John Pazmino
 NSkies Astronomy Inc
 2010 October 23
    In 2006 Anousheh Ansari became the first female space tourist to 
visit the International Space Station. Her stay was arranged thru the 
Russian space agency as part of its effort to commercialize various 
facets of its space program. Her adventure was developed into a 
documentary film by Christian Frei, who included many other aspect of 
Russia's space program. 
    The film 'Space tourists' earned Frei the World Cinema Directing 
Award for Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. On 2010 
October 22 the world premiere of the film was staged at the Paley 
Center in New York.
    This article is a summary of the show. It has extra material from 
my travels thru the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and from other 
New York astronomers and space fans. 
    This premiere showing was open to the public at $20, of $15 for 
members of the Paley Center. NYSkies, and certain other space-related 
groups, was offered free tickets. From announcement in the NYSkies 
yahoogroup, about ten NYSkies supporters were in the audience of about 
200 space enthusiasts. 
    This show was part of the annual Margaret Mead Film Festival, at 
the American Museum of Natural History. "Space tourists' was the first 
of the films and videos in the Festival and was the only one screened 
outside of the Museum itself. 
    I arrived at Paley Center, 25 West 52nd Street, Midtown Manhattan, 
at 6:00PM EDST and mustered up at the reception desk for my own free 
ticket. I was greeted by Carrie Oman, of the Center, who made the 
invite. She steered me to the reception hall on the ground floor . The 
reception preceded the screening, an inversion from the announced 
    I did up informative sheets about the Earth atmosphere, since in 
the initial decade or so space tourism will be at the air-space 
boundary by suborbital rides. Ms Oman put them at the ticket taker's 
desk at the entrance to the theater, one floor below the reception 
Paley Center
    WIlliam Paley was the head of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 
operating a network of television and radio outlets thruout the United 
States. It had offices in the 50s of Manhattan. In 1976 he opened the 
Museum of Broadcasting to preserve historical TV and radio shows. It 
ws homed in an office building at 53rd St and 5th Av. 
    The service was like a room-use library. A visitor could watch an 
old TV show on vintage televisions in parlor settings. At the time the 
Museum was unique because regular libraries offered only printed 
materials with a small selection of movie reels. 
    In 1991 the name changed to Museum of Television and Radio to 
accommodate the rising role of nonbroadcast media, notably cable 
television. It moved into the newly built Paley Building, its present 
quarters, on 52nd St between 5th and 6th Avenue. 
    In 1996 a branch of the Museum opened in Beverly Hills, near Los 
Angeles. California. It at first diverted attention from New York. 
California-based attractions were showcased in the New York museum, 
but now they could do their thing at the Beverly Hills outlet. 
    The New York museum was renamed in 2007 into the Paley Center of 
Media to cover all forms of visual and audio presentations, including 
animation and virtual arts. It is also a venue for outside modern 
videos and films and historical exhibits. 
    The reception hall is the Stephen Spielberg Gallery and had an 
exhibit 'John Lennon in Liverpool'. It described the early years of 
the Beatles with pictures and video display screen of Lennon and 
partners in vintage scenes. 
    The reception was a spread of snacks, wine, coffee, soda to pass 
the time before the theater opened at 7PM. I met several NYSkiers and 
members of other space fan clubs. A few minutes before 7 the crowd of 
about 200 migrated downstairs to the theater, which was appointed like 
a classical cinema hall. 
Space tourism 
    The idea that ordinary people can travel into space without being 
a full-fledged astronaut is an old one. It dates to the turn of the 
20th, not 21st, century. The writings of Wells, Verne, Tsiolkovski 
ignited the public desire to explore outer space like the explorations 
of Africa, the Pacific, and the polar regions at that time. 
    In the 1960s, fueled by exhibits at the World's Fair in New York 
and the new Space Age, public rides to the Moon looked plausible and 
promising. Pan American airlines took deposits for Moon flights, to 
start in 1985[!] by means of a planned space cruiser. 
    Public space travel was stillborn for several decades into the 
Space Age because space projects were run by governments, who did not 
cotton to running a tourist service. Even today NASA does not run or 
consider to run any public rides into space. It left this venture to 
private companies and Russia. In 2010 NASA began to put up seed money 
to help these firms develop space tourism. 
    The Soviet Union in the early Space Age, the Space Race, did not 
have public space travel. After the Soviet Union went belly-up in the 
1990s the space agency scrambled to raise money and support for its 
projects. It teamed with Space Adventures in the US to run rides to 
the International Space Station. 
    ISS had a crew of only three at first and the American crew was 
carried by the Space Shuttle. Russia's Soyuz capsule had an extra seat 
which it sold for $20 million dollars to a willing and able customer. 
