Fragile Oasis

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Sharing the Olympic Spirit

"Watching the Olympics reminds us that we share one planet and that we can respect one another no matter what our differences, yet at the same time we can be proud of who we are and what we represent."

Every week, usually at the end of the day on Friday, we have a conference with our Lead Flight Director, Dina Contella. At the start of this week’s conference, she put the week into perspective. She said this time last week (our conference was on a Thursday because of HTV arrival on Friday) HTV had not docked, 47 Progress was in a standby position waiting to re-dock (which it did and then departed for good), 48 Progress had not launched (it is now attached to the Station), nothing had been unloaded or packed on HTV and we had approximately 40 hours of science to do. Sometimes we get so caught up in working day to day we don’t realize what can be accomplished in a week. I think everyone can agree it was a productive week.

Even with all the work we had to do, we found time to get together and watch the Olympics. Of course everyone knows there is something special about the Olympics and that feeling is not lost in space. We were able to see Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian and Gabby Douglas’ nerves of steel as she won the individual Gymnastics gold medal. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you know that I enjoy my sports. To have two weeks to watch the best athletes of the world compete is a dream come true for any sports enthusiast. To watch them while orbiting above the Earth makes them even more special for us (even though we often miss the end of a competition because we lose satellite coverage).

I have noticed two things while watching these games. One is that no matter what the sport or which country is winning, we all appreciate the efforts of the athletes and acknowledge their abilities. We truly have an international crew on the ISS: three Russian cosmonauts, one Japanese astronaut and two American astronauts (one of Indian descent and one of Puerto Rican descent). While we work together as one team we still maintain our national pride. Just like watching a basketball game with your buddy that is from a different city, we give each other a hard time but congratulate with sincerity the winning team or individual. It is easy to see why we do this when you look out the window from the ISS. We all come from the same place, Planet Earth.

The other aspect of the Olympics that makes even the non-sports fan enjoy these games is the personal stories of the athletes. Each athlete has taken their unique path to the games, just as each of us walks on his own unique path. Even though we come from different places, we can all relate to many of the obstacles the athletes have faced and overcome. A common theme heard from all the athletes is their pride in representing their country and the hard work they have put in. I understand as I am proud to represent the United States and the Puerto Rican community as an Astronaut. Gennady, Yuri, and Sergey feel the same about Russia; as does Aki with Japan and Suni with the US and India. However, you don’t need to be an Astronaut or an Olympian to be proud of where you come from or what you do. As a school teacher, I was proud of the work I did to help develop our future leaders. I think watching the Olympics reminds us that we share one planet and that we can respect one another no matter what our differences, yet at the same time we can be proud of who we are and what we represent. I look forward to another week of great competition and sportsmanship and of course work. We have a lot of cool things planned for this week. Keep an eye out for Curiosity.

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Joe's blog and more also at nasa.gov