“It’s a Wonderful Life…!”
June 28, 2007, is getting here awfully fast!
Image at right: The International Space Station as seen from Space Shuttle Discovery during STS-116. Credit: NASA
That’s the current launch date of STS-118. Scheduled on the Space Shuttle Endeavour, it will take us about 3 days to arrive at, and dock with, the ISS. After a few busy days and transfer of my Soyuz seat liner (see Chapter 6), I will be “officially” onboard ISS until Space Shuttle Flight STS-120 arrives to carry me home. On paper that should be about 3 months. Current schedules show that my stay onboard ISS will be part of the 15th expedition (April through October 2007). Delays to the STS-120 launch date will extend my stay accordingly, possibly allowing me to become part of the 16th expedition as well. For my family and me, coping with a longer duration will be harder, but we must plan on that as it is a distinct possibility.
So, what will life onboard the ISS be like? Well, just like you, I can only imagine at this point. As an example, consider living in a three-bedroom house, with two close friends whose native language is far different from your own, but you’ve been taking a correspondence language course for the past three years hoping that one day you will understand enough to be able to communicate. You are not able to go outside and play catch or walk the dog (obviously there will be no dog), no matter how good you think the weather is. The machines inside your “house” that are required to sustain your life (fans, pumps, air conditioner, etc.) are quite noisy and require you to wear ear plugs throughout much of your day unless you want to run the risk of harming your ears. Meals are held in the “galley” around a small dinner table…seating room for 4-6! In order to be able to eat your food, most will require that you add hot or warm water (there is no cold water on board) for rehydration, unless it is Russian food, which usually comes in cans similar to that of tuna fish! My bedroom will be a cubicle about the size of a telephone booth, where I must store most/all of my personal gear, clothing, toothbrush, etc. For entertainment we can watch movies, listen to music, read electronic books, play musical instruments (electronic piano, guitar or didgeridoo) or simply look out the window and gaze at our beautiful blue Planet Earth. Going to the bathroom requires the use of a redesigned vacuum cleaner (the visual image is left to the reader!) and, by the way, we only have one!
Image at left: The station's galley is located in the Zvezda service module. From left are, Space Flight Participant Anousheh Ansari, Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin and Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov. Credit: NASA
On ISS we can’t go to the store, but we can have things “delivered.” This exciting event would be likened to a delivery van flying directly into your garage all by itself, with you standing by to “drive” it like a video game should it wander off course. Finally, visitors are allowed and they usually arrive (announced) in a travel trailer (Space Shuttle) or compact sedan (Russian Soyuz). The visitors in the travel trailer are oft times preferred as they can return to their trailer often, giving you your “house” back for brief periods of time. The visitors that arrived via the compact car are more like relatives than visitors as your “house” is somewhat taken over and life won’t really be back to normal until after they have left. In either event, I imagine that visitors will be most welcomed, especially if you consider it is the only way you will ever return home to Earth!!!
Sometime soon, I’ll let you know what it’s REALLY like!