    The ticket included a 6-month ground school in Russia, 8 days on 
ISS, and, oops, yes, a return ride home. Because the US refused to 
allow public occupants of ISS, Russia's space tourists must bunk in 
only the Russian sections of ISS and not enter or cross the US parts. 
    The toruist, altho put thru much of the same training as a real 
cosmonaut, is NOT part of the ISS crew. He has no active role in 
running the base and can not do any mission sensitive tasks. He's 
there for the ride, to look out the window, socialize with the crew, 
do public promotion, prepare souvenirs, do his own experiments 
separately from the ISS work, take pictures, work email. 
    Because of the ITAR restrictions, he may bring to ISS only 
certified items. Certain items, like cameras, lab apparatus, computers 
may contain features that could violate ITAR regulations on technology 
transfer to other countries. 
    A list of all the space tourists visiting ISS is given below. 
  Tourist           Country    Duration            Soyuz
  ----------------  ---------  ------------------  -------------
  Dennis Tito       USA        2001 Apr 28-May 6   Launch: TM-32 
                                                   Return: TM-31
  Mark Shuttleworth So Africa  2002 Apr 25-May 5   Launch: TM-34
                                                   Return: TM-33
  Gregory Olsen     USA        2005 Oct 1-Oct 11   Launch: TMA-7
                                                   Return: TMA-6
  Anousheh Ansari   Iran/USA   2006 Sep 18-Sep 29  Launch: TMA-9
                                                   Return: TMA-8
  Charles Simonyi  Hungary/USA 2007 Apr 7-Apr 21   Launch: TMA-10
                                                   Return: TMA-9
  Richard Garriott  USA/UK     2008 Oct 12-Oct 23  Launch: TMA-13 
                                                   Return: TMA-12
  Charles Simonyi  Hungary/USA 2009 Mar 26-Apr 8)  Launch: TMA-14 
   (second trip)                                   Return: TMA-13 
  Guy Laliberté     Canada     2009 Sept 30-Oct 11 Launch: TMA-16 
                                                   Return: TMA-14
    Ms Ansari is the only female of the visitors. Mr Simonyu is the 
only repeat tourist. 
    Note that while Soyuz craft are numbered sequentially when they 
depart from Earth, the return is done on a capsule already at ISS from 
a previous launch. The upbound craft with the tourist stays at ISS. A 
capsule at ISS from a prior flight does the return trup. 
    With the ISS expanded to hold six persons in 2009 and the Space 
Shuttle retiring from service all Soyuz seats are needed for the 
larger crew. Russia suspended its tourist rides. It hopes to resume 
them in 2012 by fling extra Soyuz craft but plans as at October 2010 
are not settled. 
    Ms Ansari is an Iranian-born US citizen who raised a business of 
telecommunications. She propsered to the point of putting up $20 
million for her ride to become the first female spce tourist. 
    Apart from her space ride, Ansari's astronautics fame comes from 
her Ansari X-Prize, established in 1996 to stimulate private space 
travel. The $10 million prize goes to the first private entity to send 
a human-occupied vehicle to at least 100 kilometer elevation, return 
safely, and repaet the feat within two weeks. 
    100 kilometer is the unofficial boundary between air and space, 
altho the atmosphere is still too dense to sustain a free-flying 
satellite in orbit. 
   In 2004 Virgin Galactic won the prize with its SpaceShipOne, a 
rocket carried by a mother plane for a drop launch. It successfully 
flew to above the 100km mark and did it again within the tow weeks 
window. The firm may start commercial service in 2012, after intensive 
continuing testing of the carrier plane and spaceship. 
    Google in 2007 set up a second prize, the Lunar X-Prize, To win 
this $20 million prize a private entity must send a soft-lander to the 
Moon, traverse 500 meters on the ground there, and send back videos of 
the moonscape. A return to Earth is not necessary. 
    The film showed one attempt, exciting even in its failure, by a 
Romanian team. It launched a man-high multistage rocket carried to the 
stratosphere by a hot-air balloon. The balloon didn't reach elevation 
and the rocket scooted off to crash back to Earth. 
International Space Station
    In the 1980s Cold War era the US planned Freedom, a modular space 
base competing against Russia's Mir station. When in the 1990s the 
USSR folded, Freedom was cancelled. The US and Russia, with ESA and 
Japan, began after decades of bitter and hostile competition a new 
cooperative project, International Space Station. 
    The first module, Zarya, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in 
1998. The US segment, Unity, went up later in 1998. The third piece, 
Russia's Zvezda, was added in 2000. Zvezda was originally built as the 
nucleus of Mir-2, a planned larger and better replacement of Mir. 
