes and a squeeze ball”

Thankfully, the astronauts don’t always have to poke themselves. “We have volunteers come in all the time and let me stick them with a needle so I can get good at drawing blood,” Hadfield said, “and we do a lot of ultrasounds – carotid artery and cardiac ultrasounds. We need to identify any changes that take place in the heart after extended zero-g. This is all very important for going beyond Earth orbit; we need to understand those changes.”

A day of medical training with dummies. “Somehow the sock makes it worse,” Hadfield said via Twitter.

Not only do the crew have to do medical tests on themselves, but they have to be prepared for any medical emergency, since there usually isn’t a dedicated medical doctor on the space station. However, Hadfield considers himself lucky: crewmate Marshburn is a medical doctor.

“There are various ways to get ill on board – some natural, like appendicitis, stroke, — or you could be in an accident.” Hadfield said, “Someone could bang their head coming around a corner, get pinched between equipment, get the bends coming in from a spacewalk, or be exposed to poisonous gas. Various things can happen.”

“We have full-911 capability on board,” Hadfield continued. “We can react, we can strap someone down, get them on oxygen, inject them with things to get their heart going again, or use defibrillators. We need to know how to intubate people and give them forced breathing. We need to know how to react.”

Medical training includes practicing emergency medical procedures such as stitches.

They have small pharmacy on board, and need to know a lot of procedures. “Of course we always have medical help on-call from the ground, but you could easily have to deal with a burn or something in an eye, so I’ve trained working in an emergency room at a hospital in Houston,” Hadfield said, doing things from making a quick diagnosis to inserting catheters or IVs, or sewing stitches on wounds “ so I can get comfortable doing those things to the human body.”

Astronauts on the ISS practicing CPR: “How do you give CPR without gravity to hold you down? Like this!,” Tweeted Hadfield.

This video shows some of the emergency medical training the crew receives:

Next: Astronaut Food

Additional articles in this series:
How to Train for Long Duration Space Flight with Chris Hadfield
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Medical Mayhem
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Eating in Space
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: The Soyuz

How to Train for Long-Duration Spaceflight, with Chris Hadfield

Astronaut Chris Hadfield getting dressed for work – “with a little help from my friends,” he said.

On December 19, 2012, a trio of Expedition 34 crewmembers are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and head towards their home in space for six months, the International Space Station. Among the crew is Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who for over two years has been training for this flight. During that time, Hadfield has been sharing his training experiences through Twitter and Facebook, letting the public get an inside look at what it takes to prepare for a long-duration spaceflight. Some of this training – much of it, in fact – is not pretty or glamorous or easy. But it will get you to one of the most unique destinations that humans have ever gone.

With Hadfield’s help, we’re going to share some of his training experiences and insights from the past two years as we wait for his launch in ten days. Hadfield is now in quarantine in Kazakhstan, making final preparations for his flight with crewmates Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko.

“Enemas and Barf Bags – the less glamorous side of spaceflight 🙂 From today’s medical briefings in quarantine,” Tweeted Hadfield on December 9, 2012.

“When you first become an astronaut,” Hadfield said earlier this year from his office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, “your training is like a big pyramid. Initially, it is like the bottom of the pyramid and is very broad-brush, where you cover a lot of topics but don’t get into super-detail. Then you start getting more and more detail on specific things like systems, specialties, and robotics, and then start getting deeper and deeper into each of them.”

“But then, when you get assigned to a flight, you review all those things and then start focusing on things that a pertinent to your increment, and when you get closer to the flight you start putting everything together and do simulations where you have to know the things that you really need to know,” Hadfield explained, adding that this is similar to studying at any university, and then going out into the real world….except that the stakes are much higher in space, and your life can depend on your training.

