[Assam] Fw: Fwd: Space Odyssey
Rajen & Ajanta Barua
barua25 at hotmail.com
Sat Feb 7 10:04:42 IST 2009
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE - Saturday supplement - HORIZON - Feb 7, 2009
What an experience! What an excitement it was! The day January 7 will always be remembered by many of us as a special day in our life. We arrived in the sprawling playground of Axam Jatiya Vidyalaya at Noonmati in Guwahati at 12:45 pm. A unique event was organized by an international NGO — Friends of Assam & Seven Sisters (FASS). A NASA astronaut in space, 350 km from the surface of the earth, will talk live with the students of the school.
The astronaut is none other than Commander Edward Michael 'Mike' Fincke, a son-in-law of Assam. He is a colonel in the US Air Force and commands the Expedition 18 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Born on March 14, 1967, he graduated from Sewickley Academy, Pennsylvania in 1985. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and graduated in 1989. This was followed by a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in 1990.
The largest and most complex international scientific project in history, the ISS is a research facility, currently being assembled in outer space. The on-orbit construction of ISS began in 1998 and the projected completion date is 2011. The ISS now measures 356 feet across and 290 feet long. The space station is a joint project of the space agencies of the United States (NASA), Russia (RKA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA), eleven European countries (ESA) and Brazil (AEB). The ISS has been continuously staffed since the first resident crew — Expedition 1 — entered the station on November 2, 2000, thereby providing a permanent human presence in space. The crew of Expedition 18 is currently aboard ISS. At present the station has a capacity for a crew of three; however, to fulfil an active research programme, beginning with Expedition 20, it will be staffed by a resident crew of six.
It was exactly 1 pm, when the landline telephone of the school started ringing. The ring tone was amplified by an excellent sound system so that more than 1,000-strong crowd assembled for the event could hear the conversation between the astronaut in outer space and the students on earth. As soon as the phone started ringing, there was pin-drop silence everywhere. On the other end of the telephone it was a person from New Zealand called Tiam, who talked for 30 minutes with the FASS officials and also with the ground officials of NASA in California for fine tuning. There was excitement amongst all present — students, teachers, guardians, FASS members, invitees and media. The media was present in large numbers — electronic and print, local and national, Radio Big FM and other radio stations.
Finally at 1:31 pm the ground station connected the telephone line with the astronaut in the outer space. The rector of the school first gave a brief introduction and welcomed the astronaut and immediately handed over the microphone to a student of the school to ask the first question.
Mridusmita Kalita: What is the difference in environment inside and outside the spaceship?
Mike Fincke: Oh yes, great question. The outside of the spaceship is very hostile. It is a vacuum. It is very hot in the sunrise and very cold in the dark. Inside is the perfect environment for a human being. It is quite comfortable, about 24 degrees. We can breathe and it's very nice. So the difference between the inside and the outside is a vast difference.
Sweta Saikia: How the quality of the air is maintained inside the spaceship?
Yes, the air is very important inside the space station and we manufacture our own oxygen. We recycle our own carbon dioxide and we have to take good care of the air, one of our most important systems. The Russian side and American side both have systems with which we can make sure that we always have good air.
Priyanka Sharma: What type of food do you normally eat in the spacecraft? Can you heat or cook food there?
Priyanka, nice to hear your voice. We have our normal food, food that is already prepared for us on the ground. It comes in cans. It is very difficult to prepare our own food; we just heat up the food that they give us. But now there are special occasions when we can decidedly accommodate this kind of food and sometimes they even send us special food.
Prajna Parmita: Can you sleep normally inside the spaceship? How do you set your sleeping and waking times?
Yes, that's a great question. If we try to set our sleeping and waking times based on the sun we would fall asleep and wake up 16 times in a 24-hour period because we go around the earth every 90 minutes or 16 times a day. We set the standard time, the Greenwich Mean Time, and then we go to bed at a normal time like 10 o'clock at night and wake up at 6 o'clock in the morning.
