I glanced briefly at NASA TV yesterday, but it all looked rather boring – the usual shots of men in Mission Control eating their biscuits and scratching their ears. Had I perservered, I would have seen some live footage of one of the most dangerous spacewalks ever. (NB There are some very beautiful photos on this Guardian site. I assume they’re NASA copyright, but just in case they’re not, I won’t reproduce them here – check them out for yourself.)
This morning (Sunday 4th November) on NASA TV I’ve been watching an interview with the Commander of the Space Shuttle Discovery, Pam Melroy, and Italian asronaut Paolo Nespoli (the interview was conducted in both English and Italian.) Because of the microgravity, Melroy and Paolo looked for all the world like Thunderbirds puppets, bobbing up and down slowly, with their arms and legs held at odd angles. They shared a microphone, which floated in mid air between them.
Pam Melroy explained that the latest spacewalk was an unplanned mission to repair a torn solar array. And she spoke warmly at the way that all the members of the crews of the Shuttle and the ISS worked together on this mission. The genius of NASA is that they make these things look boring – that’s how they keep it safe – but it was clearly a hazardous enterprise.
As readers of this blog will know, this is the first time in NASA history that both the Shuttle and the ISS have had female commanders. If we end up with a female American US President, that will be a hat trick.
A really dumb fact; the crew of the Discovery have taken with them the actual lightsaber used in the Star Wars movies. They won’t use it to battle any Jedi Knights; it just sits in a locker for the duration of the mission, and then will return home to take pride of place on the mantelpiece in George Lucas’s ranch.
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