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Space ISS

Exit Interview: Scott Kelly (atlasobscura.com) 62

An excerpt from a new interview of Scott Kelly, now a retired astronaut, who spent 11 months and three days at the International Space Station in one stretch: Q: What does space smell like?
It smells different to different people. Some people say it smells sweet. To me it smells like burnt metal, like if you took a blowtorch to some steel or something.

Q: When you're up there on the ISS, arguably you're the most expensive human being on the planet except the president. The amount of resources being spent to keep you alive are enormous. Did that weigh on you at all?
Never even thought about that. No. Never considered it. I appreciated the effort that people went through to make sure you're safe, and are taken care of and supported while you're there, but I never considered the cost of it.

Question: Did it feel like, 'Man, I gotta work all the time'?
I think some people feel that way. I kind of felt that way on my [first, six-month ISS mission]. But having flown for six months, and then a few years later flying for a year, I realized I couldn't do that. So I definitely had to pace myself throughout the course of the year.

Q: Did you lose anything in the station?
All kinds of stuff! One of the last things I remember losing was this fancy, 3-D printed cover for some experiment. It was for the camera and I turn around and the thing's gone, and they didn't have a spare. I've got to see if they've found that thing yet. Oh, yeah. We lost a bag of screws and washers one time.

Question: When you're on the U.S. side of the ISS and the Russians are on their side, how much interaction is there, day-to-day?
They work predominantly in the Russian segment and have their meals there, so during waking hours, they're generally on their side, we're generally on our side. You interact, you go down there, you chat with them, you come back, you might perform some kind of experiments, they might do a little thing in our space station, but it's what we refer to as "segmented ops."

Question: Does it feel like you're all in it together?
Yes! Absolutely. We actually do some things to help each other that we don't even share with the ground because then it creates like bureaucratic ... issues for them to deal with. I've been asked to help fix some of their hardware, their treadmill one time. We help each other getting trash off the space station without telling the folks in Houston.

Exit Interview: Scott Kelly

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  • What it felt like sitting atop the rocket, ready to launch?

    John Glenn's answer has always stick with me: “I felt about as good as anybody would, sitting in a capsule on top of a rocket that were both built by the lowest bidder.”

    • I always thought Chris Hadfield's answer to that question when the shuttle was flying was the most profound.

      He that he was most scared that the launch would be cancelled as he generally had friends/family at the Cape and they couldn't stick around to see the later launch.

    • What it felt like sitting atop the rocket, ready to launch?

      John Glenn's answer has always stick with me: “I felt about as good as anybody would, sitting in a capsule on top of a rocket that were both built by the lowest bidder.”

      I always thought that was Steve Buscemi's (Rock hound) line from Armageddon?

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      He does talk about what it is like coming down on Russian hardware. You are crammed into a small space. Piece of the vehicle are flying off and passing in front of the viewport, which is inches away from your face. It is so exciting he said, it is the main reason he would go up again.
    • The shuttle sure as hell wasn't built by the lowest bidder.

  • Can you explain more about "[w]e help each other getting trash off the space station without telling the folks in Houston."

    This sounds very suspicious.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Can you explain more about "[w]e help each other getting trash off the space station without telling the folks in Houston."

      This sounds very suspicious.

      They refill supply capsules with the trash and then release them so that they burn up in the atmosphere.

    • "[w]e help each other getting trash off"

      I figured someone would have figured out the innuendo by now, but I guess not.

      I'd state it, but modesty forbids me.

      Of course, you already had it figured.

  • Not quite (Score:4, Informative)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Friday November 10, 2017 @02:19PM (#55527391)

    "Q: When you're up there on the ISS, arguably you're the most expensive human being on the planet "

    Rather the most expensive human being NOT on the planet.

    • You'd have to being sold to be "the most expensive human." Probably why he never thought about it; he was never up for sale.

      Maybe there is another similar, but slightly different, question they should have asked instead?

  • by elcor ( 4519045 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @02:37PM (#55527531)
    and balanced people, their default behavior is to collaborate.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I honestly think that's the default behavior for most people if you keep the group small enough. Most people as individuals don't want to fight each other or segregate off from one another. It's not until you get a group of people large enough to need some form of bureaucracy that you start to see a shift towards segregation and and willingness to fight to keep that segregation enforced. Throw some religion into the mix for the real fireworks.

      • I honestly think that's the default behavior for most people if you keep the group small enough.