    Zarya is still today the designation for ISS in satellite tracking 
records. Since all of the modules are attached to form a consolidated 
unit, there was no need to change names for each new additional piece. 
    At first Russia wasn't happy with being pushed into the ISS 
project. It had Mir, a functioning station. It was damaged by a 
collision with a Progress supply ship, but it could be fixed by 
replacing the damaged module with a new one. More over, Russia was 
constructing a new and larger version of Mir, Mir-2. Russia could not 
carry the financial burden of Mir, Mir-2, and ISS. 
    Under massive diplomatic pressure, Russia was forced to give up 
Mir and go only with ISS. Some historians consider this event the 
crowning defeat of the Soviet system, which had strong lingering 
influence in the new Russia. Russia spiked Mir into the Pacific Ocean. 
    As a conscession to Russia, ISS is partitioned between the two 
nations. When crew is in the Russian sector, it must work only in the 
Russian language. When in the American part, only English is allowed. 
Crew for each country are tutored in the opposite language during its 
training and preparation. Some tourists noted that this language 
requirement was the toughest part of their preparation. 
    The station was empty until the first team moved in late in 2000. 
ISS was there after crewed continuously: 
    Team   Years      Size 
    -----  ---------  ----
    1-6    2000-2002  three 
    7-12   2003-2005  two, after Columbia accident 
    13-19  2005-2008  three, after return of Shuttle service 
    20-    2009- --   six, until end of ISS life 
Baikonur Cosmodrome 
    The Soviet Union consisted of the Russian nation plus a ring of 
captive or satellite countries attached to it. These wre acquired from 
the 1920s thru the 1940s. One, never a separate country before, was 
Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, the largest in area of the captive 
nations, almost entirely desert or steppe. It is also laden with 
mineral and fuel resources. 
    Russia rna these states like an empire, with puppet governments in 
each to carry out Moscow's word. There was careful jerrymandering of 
the frontiers to separate national and cultural sections to prevent a 
critical mass from challenging the Soviet authority.
    Kazakh SSR also happened to be geographicly the deepest region out 
of range of Western spies after World War II. When the USSR began its 
space program, it selected a remote part of this land for its main 
spaceport, or cosmodrome. It opened in 1957 first as an ICBM base, 
then quickly adapted for space flights. 
    It's near the village of Tyuratam, but was renamed to Baikonur in 
1961. It was laid out like a military secret base, with watch towers, 
guards, restricted entry, and all that. Local people were barred from 
the vicinity. No foreigners visited Baikonur exzcept under privileged 
    Some 100,000 workers were assigned to live permanently with its 
praecincts. A new town, Leninsk, was built for them. This town was 
renamed Baikonur in 1995 after the Cosmodrome it serves. 
    In the era before spy satellites Baikonur was virtually unkown in 
the West. Hints of its lcoation came from backtracking the orbits of 
ballistic missiles it launched. It was first spotted while under 
construction in 1955 by the U2 spy planes. Its full function was not 
appreciated at that time. 
    Within its vast area of about 250 km2, there are many, count 
varies with source, launch pads. In spite of the logistics to support 
a massive development a thousand kilometers from a major town or 
industry, Baikonur lofted over 1.000 rockets in its 60 year life. 
    An other reason to select Baikonur was the long downrage field, 
all within Kazakh SSR, to catch rocket debris. While the US sent its 
rockets over water, like the Atlantic from Kennedy Space Center, 
Russia dared not let the West see any of its launches. It let the 
spent rockets rain down on land inside its own jurisdiction.. 
    This station is still the one main spaceport and is still 
essentially the facility built by the Soviets. The movie showed its 
glaring and sometimes pathetic legacy. The new Russia is still too 
impoverished for massive upgrades and modernization.
    When the Soviet Union fell apart, Kazakh SSR declared itself a new 
and separate country Kazakhstan. It now owns Baikonur with Russia too 
addled to try and recapture it. Similar situations occurred in the 
other captive nations. Soviet facilities were sequestered, such as 
power plants, rail stations, seaports, military bases, government 
buildings, broadcast and printing facilites, the whole lot of 75 years 
of USSR infrastructure. 
    Russia had to negotiate for continued use of Baikonur. It now pays 
a stiff rent to Kazakhstan and must clean up hazmat from rocket 
debris. The mass of debris strewn across the land is roughly estimated 
at 250 tons. This is a hard statistic to pin down because early Soviet 
launches were secret and much debris was removed by salvagers. 
Vostochn Cosmodrome 
    In 2008 Russia started plans for Vostochny Cosmodrome, a new 
spaceport in Amur province near Uglegorsk. It will reduce use of 
Baikonur, lower the fees paid to Kazakhstan. and be a modern facility 
free from Soviet antiquity. 