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 34 Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency conducts a “fit check” dress rehearsal inside the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft Dec. 7, 2012. Credit: NASA

“The training starts with a lot of theory and classroom and powerpoint and exams through simulations and practical things,” Hadfield said. For example, the morning we talked with him, he had spent an hour learning how to repair the water processing and urine purification systems on the ISS, then went on to inventory management of food, learning how to keep track and store the food. The next day, he was have a “day in the life” simulation where he and Marshburn would spend a day as if they were on the ISS, practicing everything from their daily planning conference and getting their the daily uplink messages, to sampling the indoor atmosphere, fixing broken equipment, and doing inventory.

“We’re going from theoretical to practical,” Hadfield said.

“I’m studying for my final 7 exams to qualify for spaceflight,” said Hadfield on November 5, 2012.”

On top of the general training is the specific training for the science and various payloads that will be part of their expedition. That training is often very specific.

“With some we have to get quite hands on, like doing a cardio ultrasound where we the technician, and others where we just have to monitor the power systems,” Hadfield said. “It all blends together and as you get closer to the top of the pyramid, it gets very focused on what you need to know.”

“The Final Sim – the biggie, 8 hours in the Soyuz where they throw everything at us. We’re ready!” said Hadfield on November 27, 2012.

Hadfield is a veteran of two previous space flights on the space shuttle but this will be his first long-duration flight on the ISS.

“Both times I thought, wow, I wish I could stay,” Hadfield said. “To leave earth for awhile, change your zip code for awhile and really leave Earth; I was jealous of that experience. Now after a lot of lucky coincidences and a lot of hard work I get to be one of those who stays for an extended period off the planet. I’m really looking forward to it.”

“4 Flags over Kazakhstan – I was proud to raise the Maple Leaf, now flying above our Quarantine here in Baikonur,” Tweeted Hadfield on December 10, 2012.

And there’s a bit of Canadian pride that goes along with this. Hadfield was the first Canadian to operate the robotic Canadarm in space in 1995 and on his second flight in 2001 Hadfield made the first Canadian spacewalk as he attached Canadarm2 to the International Space Station.

And now, in another first for a Canadian, Hadfield will take command of the ISS for the second half of his mission, lead a crew of two Americans and three Russians during the final three months.

“Russian crew poster. Happy to be cast as Tommy Lee Jones,” said Hadfield on November 29, 2012.

“Astronaut Glamour Shot – white underwear, black socks, Snoopy helmet & leather slippers. The ensemble screams ‘cool'” Tweeted Hadfield on October 31, 2012.

Video: Chris Hadfield Suits-up and Signs-off on his final Soyuz Qualification exam

Video: School is never out for an astronaut – Chris Hadfield in Star City, Russia. Translation: “We are walking to work—to school—at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia.”

Additional articles in this series:
How to Train for Long Duration Space Flight with Chris Hadfield
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Medical Mayhem
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: Eating in Space
How to Train for a Mission to the ISS: The Soyuz

Progress Vehicle, Shooting Star, Or…?


International Space Station Commander Mike Fossum captured this amazing view of the Progress M-10M cargo ship burning up in Earth’s atmosphere after it undocked from the space station on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. Via Twitter, astronaut Chris Hadfield — who is scheduled to command the ISS next year — said he received an email from Fossum about the picture, reminding him of a previous description Hadfield had given of what exactly is inside these departing cargo ships. It’s a video we’ve shared before, but it’s worth watching again.

Of course, the big news here is that the Progress M-10M was able to undock because of the successful launch of the Progress 45 vehicle last Friday, setting the stage for allowing the Soyuz crew ships to start flying again, lessening the probability that the ISS will have to go unmanned. Stay tuned for updates on the launch of the station’s next three residents, which is scheduled for Nov. 13, 2011.

Oh Canada! Hadfield Named First Canadian Commander of ISS

Congratulations to one of our favorite astronauts, Chris Hadfield from Canada. Today NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced Hadfield will be heading to the International Space Station in 2012, serving as Flight Engineer for Expedition 34, and then transitioning to Commander midway through his 6-month stay when Expedition 35 begins. Hadfield will be the first Canadian to serve as Commander for the ISS. His ebullient style and passion for space exploration — evident in the video above from today’s announcement (Hadfield speaks in both French and English, so don’t worry if you’re not fluent in one or the other) should make for a lively and enlightening time on the ISS.