        I’ve worked with a lot of different people - “most” is a significant overstatement. Some are sneaky by nature, while a goodly number think the definition of “collaborate” is “I will tell you what to do and you will do it”.

        • Well, there's a bell curve of people. The more the people, the more the chance of encountering someone way on the negative end of the curve. Still, I might even agree that most people are sneaky and bossy. So, "normal".

    • by Travco ( 1872216 )
      My thoughts exactly, So many times in my work life I've found - less than adequate coworkers slacking or sabotaging - like they needed to work at being bad. Sometimes I wonder how any progress happens.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      That's the beautify of highly intelligent and balanced people, their default behavior is to collaborate.

      Smart people who feel they're among their peers mostly yes, unless it becomes too competitive. It's frustrating not having anyone to bounce ideas back and forth with. It's more frustrating when you try to do that with colleagues and hit thin air. It's extremely frustrating when your peer group overrides you even though you're sure they picked an inferior solution that'll cause you lots of woes down the road. But the most frustrating is when you're pulling all the weight and nobody seems to give you any cred

  • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @02:57PM (#55527667)

    'What's it like to float hundreds of miles above the Earth's surface? We asked seven astronauts to tell us everything.'

    Barry Wilmore: "You never know true beauty until you see Earth from space, or true terror until you hear someone knocking on the space station door from outside. You look through the porthole and see an astronaut, but all your crew is inside and accounted for. You use the comm to ask who it is and he says he's Ramirez returning from a repair mission, but Ramirez is sitting right next to you in the command module and he's just as confused as you are. When you tell the guy this over the radio he starts banging on the door louder and harder, begging you to let him in, saying he's the real Ramirez. Meanwhile, the Ramirez inside with you is pleading to keep the airlock shut. It really puts life on Earth into perspective."

    http://www.clickhole.com/post/... [clickhole.com]

  • What's REALLY going on? One-hundred and fifty billion dollars for a few experiments?
    • What's going on is that the Shuttle made the assembly of the station *extremely* expensive. In a decade or two, you'll be able to launch a similarly capable station for one fiftieth of the cost.
      • Welcome to progress.

        That same tale can be told for virtually any bit of technology. Waiting is for slow people and the infirm.

      • by bored ( 40072 )

        It could have been done less expensively even back then, except that the space shuttle needed a "mission" and using it a a freighter was a good political decision.

  • Smell of Space (Score:5, Informative)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @04:11PM (#55528143) Homepage Journal
    I saw him and he elaborated on 'the smell of space'. It was the smell of the airlock, or whatever, that had been recently exposed to the vacuum of LEO and then pressurized. He said it was a unique and clearly identifiable smell.

    The interesting thing is the vacuum of low earth orbit is pretty dirty. We can make much better and cleaner vacuum on earth on a limited basis, say in a cubic meter or so. Even on earth, after pressurizing a vacuum you can smell the difference. On earth that might be because it is a nitrogen rich atmosphere at that point. But there is smell.

    The most poignant thing he said was that he got a call where NASA cut off external communications, like to NASA TV, to talk to him. It was about his sister in law being shot. Each time the channels were cleared after that he wondered what catastrophe happened.

    The funniest thing is the difference between Russian and US culture. When there was a possibility of a collision, one that would like destroy the station, the US procedure was to lock everything down in a futile attempt to minimize damage. The Russian response was to accept the inevitable outcome if the station was hit and have lunch. It reminds me of French colleague that always insisted that the problem would still be there in a hour, so there was no reason not to have a peaceful lunch.

    • Thanks. I wondered about how he "smelt space". He did mention outgassing in TFA, but not from what. It brings another human sense into play.

      I wonder what space tastes like?

  • He also did a recent interview with NPR. [npr.org] (He's on a book tour) I found one of his responses very interesting.

    It does require a certain level of focus, especially when stuff, you know, starts going wrong or becomes difficult. You know, it's something I think the military trains us really well for, is focusing on what we can control and ignoring what we can't, whether that's, well — in space we can't control, you know, the fact that we could meet our demise at any time. We can't control how distracting the Earth looks and how incredibly beautiful it is. We can't control how everything floats around, and that makes stuff more difficult, so yeah, compartmentalization is very important.

    Something all of us should remember.

  • Did he just talk around astronauts getting naughty on the space station. He specifically said the Russian cosmonauts work and eat on their side of the station during waking hours. Why bother being that explicit about the timing?

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