    It will send rockets over the Pacific Ocean. Russia no longer 
worries about outsiders seeing them and the debris, like for Western 
shoots, sink or can be more easily retrieved. 
    Construction may start in 2011 to complete by 2018. Partial 
operations begin in 2015. This base will also field launches from 
private and foreign customers. 
    An other factor is that the new base is near seaports, free of ice 
in at least some months. Baikonur is a week away from major towns and 
Caspian Sea by a dilapidated railroad network. 
    Vostochny is near China! While Russia and China are now sort of 
friendly, they have a long painful history of conflict. In the 1970s 
the USSR mounted a colossal scheme to build the Baikal-Amur Mainline 
(BAM) railroad. It supplement its Trans Siberian railroad, which runs 
close to the China border. BAM is some 400 kilometers farther north. 
Without this new rail service, if China stormed the Trans Siberian, 
all of eastern Russia is cut off from the world. 
    Because there was minimal replacement of facilities at Baikonur,
rockets are handled with Soviet techniques. They are assembled 
horizontally in large halls. The rocket lies on a carriage sitting
on railroad flat cars. When finished, it is hauled to the launch 
pad by a regular locomotive on a straight track. The rocket is 
too long to do curves. 
    At the pad the carriage is fitted to hoists on the pad's gantry 
and tilted to the vertical position. Swing arms on both sides of the 
pad steady the rocket. The locomotive leaves the scene. 
    Unlike in Western spaceports, visitors can walk up to the rocket 
before launch for ceremonies and to wave the cosmonauts off on their 
journey. Media document the gathering at the rocket and speak with the 
cosmonauts close up like at a press meeting. 
    Vehicles tend to be ordinary cars and trucks, with few apparently 
specialized ones. Only in the last hours before liftoff is the area 
cleared. The visitors may then view the launch from seats or stands 
only a kilometer or so away. 
    One new feature of the prelaunch ceremony for the cosmonauts for 
the media is a blessing by a priest. He sprinkles holy water on the 
space travelers and chants a short prayer. This was not part of the 
Soviet protocol. 
    At the last few seconds before liftoff, the swing arms flip back 
from the rocket, which then lifts off from the pad. It arcs eastward, 
to avail of the earth's rotation to add some speed. 
    As the lower stages are exhaust they drop over Kazakh SSR, now 
Kazakhstan, to land where ever. Today they are hunted by salvage 
gangs. They chop up the rocket carcasses and sell the metal for scrap. 
They roam the flat turf in construction trucks. They camp for days 
waiting for the launch, sometimes delayed during the countdown. 
    I was disturbed by the utter lack of safety concern by these 
gangs. The rocket casings must be full of volatile liquids and 
combustile gases. Yet they crew wore no protective garments and hacked 
at the rocket with saws and torches. Surely there was the chance of 
igniting the leftover gases or breathing them. 
    The teams also camped with open fires for cooking. This practice 
seemed to pose serious hazard from combustile fumes from the rocket. 
    Many pieces fall over inhabited parts of Kazakhstan. Local folk 
retrieve the rockets and use their components for tools and building 
material. 'Space tourists' showed roofs, pots, shovels made from the 
rockets. There seemed to be no worry about hazmat in the fuselage, 
even with livestock nearby that can lick or eat the debris. 
    Today Russia seems to have no desire to capture the pieces, if 
only to examine their condition after running in a live rocket. Good 
engineering information can come from studying the stresses and 
strains present in the parts. 
    The cinema didn't clearly tell what the Soviets did. If the whole 
space program was such a tight secret, wouldn't the debris be 
collected and stored out of reach? Were people warned to stay away or 
face punishment? 
    In the USSR the citizens were prisoners, limited in their roving 
around their own province and strictly kept out of reach of the media 
and news outlets. They carried passports for travel within the USSR, 
barred from places beyond the authorization stated in the passports. 
    They were searched at checkpoints in rail and air stations for 
contraband -- notebooks, tape recordings, newspapers, cameras -- that 
may hold information to carry to an other part of the USSR. Suspected 
items were confiscated. The traveler was hauled off for interrogation. 
    It may be that the Soviets figured they had so isolated the people 
in Kazak SSR that no further constraint was needed. And they didn't 
care too much for the natives living there anyway. 
    The Soviet Union and new Russia suffer a huge handicap for its 
space program. It is a far north country, even counting its satellite 
nations. The far southern extent of the USSR is about the northern 
tier of the United States. The northern seacoast fronts the Arctic 
Ocean like northern Canada and the Inuit lands. 