“This honor is beyond words,” Hadfield said at today’s announcement. “To have this opportunity is extremely challenging, extremely exciting and extremely rewarding. It still is two years away, I still have to pass two more of the toughest physicals on Earth before they’ll let me get in that Soyuz and dock with the space station… To be trusted … with the entire station on behalf of all the world’s space faring nations, but specifically Canada is a tremendous honor that we all can share.”

While there have been several great ambassadors for the wonders of space exploration who have served on board the ISS, Hadfield is one astronaut who can truly share what the experience of spaceflight is really like. See our interview with Hadfield where he describes what it is like to go on a spacewalk. (Or you can listen to the interview on the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast here.) He also has a great description of how to go the bathroom in space.


Above is Hadfield’s mission patch, in the shape of a guitar pick, which is symbolic of Hadfield’s musical interests with an emphasis on science and art, a distinguishing feature of Expedition 34/35, says Robert Pearlman from collectSPACE.

Joining Hadfield will be US astronaut Tom Marshburn, and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko will also serve as flight engineers for the Expedition 34 mission. Astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin were previously announced as the other crew members for Expedition 34, which begins when Soyuz 31 undocks from the station in October 2012.

Expedition 35 will begin with the undocking of Soyuz 32 in March 2013. At that time, Hadfield will serve as station commander, with Marshburn and Romanenko continuing as flight engineers. The three additional crew members for Expedition 35 have yet to be assigned.

Hadfield and Marshburn have already completed an expedition together on the NEEMO (NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations) underwater habitat, so they should make a great team in space. You can read Universe Today’s interview with them during their mission under the sea.

Sources: NASA, SpaceRef, CSA

Finding NEEMO Helps NASA Prepare for the Future


Talking with the astronauts living in the NEEMO habitat – NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations – is a bit like talking with Darth Vader; there’s a regular hiss of air intake and outflow in the background. But the ever-present pastel blue hue in the webcam feed lets you know these astronauts aren’t in space. They are living and working in an underwater habitat, 20 meters (70 feet) under the ocean, just off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. What are NASA astronauts doing under the sea?

“This is the closest thing to spaceflight I’ve ever had in all my NASA training,” astronaut Tom Marshburn told Universe Today in the midst of his 14-day stay in NEEMO. “It is very real. Our lives are completely dependent on our habitat, we have to follow checklists and procedures to be safe, we have to watch out for each other, we’re in a tight confined space and doing real work that will help future space missions. So, in all ways it is much like spaceflight, including having a great view out the window.”

Except in space, there wouldn’t be a giant grouper peering through the portal.

The habitat, called Aquarius, is the world’s only undersea laboratory. Mainly it is used for marine research but NASA has found it has great utility for training crews to live in space. “It’s the closest thing to spaceflight without going to space,” Marshburn said. “We’re able to do operational research, work that is applicable to what we need to know about flying in space. We also do life sciences research and some marine research.”

Chris Hadfield, left and Tom Marshburn inside the galley of Aquarius. Credit: NASA

Joining Marshburn is Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is the commander for this undersea mission, as well as the Lunar Electric Rover Deputy Project Manager Andrew Abercromby and Steve Chappell, a research scientist, along with two technicians.

Aquarius itself is a long cylinder, “like a couple of Winnebagos set end to end,” Marshburn said, with a box-like entry at one end called the Wet Porch.

Simulating walking up a ladder in a low-gravity envirnoment. Except, no fish on the Moon. Credit: NASA

“When we dive into the Wet Porch, there is no hatch. The air pressure keeps the water out. There is cool pneumatic sliding door like something out of Star Trek, and you just walk on in. There’s a galley where we eat backpacking type food, we sleep in a bunk room. There’s six of us in a room about the size of a closet. You get to know your crewmates really well.”

