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From Way Up Here...
February 27, 2008 |
Here's a note we received from Col. Rex J. Walheim about life aboard the Space Shutle Atlantis. And if that weren't enough outer space fun for you, you can also hear the wake up call received by Commander Steve Frick on day three of the most recent Atlantis mission.
Saturday, Feb 16, 2008
Greetings from the Space Shuttle Atlantis! My name is Rex Walheim, and I am an astronaut currently in orbit. We are docked to the International Space Station on a mission to do a little construction work. We brought up a brand new state-of-the-art European Laboratory Module called Columbus. We completed three space walks, and now have the new module firmly attached to the Station. We are still in the process of activating it, and when it is ready, it will provide scientists with valuable data for years to come.
Life up here in space is an amazing adventure, but it takes a little getting used to. For one thing, the speed we are traveling is amazing. We are going 17,500 miles per hour, orbiting the entire Earth about every 90 minutes. That means that each daylight period only lasts 45 minutes, and then you head behind the Earth into a 45 minute nighttime. This process repeats over and over for 16 sunrises and sunsets during an Earth day. The old expression your mom told you to "Play outside, but be back before it gets dark" would keep our leash a little shorter up here. And of course if you come back inside 45 minutes late, the sun has already come up again and now you are in trouble for staying out "all night."
This type of speed can come in quite handy. Traveling at about 5 miles a second, St. Paul is only about 6 minutes from the beaches of Florida. If anyone is having trouble selling their houses up there, maybe they could advertise that they are minutes from the beach (with proper transportation).
The views up here are amazing. We can see for about a thousand miles in any direction. One of my favorite views is northern Africa and the Middle East. It is usually clear there and looks very peaceful as the countries blend together. Down in the tropical regions, the vivid blue of the ocean is gorgeous. Of course there is nothing better for me than flying over our country and seeing my home state of California from space. On my last space walk we came up over the California coast on a crystal clear day, and I could see from Oregon to Los Angeles.
Our combined crew up here today is ten people from four countries (US, Germany, France, and Russia). We are in an isolated outpost on today's frontier. We work together, live together, laugh together and solve problems together as we build one of the most complicated engineering projects ever attempted, the International Space Station. Thousands more on the ground in sixteen countries toil ceaselessly to make this possible. If the people of Earth ever need an example of how countries can work together in difficult circumstances, they just need to look up in the night sky as the International Space Station sails high above, and think fondly of the people of the Earth who are up here reaching out together beyond our beautiful planet.