    This geography prevents low inclination launches and an Earth 
rotation boost. Low latitude launch sites avail of both factors for 
trajectory versatility. The new Vostochny base in eastern Russia 
doesn't solve this problem. It's in 51 degree north latitude, about 
that of Baikonur. Its launches will have no astronautical advantage. 
    Loss of the rotation boost lowers the upmass for a given rocket or 
increases the fuel consumption for a given upmass. High latitude 
forces a high inclination orbit, unless costly plane-change manoeuvers 
are done in orbit. 
    When launching straight east, to maximize the rotation boost, the 
rocket enters an orbit of the same inclination as the launch latitude. 
For Baikonur this is about 52 degree north, so a Baikonur launch is 
usually into an orbit tilted 52 degree against Earth's equator. 
    This astronautical fact helps locate a secret launch site by 
tracking a newly launched satellite. It has to be somewhere along the 
52nd parallel within Russia. Other considerations, like railroads and 
topography, narrow the hunt. 
    The inability to launch directly into low inclination orbits 
prevented the USSR from fielding geostationary telcom systems. In a 
cunning work-around the Soviets exploited an astrodynamic trick. 
Placing a satellite in a high-excentricity orbit makes the craft 
dawdle for most of its period near its apogee. It then zooms around 
its perigee in only an hour or two. 
    The Soviet Molniya satellites do just that in their forced high-
inclination orbits. Their apogees were over the Soviet Union, where 
they move slowly enough to stay in the ground antenna's beam for many 
hours. When they fall toward perigee, in the 52 south latitude region, 
an other Molniya satellite is picked up to continue operations. 
    On the other hand a steep orbit hurts a launch from a low 
latitude. The US must spend fuel and effort to get its Shuttle from 
Kennedy Space Center to ISS. ISS, because Russia placed its own module 
in orbit first with no plane-change ability, ISS runs in the 52 degree 
orbit. The Shuttle must turn northeast, parallel to the East Coast, to 
chase ISS. Its first lap of Earth crests at 52 north over Europe. 
    For New York this was a treat. If the launch is at night we 
actually saw the Shuttle low over the east horizon as it streaked 
northward. The main engine flame was visible as a horizontal 'meteor], 
then it cut off about when passing our latitude. It is then in its 
orbit and on the chase toward ISS. 
    Watching this flight with a radio to follow the countdown really 
expressed the speed of a space flight. The Shuttle flew from Florida 
to New York in TWELVE MINUTES. An airline trip is about 3 hours 
nonstop from New York to, say, Orlando. A train takes quite 22 hours. 
    Russia buddied up with ESA in the Guyana spaceport, close to the 
equator on the Caribbean coast. Low latitude allows equatorial orbits 
and greater upmass per given booster. Russia plans to launch medium-
lift boosters from there soonest the facilities are complete in 2012. 
Soviet legacy 
    The movie brang back weird memories from my visits to the USSR in 
the 1970s and 1980s. Scenes of Soviet structures were every where, not 
yet replaced or fixed up. In some scenes it looked like facilities 
were further eroded for lack of timely maintenance. 
    The style of building is sometimes called 'Soviet brutalism', a 
buiky and dumpy motif, little adornment, awful materials and 
workmanship. The views of Baikonur and Star City, as examples, 
revealed how terrible Soviet work was, with spalling facades, mis-
fitting doors and windows, missing fixtures, cracked concrete and 
stone, flaking paint, wild vegetation, knocked-up furniture. Even 
tableware and tools looked like Soviet leftovers! 
    Some of these defects could have been cleared up with simple 
upkeep but the country is still only 20ish years into a free society. 
It did not yet build up a sound economic foundation for general civic 
works improvement. 
    When I was in the USSR, one feature of the buildings was the 
'Kansas room' as I and friends called them. It seems that the building 
was built by one agency and then assigned to an other to occupy. There 
simply wasn't enough furnishings to fill the rooms, leaving them as 
empty as, erm, Kansas. Or the occupant simply never needed all that 
room. Scenes in 'Space Tourists' showed several of these empty rooms, 
with little or no furnishings in them. New Russia is stuck with these 
structures left over from the Soviets, 
    More of the Soviet legacy showed up in episodes in labs and 
workshops. Workers wore street clothes, lacked safety gear, showed 
little regard for deliberate procedures, left their tools and supplies 
scattered about. 
    I do admit that Americans are fanatics about sanitation. Even 
Western Europe can look dirty by US norms. Russia was never known as a 
clean and orderly place. Europe regarded it as run by boorish slobs. 
    In my visits there was dirt, crud, filth every where. "Space 
tourists' showed a much cleaner Russia, but by US standards, specially 
in the lab or medical scenes, it still looks compromising to health. 
    In a scene with a tour guide explaining the equipment of a space 
laboratory, the narration noted, if I recall rightly, that a certain 
floor-mounted computer performs one hundred calculations per second. 
