Fragile Oasis

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One (Really Good) Reason Not To Clean Your Closet

On the International Space Station, we have a closet module called the Permanent Multipurpose Module. Its prosaic name is PMM, an acronym that has metamorphosed beyond the original assemblage of words to become a noun on its own, pronounced pee-em-em (only at NASA can we create new words without vowels). In a former life, it was an MPLM (another vowel-less ...Keep Reading

A Lab for Science, and for Thinking

The International Space Station was conceived and constructed through the cooperation of fifteen nations. Now, with it's construction complete, we can focus on how best to use it. We have built a laboratory located on the premier frontier of our era. Our Earth-honed intuition no longer applies in this orbital environment. On frontiers, things do not behave the way we ...Keep Reading

The World Through a Looking Glass

Looking through the cupola windows on the International Space Station, it’s only natural to reflect upon who we are and where we fit into the world below. Like something out of Alice in Wonderland, this orbital looking glass can be both a window through which to observe the jeweled sphere of Earth and a mirror that (sometimes, depending on your ...Keep Reading

Close Shave

I have never been able to shave with a safety razor without slicing my face, so I use a rotary electric razor instead. In weightlessness they work just as well, and the whiskers are captured inside the shaving head. But how does one clean out the whiskers in weightlessness? In March 2001, Jim Voss, Expedition 2 flight engineer, shaves with ...Keep Reading

The Eye of Issyk Kul

Kyrgyzstan is wedged in the mountainous wrinkles between Kazakhstan and China, created long ago when the land mass we now call India, propelled by plate tectonics, slammed into the Asian plate. Living there are a proud people with a rich history, surrounded by natural, high-altitude beauty. Click for a larger image of Issyk Kul Out of numerous Kyrgyz lakes, one ...Keep Reading

The Sweet Smell of Molecules

A vacuum is a condition that is nearly devoid of molecules, and space is a molecular desert that makes the Empty Quarter of the Saudi Arabian peninsula seem like an oasis in comparison. But the space vacuum still has some molecules—residue from galactic processes, solar wind or atomic detritus spalled off from our atmosphere. And molecules, typically floating in the ...Keep Reading

The Terminator

Twice a year, near the winter and summer solstices, the orbit of the International Space Station nearly parallels the terminator—the fuzzy line separating day from night on the surface below. For a period of about a week, we live in what seems like perpetual twilight, being in neither full daylight nor full night. Our orbit follows the terminator, so that ...Keep Reading

Grand Views of the Grand Canyon

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. But the amazement doesn’t stop there. Sometimes your brain can play ...Keep Reading

Candid and the Camera

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 ...Keep Reading

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The following is the text of an email that all NASA employees received from our administrator Charlie Bolden in recognition of the holiday honoring the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I thought it was a really nice reminder of Dr. King's courage, and his message of hope, and how it ties to the ultimate goal of ...Keep Reading