Mahendra Mohan Das: How do you manage water in the spaceship? Do you recycle or manufacture?
Mahendra, that's a superb question. Water is very important. It's our main resource up here just like it is back on the planet. We cannot manufacture water aboard the space station, only the space shuttle when it comes up and visits manufactures water. But for us, we manage our water by recycling as much as possible. We even recycle our urine if we can and then we use water to manufacture oxygen sometimes.
Abhrakash Talukdar: How do you take a bath? Is it possible to take a shower inside the spacecraft?
That's a great question. Because we cannot really take a shower inside the spacecraft, we really don't have that much water to spare and so we use wet towels to wipe ourselves from head to toe to stay clean.
Anamita Goswami: Do you lose the sense of direction in zero gravity? How do you adjust?
Anamita, that's a great question. We have very specialized systems to have the difference between the floor and the ceiling and where the lighting is. It's very difficult to lose our sense of direction, however sometimes it happens because in space there is no real up or down.
Nirban Khaund: Can you see any seasonal changes on Earth? Can you see any man-made or natural structures on Earth?
Hey Nirban, ki khobor? Yes, we can see seasonal changes on Earth and we can see, for example, in the Northern Hemisphere when it is winter and in the Southern Hemisphere when there is change in summer, it's quite visible and yes, we can see all kinds of man-made and natural structures with our eyes. We can see cities, we can see roads and we can see the pyramids. There are many things we can see from up here.
Tridip Goswami: What type of scientific experiments are you doing at present in the ISS?
Yes, with our international partners we are doing very many experiments right now, maybe about 20 or 30 are happening around this time. Some of them are very important experiments that are dealing with fluid physics which is quite tricky because up here in space we see it very differently and other experiments are actually on our own bodies, how human beings change in space.
Vaishali Goswami: What would be the one most significant achievement of this expedition?
Vaishali, if we get our work done correctly on this expedition in the International Space Station, we'll be ready to receive six people and instead of the normal crew of three persons we are trying to double our crew size. We are working very hard every day to make sure there is enough room in this beautiful home in space so that six people come up and with six people we can get even more science done.
Chiranjiv Baruah: What do you do in your spare time inside the spacecraft? Can you watch TV or listen to radio?
Mike Fincke: Chiranjiv, that's a great question. We do have spare time, we do work very hard but everybody needs to relax now and then. I like to read books. I read electronic books, etc and that's how I spend my spare time and when the whole crew gets together we watch a movie and that's really fun for us.
Gitartha Kalita: How many sunrises and sunsets you see in a day?
Gitartha, yes, we travel around the planet at around 26,000 km/hr. That means we go around the planet every 90 minutes, every one hour and a half, which means 16 times a day we see a sunrise and 16 times a day we see a sunset.
Adnan Akhtar: How do you maintain your health in space? Can you exercise in zero gravity?
Adnan, yes, that's a great question because in space with zero gravity we actually lose our muscle and bone mass. Everyday we exercise for two hours. We have a treadmill which is harnessed to hold us down so that we can run. We have a cycle and everybody in the crew exercises everyday. It's very important for us.
Dhrubajyoti Das: We have heard that you are learning Assamese in space through the Assamese Flash Cards. Apuni Asomiya kobo pareneki?
Ha ha ha. Moi alap Asomiya kobo paro. Moi Asom khub bhal paon. Nomoskar everybody, it's good to hear your voice in space and good luck and wishing you all the best in Guwahati, one of the most beautiful cities in India.
The event ended at 1:41 pm with the Assamese national song O' Mor Aponar Desh... For ten minutes it felt as if we were all in outer space and then we came back to Earth. There were smiles all round and a general buzzing of conversation. Everyone thanked FASS for this wonderful experience. Our virtual space odyssey had finally come to an end.
Get perfect Email ID for your Resume. Get before others grab.
Rajen Barua, Houston
More information about the assam