    This just has to be wrong! I hope the guide made an honest 
mistake. In the 1980s I fooled around with computer built from kits s 
that did over 1/2 MILLION computations per second. They were by the 
surpassed by store-bought models doing 10 or 12 millions of 
calculations per second. 
    A sorry feature of the USSR filled the air over Baikonur. 
Smokestacks, like those at electric power stations, poured out dense 
dark smoke. The Soviets cared nothing about pollution, a word reserved 
for Western ideas and thought. 
    The USSR trashed the landscape with industrial wastes, as I saw in 
my trips, specially in its captive nations. The pollution persists 
mainly because new Russia has no money to remedy it. 
    I do note that the Soviets had a flair for monuments toward its 
space program. The USSR was a master with stone and metal sculpture, 
even if the design was off the mark under 'Soviet brutalism'. The 
space program was a passionate and proud fixture of the Soviet Union 
and its monuments show it. The space monuments had detailed figures 
and props in the stonework, actually free-spirited poses and even a 
dash of abstractism in the structures. 
    It was not clear if there were any new monuments since the fall of 
the USSR. The ones I saw in 'Space tourists' seemed to be Soviet 
leftovers. One glaring feature of them all was the almost total 
absence of electronic or digital motif! Just about all details were of 
mechanical machines and manual labor, with no computers or automation. 
    There was one scene of the Cosmos pavilion in Moscow, with the 
Apollo-Soyuz on display. A visit to Moscow is not complete for the 
space fan without stopping at this exhibit. Built in about 1960, it 
houses an ample selection of Soviet and Russian spacecraft. They are 
in the open, like in an art museum, for close inspection.  
Food and drink 
    A major portion of the 'Space tourists' focused on food and drink. 
Scenes showed Ansari and her crew eating, drinking, ground workers 
eating and drinking, the salvage gangs eating and drinking, the lab 
workers preparing food and drink. 
    Nourishment fo space crews is important for several reasons, not 
just to maintain health and well-being. The adage that an army 
marches by its stomach is true for space operations. Lousy food and 
drink will corrode spirit and discipline, leading to personal
conflicts and dangerous interaction. 
    Yet the Soviets, as i can attest from experience, have about the 
most dismal sense of cuisine. Meals are prepared in a sloppy messy 
manner, with filthy kitchenry and served like so much hash and swill. 
    One of the reasons the Soviets were bashed into defeat in 
Afghanistan in the 1980s was that their soldiers were nourished with 
food hardly fit for farm animals. The troops threw the war against 
their leaders. The US found this situation when it came across 
abandoned Soviet camps. 
    There is, for a civilian meal at a restaurant, usually no relation 
to a menu. What the server brings is what you eat. Same for hotel 
dining, the contents of the plate at your seat is your meal. Eat! 
    The integrity of the ingredients is unknown and unknowable from 
lack of labels or dietary information. Food factories were run like 
machine shops, with dust, odors, smoke, grease all over. Quality 
control oesn't exit. A meal of, say, pancakes is doled in 3-high 
stacks. Each person gets three flaps but they are of different sizes, 
thickness, cook time, density. 
    Space food has requirements beyond those on Earth. Zero-G, lower 
air pressure, fumes, coatings, liquids, interior juices, crumbs, 
residue all must be considered in selecting and compounding food and 
rink for space travel. Given the innate character of Soviet, and now 
largely still in Russia, culinary skills, this must be a heroic 
    The episodes of eating on ISS and testing in a ground lab would 
turn me off for good. The stuff looks like putty of various colors and 
odd names: fish and jelly, zucchini and apple sauce, stuff that 
college kids fool around with for kicks.
    The salvage camps were an other story. The food stock seemed 
crudely compiled with everything having to be cooked. Only the vodka, 
in all scenes was taken 'raw'. 
    I must note that vodka in the US, even the import from the Soviet 
Union, Shtolichnaya, was watered down to pass US limits on alcohol 
content. In the USSR and Russia, there are no such limits. Vodka is 
almost pure alcohol.
    It remains a mystery why the USSR so heavily promoted vodka 
drinking - all of it was made and sold by the Soviet state! -- and 
then put up with the resulting destructive pandemic alcohol addiction. 
    Many space fans pretend that it will soon be possible for an 
ordinary person to buy a space ticket as easily as a airline ticket. 
Apart from the laugh factor of buying airline tickets, there is a 
glatt naivity here.
    Only people fit and healthy enough will ever venture into space 
for the next many decades. Even for a tame suborbit flight, a customer 
must pass a stringent physical exam to uncover any possible problems 
that will adversely affect the ride. The exam is also required for 
insurance, to show that a claimed harm was present before the flight. 