The main working area of Aquarius is filled with valves, dials and lit panels. “It’s a lot like a spaceship,” Marshburn said.

Marshburn and Hadfield are members of the 14th NEEMO crew. The tasks and objectives for their mission, besides giving them training for a long-duration space mission is to do operational research on spacesuits for different gravity and environment requirements (on an asteroid, Mars or on the Moon).

“As you may know, astronauts train underwater in spacesuits, so this is a great place to work on spacesuit design,” said Marshburn, “specifically finding where the center of gravity is and what mobility issues there might be. Instead of just diving in the pool, it turns out we can get a lot more done by being down here and going out with the equipment on the sea floor, and be able to spend hours working on spacesuit design.”

The NEEMO 14 crew is doing intense research on the center of gravity and how that affects the ability to perform standard tasks, and helping spacesuit designers increase range of motion and maintain the comfort level for the astronauts on different planetary surfaces.

An underwater test set up to simulate rescuing an injured crew member. Credit: NASA

“If we want to explore an asteroid, how do you move around without handholds or something to grab on to?” said Hadfield in a press conference from Aquarius. “Where should the center of mass be for mundane tasks like picking things up or shoveling, or for complex tasks like rescuing a injured crew member? We’re finding that sometimes the center of gravity that is completely wrong on Earth — that would give you a backache in a matter of minutes — works better in a different gravity environment. And that’s what we are trying to figure out. If what we’re finding out is a surprise, that means our simulation is really doing its job.”

The suits can be weighted out to simulate different gravity. The crews do “EVAs” — like spacewalks, going outside every morning and afternoon.

On the ocean floor are also mockups of a lunar rover and lander. Tests for these include hatch design, and ingress and egress simulations. The crew is also doing life sciences experiments, themselves being the subjects. “We’re in a hyper-oxygen environment,” said Marshburn, “that plus living in a confined environment is a lot like living in space and it puts our bodies under stress, so that is being studied, as well as psychological studies. We’re trying to maximize our time down here, so we’re also doing marine geology research.” They also do regular maintenance of the exterior of the habitat.

Marshburn said future designs for spacesuits, rovers, and landers will be based, in part, on what is learned from the NEEMO missions.

Mockups of future Mars or Moon habitats. Credit: NASA

This past week the crew has been in a Mars communication simulation, where there is a 20 minute delay each way for messages – both written and spoken — back and forth from “ground control” on the Earth’s surface. “That has really changed things,” Hadfield said, “it increases our level of isolation. It’s just the six of us with each other with only peripheral help. It forces us to make our own decisions.”

However, the crew has been Twittering during the mission is real-time, an activity Hadfield said he was initially suspicious of. “Twittering was foreign to me, and I only knew it would increase the crew’s work load.”

But what does he think about it now?

“I am delighted with what it has done,” Hadfield said, “not only with our ability to interact with the world, but it forces us to express what we are thinking about. This experience, and the experience of spaceflight is so remarkable that you really shouldn’t horde something that is important to you, or something remarkable that happens. So thousands of people now are following what we are doing down here. This new technology to spread the human experience has allowed us to better articulate to each other, too.”

Hadfield said he is a big proponent of Twitter now, as schools and other organizations have been able to be part of the NEEMO 14 mission.

The mission started on May 10, and the crew will “depressurize” over the weekend to prepare for returning to the surface early next week. It takes at least 16 hours to get the excess oxygen out of their blood. If there would be an emergency, there are backup plans for getting the crew out and keeping them underwater and depressurizing.

Hadfield will be taking a turn on a future long duration space station mission and Marshburn said he is in line for tour of duty on the ISS as well.

“This is best spaceflight simulation I’ve ever had,” he said. “NASA likes to keep their astronauts trained, and believe me, this is worth it. It is very cool.”

More info on NEEMO.

Webcams from Aquarius.

Follow NASA_NEEMO on Twitter

See more images from NEEMO 14 on NASA’s Flickr page.

