A Week Flying the ISS – Day 6

Read Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5

Saturday, December 10 (GMT 345)

The last two days, especially when they fall on a weekend, are always tough for me. I love my job, but who doesn’t also love their weekends? I always have to fight the urge to spend more time than I really have doing fun things before my shift on Saturday. Fortunately, I’ve got the sleep I need today and I’m ready to rock.

Remember that “rocking” in this case means sitting in a chair in a room with no windows for 9 hours trying to stay awake. Today really had nothing much of anything interesting happen. During handover, every single team member said to flight “nothing to report”, which all of us had never seen before. Even the payload control center, Japanese control center, and European control centers had nothing. Usually Marshall at least has some commands to send to power up or power down some payload rack. Not today. As the off-going Flight Director noted, “that has to be a record for fastest handover ever”. My shift’s Flight Director walked in the door at 11:07 and handover was complete by 11:17. Welcome to Sundays on-orbit.

One of the techniques many flight controllers use to stay awake on the night shift – in addition to drinking copious amounts of coffee – is to take walks around the building. Personally I like to go to the taller side of MCC and walk all the way up to the top floor and back, which is about 6 stories. Also, just walking laps around the second floor is good too. The Flight Control Room is on the second floor of the old half of the building with a large hallway that goes around the outside. It’s easy to walk a lap or two during a break and get the blood flowing.

So today my hobby is walking around the block, so to speak. On one such lap I stopped to take a look at what I like to call the “on-orbit board”. It’s a bulletin board that has pictures of the astronauts currently on ISS, the astronauts next to launch (“prime crew”) and their Expedition group photos and posters. Some of these group photos are evidence that we do have a little fun at NASA – so I’m happy that it’s right by the elevator where VIP guests walk past it all the time.

Expedition 30 crew... um... photo

Yes, that say Pilots over the Caribbean. Amazing. I can’t decide if Andre Kuipers’ XXX tattoo or Dan Burbank’s pirate dreadlocks are more awesome.  I present you with my crappy phone photo of the poster as evidence that we actually do show these things proudly in the control center. For a better version and other awesome crew posters (including Expedition 29’s Tron homage and Expedition 31’s Transformers homage) go to this post over at Enjoy Space.

These are totally cheesy and that’s exactly why they capture people’s attention. It’s kind of cool to think that someone as elite as an astronaut, one of only about 500 people who have been in space (part of the 0.00000007%?*), likes stupid movies like Pirates or  Transformers. This makes them relatable, which by association makes spaceflight relatable. Perhaps I am repeating myself, but I say to NASA Public Affairs – MORE PLEASE!

(ISS on-orbit status for today)

*I stole this joke from the “Unimpressed Astronaut” meme. Google it.

December 19, 2011 9:34 pm

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