Going Home

Birth of a New Moon
Posted on Jun 28, 2012 12:51:02 PM

I saw the waning crescent moon, a small sliver of white rising above the Earth limb. It reminded me of a glowing fingernail clipping. Like a rainbow, but only of shades of blue, the atmosphere on edge filled the gap between Earth and space—electrifying diaphanous beauty.

Images of a moonrise from the International Space Station. Credit: Don Pettit/NASA

Venus was there, watching. Aldebaran in Taurus was an orange dot. The ghost of Full Moon Past, the complete lunar disk, was dimly lit by the bluish hue of earthshine. The time was 07:45 on June 18t (GMT). One orbit later, at 09:17, I saw a sliver of a sliver. Work beckoned me for the next three orbits (about four and a half hours) before I could observe another moonrise. At 13:56, there was only the smallest glint that we even had a Moon. The next orbit I was waiting at dawn, but saw no moon. Initially I was baffled. Then it occurred to me that I had been witness to the birth of a New Moon.

Additional image of the moonrise above the Earth’s horizon from the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit/NASA

Going Home
Posted on Jun 29, 2012 10:51:05 AM

View of the Earth from the vantage point of the International Space Station. Credit: Don Pettit/NASA

When a frontier feels like home, it is no longer a frontier; it has become "civilization." Those determined to wander must now pack their bags and move further into the cosmos.

Space Station is very much on the frontier. It is only my temporary home, and now it is time for me to venture back to my real home. For my generation, Earth is, and will remain, home. The technology for space travel is still in the process of development, and is not sufficiently mature to open this frontier to humanity. We are not prepared to call space our home — yet.

On Earth, the frontiers opened slowly. The technology of sailing was known and advanced for over a thousand years before the Earth was circumnavigated. Such bold acts require the technology, the will, and the audacity to explore. Sometimes you have one, but not the others.

I only hope that my small efforts here, perhaps adding one grain of sand to the beach of knowledge, will help enable a generation of people in the future to call space "home."

Last Day in Space

Tomorrow we light our rocket,
          we burn our engines and likewise,
                   burn a hole in the sky,
                             And thus fall to Earth.
How does one spend your last day in space?
          Looking at Earth,
                   a blue jewel surrounded by inky blackness,
                             Pure Occipital Ecstasy.

Dinner time for Don Pettit on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Unconstrained by your girth,
          you fly with vestigial wings.
The atmosphere on edge,
          iridescent blue with no earthly parallel,
                   Electrifying Diaphanous Beauty.
Guarded by Sirens of Space,
          singing saccharine songs,
                   beckoning you to crash on the atmos-reef
which tears you limb from limb
                   and scorching what remains
                            into cosmic croutons that sprinkle onto
                                       the garden salad of Earth.
One last feast out the window,
          A looking glass of Wonderland.
Offering both a portal to see your world,
                   and a translucent reflection to see yourself.
          what is your place in this world below,
                   how do you change it,
                             how does it change you.
We are wedded to this planet,
          until mass extinction we do part.
                   Perhaps one planet is not enough.
You study your charts,
          we prepare our spaceship,
                   and our minds.
We make ready our descent,
          into these seemingly gentle arms.
The eager anticipation of hugging your wife,
          your boys with grins followed by pouting faces,
                   both excited to see you but not understanding why you left.
Oh how does one spend your last day in Space.
          What would you do?

Don Pettit
Node 2, Deck 5
ISS, LEO 51.603