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.
Late in Hadfield’s final mission to space this May, when the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut was commanding the International Space Station Expedition 35 crew, an ammonia leak happened and NASA had to scramble a plan for a spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), to fix it. (The fix succeeded.) When Hadfield was apprised of the plan, he says in an excerpt from his forthcoming book, he was disappointed:
I wasn’t going out. I had a moment where I allowed myself to experience the full force of my disappointment. This would have been the heroic climax of my stint as commander: helping to save the ISS by doing an emergency spacewalk. I’d never have another chance to do an EVA—I’d already informed the CSA that I planned to retire shortly after returning to Earth.
But Chris [Cassidy] and Tom [Marshburn] had both done three previous EVAs, two of them together, on the same part of the station where ammonia was now leaking. They were the obvious people for the job. All this went through my head and heart for a minute or two, then I made a resolution: I was not going to hint that I’d had this pang of envy, or say, even once, that I wished I was doing the EVA. The right call had been made, and I needed to accept it and move on so that we could all focus on the main thing—the only thing, really: working the problem.
We humans have certain tendencies toward the eternal. We like to leave our mark by somehow saying “I was here!” or send messages to the future about what we’ve accomplished. We’re also intrigued by things like the Voyager record, the Pioneer plaque, and we all love those “send your name on a spacecraft” opportunities NASA has.
This recent image, above, posted by astronaut Luca Parmitano on Twitter of a message written on a new piece for the International Space Station’s Canadarm 2 is an example of leaving a little message to the future (albeit, one that the majority of us might never get to see) and it prompted me to wonder if there are more “secret messages” like that on the ISS — messages of remembrance or good wishes from the people who built, designed or installed various components, or messages passed down from one crew to the next.
NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, who returned from a 5-month stint on the ISS in May of 2013, said there are plenty of memorable messages, signatures and objects left by the station’s builders or previous crews.
“We did a lot of maintenance during our flight and rotated out a lot of the experiment racks and we saw many signatures on the internal hull or on the inside parts of the racks,” Marshburn told Universe Today via phone from Johnson Space Center. “Things like ‘Greetings from the Water Recovery team!’ with everyone’s signature. That’s fairly prevalent on the inside, particularly behind the racks, but not in plain view.”
But he’s never seen anything on the external parts of the space station before.
“I have heard that engineers who have built different components and even external structures, like to sign their names to internal pieces that no one can actually see, but the engineers know their name is up in space,” he said. “I’ve done three spacewalks, and I’ve never seen anything like that on the outside — like in the picture from Luca Parmitano — so that’s a rarity to see something like that.”
There are some signatures plainly visible on the interior, however: signed mission stickers from all the visiting Space Shuttle crews and the Expedition crews adorn the walls in certain parts of the ISS.
But how about other messages that crews leave for future inhabitants?
Marshburn said there are several “helpful” notes that are left by former crew members to assist or instruct future crews — important ‘lessons learned’ or little reminders.
“One of the favorite messages left by a former resident of the station is near the resistive exercise machine,” Marshburn said. “This machine allows you to lift the equivalent of 600 pounds, so there is a lot of stored energy there and you have to be careful with it, making sure you follow procedures carefully. There is a placard there that someone just wrote with a Sharpie: ‘Nothing is as important as what you are doing right now.’ That has become a mantra for a lot of people on the ISS, and we quoted quite often. I really like that one.”
There’s also a nice ‘aide-mémoire’ in the space station bathroom.
“Everyone has to urinate into a funnel that goes into a hose,” Marshburn explained. “We are pretty good about cleaning ourselves up in the bathroom, but some crewmembers have not been so good about cleaning up the equipment because written in Sharpie on the wall in the bathroom is, ‘Blessed are those who wipe the funnel.’ That’s just a good little reminder.”
In addition to messages, there are objects left by previous crews that end up as talismans or things that are used over and over.