Spacewalking: Through an Astronaut’s Eyes


What is it really like to go on a spacewalk? Some astronauts have said there are no words to describe the experience, but we talked with astronaut Chris Hadfield – the same guy who gave the best description ever of going to the bathroom in space – and asked him to convey his thoughts about his EVA experiences. Hadfield has done it again, and has now given the best description ever of a spacewalk.

UT: Chris, you were part of the STS-100 space shuttle crew that flew to the ISS 2001, and you had the opportunity to do a couple of spacewalks to help in the construction of the station. I once heard you describe one of your spacewalks where you said you were holding on to the side of the space station with one hand with your face into the wind as it were, and you were looking out at the rest of the entire Universe. For all of us that wish we could experience it, what is it really like to do a spacewalk?

Chris Hadfield during an EVA in 2001. Also in the image is the Canadarm2 robotic arm on the ISS. Credit: NASA

Chris Hadfield: Gosh, I’m not sure how to describe it. I was there for the birth of all three of my children. I did the first F-18 intercept of a Bear bomber off the coast of Canada. I represented Canada in a bunch of different levels, including as a fighter pilot. I was a test pilot doing all sorts of very fascinating, challenging, brand new work. I went to Mir, I went to the ISS. But nothing compares to going outside for a spacewalk. Nothing compares to being alone in the Universe; to that moment of opening the hatch and pulling yourself outside into the Universe.

Sometimes you’re driving on a mountain road, it’s slippery and you’re doing a bunch of curves and you don’t really see anything because you have a cliff falling away on one side and another cliff up on the other. But suddenly you come around a corner and you say, “Oh wow!” And there you’ve got the whole valley in front of you, or they make one of those nice pullovers where you can stop and look out, and you do, and you stop and you get out of your car and walk over to the edge and you see where you are, where all those little myopic turns have taken you.

A spacewalk is very much like that in that the opening of the hatch is probably step 750 of the day. And steps 1 through 749 were all boring and minuscule and each one was on a checklist and you had to do every one right, so you were very painstaking. But suddenly you do this one step, and suddenly you are in a place that you hadn’t conceived how beautiful this could be. How stupefying this could be. And by stupefying I mean, it stops your thought.

You’ve probably heard me say this before, but I knew I couldn’t keep notes up there and I would forget stuff so I sorta resolved to myself that I would verbalize and attempt to, as eloquently as I could, express what I was feeling and what I was seeing so that later I could listen to the recordings of it and remember, and not have missed such an amazing experience. And yet when I listen to the transcripts of what I said, most of it was just, “Wow!” It was so pathetic! But the experience was just overwhelming!

Chris Hadfield during an EVA in 2001. Credit: NASA

It is like coming around a corner and seeing the most magnificent sunset of your life, from one horizon to the other where it looks like the whole sky is on fire and there are all those colors, and the sun’s rays look like some great painting up over your head. You just want to open your eyes wide and try to look around at the image, and just try and soak it up. It’s like that all the time. Or maybe the most beautiful music just filling your soul. Or seeing an absolutely gorgeous person where you can’t just help but stare. It’s like that all the time.

So, it’s an extremely distracting place to work. But it also really puts yourself into perspective because this human creation is right next to you and its inherently, massively beautiful, like the prow of the Titanic or something, where you feel this great human achievement of building this great structure that takes us to a place we’ve never been. But then you notice that even though it is huge and capable, it’s just a speck between everything which is on your left and all the colors and textures of our planet that are just pouring next to you on the right. And you are this little peephole of a microcosm in between those two things, both physically and historically. And you’re very much aware of that the whole time. I’m sort of gushing, but that’s what a spacewalk feels like. It is infinitely worth all the thousands of steps it takes to get there. It’s a great, great thing – I recommend it very highly.

You can hear Chris Hadfield give his description of a spacewalk, as well as talk about NASA’s current situation and his views on the International Space Station on the March 11, 2010 edition of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

Hadfield on the flight deck of the Endeavour orbiter during the STS-100 mission. Credi: NASA