Departing Space Station Commander Provides Tour of Orbital Laboratory
DEPARTING SPACE STATION COMMANDER PROVIDES TOUR OF THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
NASA IMAGE: INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
This is probably the most recent and timely tour of the International Space Station available today.The International Space station was not the first "orbital space laboratory", that was probably "Sky Lab" launched May 14, 1973. But the International Space Station is a quite different milestone in space exploration history. Since it was first manned over 12 years ago, not a night has passed when a few human beings weren't off the planet. That is almost as important to the human exploration of space as the first manned moon landing demonstrating our ability to leave this planet, travel to another , safely land, explore and return to earth. The International Space Station is a demonstration of human ability to function effectively in space for very prolonged periods and keep space facilities located within reasonable travel distances continuously manned.
The Space Station isn't "Star Trek" there are no gravity mats. Weightlessness is obvious, at times apparently fun, but in the long term problematic. Creature comforts are quite Spartan. This is life in the belly of a machine. For AAB staffers who have spent considerable time on Drill Ships and Mobile Offshore Drilling Units there is something very familiar about it. By comparison, life on an offshore drilling unit (MODU) with real food, showers and rest rooms, and honest to God gravity seems luxurious. But it didn't seem so at the time. Duty on a MODU can be exciting but when your two week to one month tour is up you are definitely ready to go home. One of the first things you notice when your helicopter first crosses the beach line is color. Even just a few weeks living largely in the belly of a machine with grey steel all about and a weather deck view of the sea and sky, mostly grey or grey blue with white clouds is enough to give one a malady I call "color deprivation". What is clear about the people who man space vehicles and installations at this time is that they are intimately involved with the technology of their habitat. Life on a MODU is a 12 hour work day and afterwards there are few diversions such as pool tables or TV. To live on a space vehicle under the conditions observed on this video and be in the good humor that the departing station commander is obviously in, the work day must be more on the order of 16 hours a day with people who have a high degree of interest , enthusiasm, for the work.
Your narrator, the departing station commander , a young woman, can only be described as attractive, intelligent, and surprisingly rather bubbly. She seems to exude charm and a sense of fun though she mentions several times that she will be back on earth within about 12 hours of the finish of the video shoot. Sailors have to wonder; is she exhibiting a species of "channel fever" that every sailor knows. Channel fever is a species of euphoria that seizes long deployed sailors as land comes into sight, be it home or a liberty port. Was she that happy and charming three weeks prior to this video? .
Personally I think that before space installations and vehicles can accommodate mission specialists who aren't literally "space happy", they are going to need those gravity mats, a recreation room, better food, and at least a few clutter free spaces with some human friendly color and furnishings that aren't dual purpose parts of the operating system. This will sound very strange but I'm deadly serious with this suggestion. NASA would benefit in planning larger, longer term space facilities and vehicles, requiring larger work forces, some of whom inevitably will view service aboard not as an adventure but as a job; by conferring with maritime union negotiators. If anyone has identified the rock bottom minimum living conditions that a wide spectrum of the human character can live in isolation with for a protracted period it would be our seaman union negotiators. Like all sailors we are realists. Space is an ocean, and it will be explored, traveled upon, and exploited for resources. The work force won't all be as smart, stable, intelligent, good humored, or charming as the people you will see in this video. You can't send up crews forever who are as hand picked as your charming narrator and her "shipmates" in this virtual visit to the International Space Station. As an experienced commander of "Industrial vessels" (ships like MODUs that perform work at sea vice transport across it) and as an officer in charge of a semi isolated military station, my opinion about life on a present day space station is this. There would be at least one ax murder among a typical maritime crew under similar living conditions that austere within the first month.
Our advice to NASA? When you design those larger truly industrial space stations, and long voyage vehicles, or planet colonies, don't ever let living conditions fall below the American maritime unions standards of ship habitability.
Meanwhile click on this link for your tour: https://www.youtube.com/embed/doN4t5NKW-k and we hope you enjoy your visit as much as your tour guide obviously enjoyed being your host.
Johnas Presbyter , Editor