“There is a four-inch version of Gort, the robot figure from the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” stuck on the wall where we gather in the Destiny Lab for our daily planning conferences,” Marshburn said. “He sometimes gets unstuck and floats around the ISS, so whenever we find him wandering around, we stick him back up on the wall. He’s kind of ubiquitous.”
There’s also a little toy astronaut figure that ends up floating around and showing up in different places.
“We don’t know who brought them up, but they have been retained and remain as mascots for the crews,” Marshburn said.
The toy left on the ISS that Marshburn enjoyed the most was a ping pong ball.
“That is a wonderful toy,” he said. “While you are eating, you can bounce it off the wall and figure out the best angles to have it come right back to you. Or you can spin it around a hatch and the centripetal force will just keep it spinning around and around.”
Also on board are musical instruments — an electric piano, guitar and ukulele – that get a lot of use. Additionally, previous astronauts have left reading material, so by now there is a shoebox-sized library of books to read.
“After working on computers most of the day, it’s nice to grab a real book and read during your off time,” Marshburn said.
Since Marshburn and his crewmates — Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko — launched to the space station on December 19, 2012, they really enjoyed the bag-full of holiday ornaments that are on board. “There’s a 2-foot Christmas tree, stockings, and an elf hat,” he said, “which was nice because it was a tiny piece of home, a little bit of Christmas.”
There’s also Mardi Gras hats, Happy Birthday signs, and flags of each country associated with the International Space Station.
So, any other secret “just between astronauts” messages up on the space station?
“There aren’t any that I saw or even know about that I couldn’t share with you!” Marshburn said with a laugh. “But I don’t know how much mission control even knows about some of these things.”
Astronauts have tried to explain the view of Earth from space, with many saying that there just aren’t the words to describe how beautiful it is. In the latest episode of the “Science Garage,” recent ISS astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Hadfield might do the best job so far of relating not only the “incredible and unwrapping perspective of looking at the Earth,” but how it changed their perspective of humanity. Hadfield compares coming into the cupola of the International Space Station as being like “entering the Sistine Chapel.”
What do you get when you combine Mike Massimino, Don Pettit, Chris Hadfield, Tom Marshburn and some bean bag chairs? Space geek heaven, perhaps? Here’s the premier edition of a new series, and it features a great discussion about what it is like to fly in the cramped Soyuz after living in the expanse of the International Space Station for five months.
This looks like a great new series, as any day you can get Don Pettit talking science is a good day! Look for more in this series that will showcases human spaceflight and science aboard the International Space Station.
Coming home to clear blue skies, green grass and warm weather, the Expedition 35 crew of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, NASA’s Tom Marshburn and Russia’s Roman Romanenko has returned after spending just over five months on the International Space Station. “It’s beautiful!” one of the crew radioed in Russian just before landing. “It’s morning here.”
The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft landed right on target on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 10:31 pm EDT on May 13 (02:31 UTC and 8:31 am local time, May 14, 2013.) The crew undocked from the ISS on Monday.
Keeping with his Expedition-long constant updates via Twitter (updated by his son Evan during the return flight and landing) Hadfield’s location changed appropriately to “In a Soyuz” to “In a field in Kazahkstan.”
A few hours later, Hadfield tweeted, “Safely home – back on Earth, happily readapting to the heavy pull of gravity. Wonderful to smell and feel Spring.”
The crew smiled and gave thumbs up after being extracted from the Soyuz craft, which appeared to land upright and then tipped on its side. Hadfield and Marshburn will soon head back to Johnson Space Center in Houston, with Romanenko going to Star City, Russia.
The Expedition 35 crew has now wrapped up 146 days in space, 144 days on the ISS. While on board they completed 2,336 orbits around the planet and clocked almost 100 million kilometers (62 million miles) In total, Marshburn has spent 162 days in space, 166 days for Hadfield, and 334 days for Romanenko.
This video shows the crews saying goodbye; then later the undocking, followed by the landing and crew extraction:
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
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.”