Grand Views for the Camera

Candid and the Camera
Jan 17, 2012 02:20:11 PM

Feeling better! Credit: Expedition 31 / NASA

For my Soyuz launch, I had worn a standard Shuttle diaper with two inserts for extra absorption. (I have found it advantageous to add a little extra in certain places—in weightlessness, urine will creep around under the guise of capillary action and find your long underwear.)

Still, we were in our spacesuits for over 12 hours, and that’s a long time. Even with the extra inserts, my diaper became completely overwhelmed. It leaked real bad; I could feel it happen, and was powerless to control the flood. When the time came to de-suit, I was more than ready to get out of that thing, but dreaded the impending mess. Fortunately, I was able to cover up my stained underwear with a pair of woolen bib overalls.

On docking day, we put on our Sokol suits again and strapped in about six hours before arriving at Space Station. By the time we docked I was tired, dehydrated, hungry, had to use the bathroom, and was still wearing my yellow-stained long underwear. My sinuses were a bit congested, with the standard red puffy, chipmunk face. Our Soyuz cabin pressure was at 830 mm, but station is maintained at 740 mm. When we equalized the two, I got a splitting sinus headache.

When we opened the hatch we were immediately on camera, downlinked live to the world as we were greeted by the smiling faces of our space station crewmates. All I wanted to do was have a good “rest stop,” get something to drink, and hide in my sleep station (in that order). We were pulled into the Service Module, where we were once again on camera with Russian Mission Control and my family, all anxious to chat. They wanted to know what it was like. I felt like a red-faced, dehydrated, puffy sack of — (fill in the blank). That is what it was really like. I was able to force a smile.

Grand Views of the Grand Canyon
Jan 19, 2012 11:40:27 AM

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is simply amazing when viewed from an orbital perspective. You instinctively recognize it, even though you have never seen it from this vantage point before. Somehow, your brain can warp all those vacation memories from visiting the South Rim into something recognizable.

Grand Canyon from orbit. Credit: NASA

But the amazement doesn’t stop there. Sometimes your brain can play little tricks. Under some lighting conditions the Grand Canyon does not look like a canyon at all. Instead, all you see are the arteries on a giant heart, as if someone were performing open heart surgery on Mother Earth.

Grand Canyon arteries. Credit: NASA

Push on the corners of your eyes one more time, wait for the flashes to disappear, and now you see something entirely different. Instead of looking out the window of a spacecraft, you are looking out the window of a deep-sea submersible at some mucky-bottom seascape. You now see worms lying on top of the benthic sediment, happily doing whatever worms do on the bottom of the ocean.

Grand Cayon worms. Credit: NASA

So often, in the search for truth in nature, human perception masks how things really are.