Coleman, Fossum Describe Life on International Space Station
International Space Station astronauts Catherine Coleman and Mike Fossum returned to the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 20 and spoke to employees about their experiences during extended stays aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Coleman, along with Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and European Space Agency, or ESA, astronaut Páolo Néspoli of Italy, launched aboard Soyuz TMA-20 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 15, 2010.
A veteran of two space shuttle missions, Coleman spent slightly more than two weeks in orbit on STS-73 in October 1995 and less than a week in space on STS-93 in 1999.
"It (STS-73) was a 16-day flight and I remember thinking, that's just not long enough," she said.
During expeditions 26 and 27, Coleman and her two crewmates spent 159 days in orbit.
Describing video highlights of the mission, Coleman referenced a scene of her entering the space station from the Soyuz spacecraft.
"This shows what it's like up there," she said. "It's not about floating, it's about flying."
Coleman recalled that expeditions 26 and 27 were a busy time aboard the station.
"During our expedition, there was a lot of coming and going," she said.
As a part of Expedition 26, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle was launched, delivering six tons of equipment that included food and clothes, to the station. Additionally ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle resupply spacecraft launched from Kourou, Guiana, in February 2011 bringing up supplies such as propellants, water and oxygen.
The STS-133 crew of the space shuttle Discovery arrived in February 2011 delivering the permanent multipurpose module, Leonardo, which was left docked to one of the station's ports. The shuttle crew also delivered a robot called Robonaut, or R2. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools station crew members use.
Coleman pointed out that in the future, robots like R-2 may serve as assistants or stand-ins for astronauts in tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans.
During breaks from work on the space station, Coleman says the view of Earth out the window gives a different perspective on life below.
"When you see our whole planet like this," she said, "you realize we are altogether citizens of the world."
A highlight of Expedition 27 was the opportunity to mark a major milestone in space history, the flight of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space.
"We were up there for the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight -- April 12, 2011," Coleman said. "It was a great privilege to be a part of the observance and to see how far we've come and think about how far we will go."
May 24, 2011, Coleman, Kondratyev and Néspoli returned to Earth aboard their Soyuz spacecraft. After several months in the microgravity environment of space, Coleman said readapting to gravity was slow as there was a feeling they were still moving.
"When we landed, I was sure we were rolling over and over again," she said. "But I looked out the window and the grass was just standing there."
After Coleman and her crewmates returned, the pace of preparations picked up for Fossum.
"The day after she landed, we headed from Star City to Baikonur to begin our launch preparations," he said.
Bob Granath NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center