WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM THE ISS ALPHA MISSION (a brief essay by Dave Nelson) @fritzswanson

About a decade ago Fritz and I were *really* geeked about the International Space Station–which, as you’ll recall from my last post, fundamentally fails to impress my mom. Back then the ISS had just finished the first round of continuous human habitation (it’s now in round 31–a fact that complete blows my mind. Our space station is fully operational, and has been for more than a decade!) Sometime in late 2001 or early 2002 NASA quietly released the captain’s log kept by Bill Shepherd, who was Commander for the Alpha mission (i.e., that first team of long-term space stationers). The full complement for that mission was three guys, including Shep.

These logs–which are more than a little janky, with weird gremlin characters, extensive redactions, and large chunks set in Comic Sans–fascinated Fritz and me. During this period I was working at a school, teaching 1/4 of the time and doing office-drone stuff for the other 3/4, and lots of those office-drone hours ended up being spent pouring over these logs and imagining the awful wonder of living on a damn orbital space station.

While cleaning out my office this weekend (preparatory to the nice plumber with the jackhammer coming to totally wreck up the joint) I found the following essay. Now, at this point, I can’t recall precisely *why* I wrote this. Clearly, in part, it was sort of a gag about high school composition assignments (I was a neophyte English teacher for that 1/4 of my workday, after all). But more than that, it’s just a really honest expression of how much I loved those Captain’s Logs–real, honest-to-God *Captain’s Logs!!!*–which were the first really tangible evidence that I *was* living in a future that bore some resemblance to that OMNI magazine, matinee movies, and Scholastic books promised me when I was a boy.


a brief essay by Dave Nelson

I’ve learned that astronauts like action and war movies (“Apocalypse Now” and all four “Lethal Weapon” films)–not suspenseful dramas (e.g., “The Sixth Sense,” which they only brought along because they mistakenly believed it was a sequel to the Fifth Element)/

If you lose anything, it’ll turn up in the air filter sooner or later.

Shep loves tools–his perfect day involves using both tools and schematics in unison. Russian cosmonauts love sorting things.

Most of the time on a space station is spent building more space station.

Astronauts love laptops (they apparently have 9 running, and are complaining that they don’t have enough table-space to accommodate the two more the’d like to get going). They are receiving email up there, using Outlook (considering the whole computer-virus situation with that mail program, I’d be nervous if I were them.)

Ham radio is still the most reliable form of communication with the earth.

Despite a dearth of tools and parts, Russians can fix or rig anything.

Even in space, folks celebrate Christmas.