ME and Ophelia

Saturday, October 25, 2003

The latest space crew flew despite 'fears'

Supplying the International Space Station (ISS) without the shuttle is a problem, reports the BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse.

Britain's Michael Foale, Russia's Alexander Kaleri and Spain's Pedro Duque entered the International Space Station on Monday October 20, 2003, two days after their Soyuz transport craft blasted off from Kazakhstan.

Astronaut Duque is to remain aboard the Station for eight days before returning to Earth with American Ed Lu and Russian Yuri Malenchenko, who have been aboard since April 28, 2003.

Dr Whitehouse writes about a growing array of hardware problems that are preventing NASA from assessing the quality of air, water and radiation levels aboard the ISS. Some medical officials have said that equipment problems had been growing for more than year, with ISS astronauts complaining of headaches, dizziness and, according to one official, "an ability to think clearly".

More than a year eh? Gulp. Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko have now been in space for nearly six months. Ed Lu said that the monitoring equipment problems began about six weeks ago and were limited to measuring minor trace gases on the ISS.

"Limited to measuring minor trace gases" sounds like there was no way for anyone to monitor the quality of air, water and radiation level aboard. Perhaps nothing else could be monitored either, not even the astronauts' health. Scary huh? Speaking onboard the ISS, Michael Foale said he had been aware of the problem several weeks earlier.

Michael Foale is one of the most experienced astronauts in NASA history. He was born in England in the Lincolnshire market town of Louth in 1957. After boarding school in Canterbury, he studied physics at Cambridge University, completing a degree in astrophysics in 1982. He then moved to Houston, Texas, to work for the US space programme and was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1987. He is married and has two children.

He and Kaleri are now settling down to work, beginning a more than six-month stint focused on Station operations and maintenance. It's not difficult to imagine that they'll be focused on fixing the equipment which monitors the quality of air, water and radiation levels aboard the space Station. And it's easy to imagine how Foale, Kaleri and Dugue must have been eagerly awaited and warmly welcomed and greeted by everyone when they arrived at the Station on Monday!

What a shame that not more is made in the news of these astronauts and the three returning to earth in a week's time, especially after spending six months in space in those conditions. It must be appalling up there. Don't you wonder how they fared during the six month stint, or how they will settle back to their normal routine on Earth? All those medical tests and health checks. Surely they cannot feel as fit and healthy as they were before they left Earth. Astronauts, I suppose, are like the crews of nuclear submarines keeping a safe watch for us - all unsung heroes, until something sinks their ship.

God bless all the astronauts in space right now. Thinking of you and wishing you a safe return home.

Meanwhile here on Earth, a Russian mine rescue begins and a California blaze gathers speed. A fire burning out of control in southern California has grown four times bigger in less than 24 hours. Hundreds of firefighters are trying to contain the blaze in San Bernardino county, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Los Angeles. Strong winds mean the direction of the fire is hard to predict.

It's mind boggling when you think about what everyone in this world is experiencing RIGHT NOW!
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Further reading re Nasa in previous post October 4, 2003 A sad story about the engineers at NASA. (Note: sorry, "permalinks" has stopped working here, I've emailed Blogger for advice on this and why still cannot open comments on screen).

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 10/25/2003
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