January 23, 2021 – International Space Station 6 PM, UTC
The liftoff for the expedition was uneventful, but it took a lot longer to reach the space station than they expected. Some missions in the past had worked out well, other times they didn’t. When the object you’re trying to reach is traveling 17,000 miles per hour in a circular orbit around Earth, well, it’s not as easy as people think to dock quickly and safely. It takes skill. And fortunately, there were five exceptional women on board to make that happen as smoothly as possible. Jeff Stanton was no slouch, but even he was impressed with women’s expertise on this expedition. He was eager to learn from them.
To successfully dock with the ISS, they must conduct what is known as a Hohmann Transfer. This orbital maneuver, invented by a German scientist – Walter Hohmann – in 1925, transfers a satellite or spacecraft from one circular orbit to another. Thankfully, he discovered this fuel-efficient way to get from one circular orbit to another circular orbit. But it’s a relatively slow process. It is why it took the crew of Expedition 64 a little over 24 hours to be lined up correctly with the ISS. Time spent maneuvering aside; it was still a fine example of excellent fieldwork for these astronauts. Houston was proud to announce they had attached and were ready to depart their craft onto the ISS the day after liftoff.
They were a day into their mission, exhausted but running on adrenaline. These astronauts trained hard to be here, so they weren’t about to let a little fatigue slow them down. They pressed on until all were safe aboard the station. After all the necessary mechanical checks and safety protocols had been completed, each astronaut began to acclimate to their quarters. Each personal space, as they expected, was cramped. The two laptops installed in each space helped the crew stay informed with each other, but also monitored the onboard controls, which were taking constant readings. It kept them on task with their specifically assigned mission jobs. Also, one was a personal computer to check email and to make phone calls to Earth. It allowed them to stay connected to their lives.
Each astronaut is considered a valuable asset to the ISS. The research they do goes well beyond just space travel and learning how to function in space. Some of the research has included studies on cancer and Parkinson’s Disease, 3D printing, recycling in space, the effects of zero-gravity on the body, and as far-fetched as bringing a virtual zoo of organisms to see how they fared in the environment of the space station. The knowledge gained on all these expeditions has been incredibly valuable for the world.
NASA, along with its allies and partners from other countries, have executed the testing and research with excellence. And it has benefited the human species 100-fold. Even with the costs exceeding 100 Billion since 1994, it’s proven valuable with the number of medical discoveries, the ability to develop new engineering capabilities, and the overall insight gained about our world. It’s had an incredible impact on our knowledge base.
And not just the human species has gained from the presence of this long tube with solar panel wings and restrictive quarters.
TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY…