Another space shuttle crew visits Stennis Space Center

Published 2:00 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

There was an air of camaraderie Thursday afternoon at Stennis Space Center amongst the astronauts of Space Shuttle mission 132.

That air of camaraderie enabled Commander Ken Ham, Pilot Dominic Antonellie and Mission Specialists Michael Good, Garrett Reisman, Piers Sellers and Stephen Bowen to give an entertaining presentation to family and staff at Stennis Space Center.

During the presentation crew members joked with each other and shared parts of the mission rarely seen in previous mission presentations. Ham began the presentation a little differently than other crews, showing the audience a slide show of stunning images taken during their mission.

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With a mission motto of “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” the crew started their training by getting to know each other during a white water rapids and backpack trip. Sellers said he would have been fine with just going to dinner.

One of the mission’s objectives was to bring up a Russian Mini Research Module, known as the MRM1, which will serve as additional storage space and provide another docking port for the International Space Station.

During the presentation, the crew showed several photos members took during the mission. One of those photos was of Reisman installing a new antenna array, which looks like a satellite dish, on the space station. He joked that he kept the picture due to the uncertainty of the space program, just in case he needs to apply for a job with DirecTV.

“Steve and I will show up between noon and five,” Garrett said.

With the completion of this mission, launched on May 14, the space station now weighs 500 tons and is the size of a small hotel. Building it has been a ten year effort by 17 countries, Sellers said.

After the humorous presentation, the astronauts answered some questions from the crowd, such as how does zero gravity affect the human body and how do astronauts deal with laundry in space.

Reisman said zero gravity on the human body causes the head to fill up with blood since the heart no longer has to contend with gravity. He described it as standing on your head for a long time. He also said he had to get used to seeing flashes in his eyes, which were a side effect of charged particles that fly around in space and pass through the astronaut’s bodies while in space.

Reisman also fielded the laundry question. He said like everything in the way of space clothing is disposable into the Earth’s atmosphere. All of the waste, including human excrement, is packed into a used supply transport module and sent into the atmosphere where it burns up. He then told those in the crowd to think about that the next time they are looking up at the sky and see a shooting star.

“You might be wishing on doo-doo,” Reisman said.

Ham said it was a conscious decision by the crew to build the camaraderie they shared through the entire mission and which was evident during their presentation on Thursday. He said crew members decided to have fun and share their experiences when they came back. With that in mind, they were careful not to mess up while in space since they knew it could leave the crew looking foolish had anything gone wrong. Fortunately, the mission went off without a hitch. Ham believes this level of camaraderie and fun could only be achieved because each crew member already was a veteran of space flight. He remembered that on his rookie mission there was an air of the unexpected that kept him from being relaxed.

As for the future of the space program, Ham believes retiring the space shuttle is inevitable, especially if mankind plans to travel outside of low Earth orbit. With limited funds in NASA’s budget, there can be only one focus, he said.