    Orbital flight, like Ansari's, demands a far deeper medical 
inquiry. Already a couple tourist candidates were washed out for 
medical reasons for otherwise completely trivial defects. .   
Curiously, one defect seems to be allowed, seasickness! We plain do 
not understand why some people are horribly afflicted while others of 
apparently equal condition are not. There seems to be no indicator of 
risk in the medical parameters compiled during the exam. Even seasoned 
astronauts and cosmonauts, and now taikonauts, get seasick. 
    Space tourists are trained in Star City, a couple hours outside 
Moscow, put there by the USSR out of sight of foreigners, and their 
own people within the town. It is a gated compound with a myriad of 
workers on board. I may note that 'workers' in Russia means about what 
it did under the Soviets. It was then illegal, subject to workhouse 
penalty, to be out of work. 
    There were only two classes of citizen, peasants and toilers. 
There ws no room for loafers and parasites. So ANY person on the 
premises was a worker, even the floor monitor and the sign duster (for 
    Much of the excessive number of employees comes form the Soviet 
legacy of manual labor. It shunned labor-saving methods. New Russia is 
stuck with the Soviet infrastructure and has not yet modernized it. 
The extra crew keeps things running as they did under the USSR. 
    Star City is a village with many pavilions, reached by foot or 
bike. There is no transit on the base and personal cars are 
discouraged at best. 'Space tourists' showed workers and cosmonauts 
riding around in the snow by bike. I sense that the snow was packed 
down for a firm surface. A bicycle in loose snow can not move. 
    The candidate lives in Star City and is taken on tours elsewhere 
in Russia. His day is like in the army. Get up at, if I recall, 7AM 
attend classes, work out, practice, all day, and finish ar 6PM. Meals 
are provided on the base. I don't know if the candidates or employees, 
can leave for a trip into Moscow. 
    After the day, candidates have homework and studying for the next 
day. The setting is pura mente Soviet with regimen thruout. Do the 
work or else. Now, of course, the 'or else' means flunking out and 
losing your space ride. Under the USSR you were stripped of cosmonaut 
status and awarded some other job, like painting propaganda posters. 
    All interaction is in Russian! WHile cosmonauts must learn English 
and Ansari could speak English with them socially, probably none of 
the Star City employees know English. All the 'Space tourist' episodes 
in Star City had subtitles to tell the audience what's going on. 
    The traveler is not a cosmonaut is not a regular part of the ISS 
crew. However, they must know the furnishings of ISS to avoid or 
prevent mistakes. They could be called on to do a task under 
instruction from the cosmonauts. They also must know and operate 
emergency devices, again under instruction 
    Practice and simulation covers the entire trip from launch to 
landing. Mockups of the Soyuz capsule and rooms in ISS show the 
candidate what to expect, what to do, and -- most importantly -- what 
NOT to do. Playing with a critical fixture can cripple ISS and bring 
injury or death to its occupants. 
Survival training 
    The landing on ground in Kazakhstan is not the end of the ride. 
The landing ma be far from the rescuers, who may need several days to 
reach the Soyuz capsule. Russia after the USSR did not try for water 
landings and in fact maintained the ancient, but trustworthy, Soyuz 
module and operation of the the 1960s. 
    While waiting for rescue, the capsule crew, the tourist and the 
cosmonauts must survive in the wild on their own. The land can be 
infested with beasts, Russian cold, dusty heat, lack of water, massive 
rain, quicksand ground, to note a few in the steppes of Kazakhstan. 
The survival training is done in the wilderness for realism. 
    What ever is in the Soyuz module is what the crew has to live 
with. In addition they have a pistol for hunting game, knifes, 
matches, mess kits, and other camping tools. They larn to make a wind 
and rain shelter from the parachute and antenna poles. Their 
spacesuits, are their cold and insect protection. 
    They use fires, smoke pots, flares to indicate their location for 
approaching retrieval teams. Radio comms is not feasible because the 
capsule has none. It comes back by remote control with only self-
initiated emergency actions. 
    Tourists may bring souvenirs on the ride to give out after 
returning to Earth. These must be space-rated for safety. 'Space 
tourists' showed Ansari stamping postcards and sorting out pictures. 
    One item from the trip is the one dropdead souvenir. The tourist 
keeps his spacesuit! Each suit is custom made to fit the exact 
contours of the traveler and can not be passed along to a later user. 
The suit is packed up and sent to the tourist a couple months after 
the trip. 
