Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

September 27, 2006

Thank You from Space

Filed under: Space Explorer — by X PRIZE @ 9:26 pm

This just in from AnoushehAnsari.com — check out the new Videos Page there!

Here is a special Thank You to the readers and writers here on Anousheh’s blog:

Thank God for Velcro

Filed under: Space Explorer — by Anousheh @ 4:48 pm

Being in weightlessness has its wonderful advantages…

You can lift a 500 lb block with one hand and move it around with one finger… You can fly and float around instead of walking… you can do somersaults at any age… and you can play with your food.

As I have said before, everything is effortless. If you want to move forward you slightly touch a wall or any other solid object with one finger and you start moving in the opposite direction of the force you applied. People are blocking your way in the hallway, no worries, you flip to the ceiling and just like Spiderman crawl the ceiling over their head using the bar handles on the walls (of course you cannot crawl but it looks like you are crawling).

You forgot your book at the other side of the module, no problem… you ask someone close to it to send it to you … that means they pick it up and very gently push it toward you, and here it is… your book flying to you all the way from the other side. Your friend is having a candy and you ask if you can have some, so he gently throws a piece your way and it comes flying into your open mouth… (Kids please don’t try any of these in Gravity :) )

In space it is okay to play with your food. The astronauts and cosmonauts all do. The cheese puffs are not put into the mouth by hand, they are slightly jolted out of the container and flown to your mouth. When you open a bag of soft food like yogurt or soup, if you are not really really careful, small yogurt bubbles or soup bubbles start floating around and then you can catch them with your spoon. But if you try to catch them too fast, one bubble hits your spoon and becomes 10 smaller bubbles and now you have to catch ten of them!

I truly enjoy weightlessness… You feel like a free spirit. I remember when I was very young, for a long period of time I had this constant dream that, to the amazement of my family, I was floating from one room to the next in our house and I was amazed at my ability to do that. Of course, in my dream, I was expert at it and I was able to float around with my will power and not by touching things around me.

In reality though, I’m a rookie… I fly around hitting walls and dislodging things. The first few days I would push against a wall too hard and end up flying too fast to the other wall, not being able to stop and BANG! I would hit the other wall and bounce back toward where I started from… Recently, however, I was complimented on how professionally I fly! It was very flattering :)

I guess the closest thing to moving in weightlessness is floating in water. But there is a major difference. In water when you move your arms and legs, you move… in here you can move your arms and legs all you want, but you are not going anywhere. The only thing that can help you move is the gentle air flow from the fans…

The guys up here wanted to show me how this concept works so they put me in the middle of the Node, which is one of the American Modules, and I couldn’t reach anything to push myself… so I was just floating in the middle of the Node and no matter how much I moved myself I did not go anywhere. They were all laughing at me and finally the gentle breeze from the fan slowly got me close to a handle on the ceiling and I was able to free myself :-)

So now keeping this in mind, today when you are working, imagine there is no gravity so not only are you floating, everything around you is floating too. Can you imagine that? You are sitting at your computer typing…. well… you can’t sit because nothing will keep you in your seat, unless you strap yourself down to a chair that is bolted to the floor… So since you cannot sit, let’s stand… well, you cannot stand still either because every key stroke pushes you further form the keyboard.

So what do people do in space when they want to stay in one place and do something? They use their feet to secure themselves. They stick their feet under these bars that are all over the place or find something to anchor their feet. That is why, the first day I arrived on the station, Pasha gave me these soft Eskimo lamb skin boots… I didn’t know why and did not wear them. Then at night when I went to bed, I noticed that the top of my feet had small bruises and hurt a little. In space you learn to use your toes well. I don’t think I ever paid any attention to them on Earth, but up here, your big toe is a powerful tool to hold you in place.

So let’s continue working… You want to read something from a book so you put the book on the table, butl it doesn’t stay… You put your soda pop bottle on top of it to keep it down, now you have the book flying with your pop bottle, so you hold it down with one hand but now the bottle is flying, so you quickly grab the bottle with the other hand, and then the phone rings… You put the book on the table to pickup the handset and as soon as you do that the book starts flying again and you try to control the handset but now it’s floating away…

You get the picture… So God invented Velcro for this very purpose… to keep things in place in weightlessness. Everything here has Velcro attached to it…even your pants have Velcro strips. I thought things could be secured if I put them in my pockets and closed the zipper. Well they are secured until you open the zipper and take one out… here comes the other small items flying out.. Shhhh! don’t tell anyone up here but I’ve lost a few little things already, like my lip-gloss ;-)

So basically everything you own should have Velcro attached to it. There are bags of Velcro strips with different shapes and colors up here and they are used all over the place. You just have to remember that if you let anything go, it does not stay in the same place and that makes performing tasks a little more challenging up here.

All in all though, it is a wonderful feeling to float… and my biggest challenge before I leave is to see how long I can stay floating in one place without hitting anything. You have to stand still and not exert any force on any thing. So far I can only do 25 seconds before I’m carried away…

It’s time for me to go savor the last few days onboard…

Til’ later…

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