Space fans
    Among the few really proud aspects of the USSR for the public was 
its space program. It showed the power and glory of the Soviet Union, 
proof of Communism, validation of their system of life. In the early 
Space Age, when it was the Space Race, the USSR leaded the way into 
space with triumph after triumph over the United States. Its rockets 
were much stronger than American ones, lofted heavier and bigger 
satellites, and penetrated into deep space sooner. 
    It was only in the late 1960s, well into the Apollo era, when it 
was apparent that the Soviets will not make it to the Moon. Even tho 
the US beat the USSR to the Moon, the Soviets were still a commanding 
rival in space. It had the first real space station, Salyut and then 
Mir. Both were built for science from the start, unlike ISS. 
    In the 1980s, the Soviet Union challenged the US to a 'Mars Race', 
which nosed under. Yet the USSR had on the boards a super rocket to 
send humans to Mars, possibly with US participants. 
    Also in the 1980s the USSR built a remote controlled version of 
the Space Shuttle, named Buran. It flew once, perfectly!, but was 
abandoned under the imploding Soviet financial condition. 
    This all vanished when the Soviet system collapsed. There is a 
story of a Soviet cosmonaut in Mir during the shut down of the Kremlin 
regime. He went up as a Soviet citizen from a Soviet satellite country 
and landed as a stateless person in the new country of Kazakhstan. 
    At first, the space program was under a crash scheme of 
dissolution. Artifacts were sold off on the open market, cosmonauts 
were no longer recruited, facilities rusted and decayed. It was truly 
the bailout of the United States, thru the ISS project, that got 
Russia back on its feet to field today a vigorous and healthy space 
program. Pride is back among the Russian people. 
    A new fandom grew up in new Russia for finding and capturing space 
junk. In the US and under UN treaty space junk found on the ground 
belongs to the launching country and must be returned to it. When the 
Columbia Shuttle broke up over the US, pieces were confiscated from 
their finders, partly from ownership as well as potential evidence in 
the inquest. 
    In Russia, the debris is finders-keepers gumbo. Gangs of space 
fans deploy downrange of Baikonur for each launch and watch the 
ascending rocket. As the rocket segments drop off, the fans scramble 
after them in construction trucks. The flat terrain permits driving in 
any direction at good speed. 
    Some of the rocket pieces are saved as souvenirs. The bulk is sold 
for scrap metal of high quality alloy. The movie didn't say what 
happens to the motors, electronics, machine parts. I can't assume they 
are merely discarded or scrapped. Could there be a Lunar X-Prize 
contestant out there who wants them? 
    'Space tourists' was filmed in Russia and other overseas 
locations. Naturally the dialog was in metrics. I could see no one in 
the audience, or in the banter after the show, who groused about the 
exclusive use of metrics. The audience was a diverse crowd from the 
general public, like members of Paley Center, and science-wisely ones, 
like astronomers and space fans. This film is one more demonstration 
that people in the City are conversant in both systems without 
retreating to oldstyle. 
    Persons in the film pronounced 'kilometer' as 'KIH-loh-mee-terr, 
KEE-loh-meh-terr' and also 'kih-LO-meh-terr'. Altho the former is 
technicly correct, I hear both among my colleagues in about equal 
portion. I didn't notice any vernacular words for the measures. Always 
the full word was stated. In the US 'K' is used occasionally for 
kilometer, as in 'The next exit is 6 K farther on'. 
    In only one instance did the movie convert a metric measure to 
oldstyle. In the episode of survival exercise, the narrator explained 
that the tent was made from the Soyuz parachute with an area of a 
thousand square meters 'or ten thousand square feet'. 
    During the panel after the movie the dialog was mostly metric, 
with a sprinkling of oldstyle, like people speaking fluently in two 
languages without translation. At one moment the panel discussed the 
speed of ISS, about 27,000 KPH. Dr Shara at first tried to convert 
this to oldstyle miles per hours and flubbed a bit. He then repeated 
the 27,000 KPH figure and resumed his pace. 
    This movie about space flight was amazingly free of blatant 
propaganda for space projects. There were several quotes from Ansari 
about her emotions on ISS, motive for going into space, admonition to 
strive for your dream. But these were subdued, mixed with solid fact 
and story. There were a couple repeats of a cosmonaut's jingle, a 
modern one because it mentioned God, and that's about it.
    The closest Ansari came to puffing up herself was in the episode 
for the X-Prize and Lunar X-Prize. Since she founded the former and 
inspired tha letter, it can't be faulted that she's in these segments. 
Yet here the emphasis was on the prize, not the founder. The scenes 
covered the Virgin Galactic and a Romania team. 
    Nor was this film a recruitment, like 'Magnificent desolation' of 
a few years ago. That movie pushed the audience to go into space, 
like, tomorrow. 'Space tourists' put out that outer space is now open, 
via first the Russian tourist rides, and then other future options. 
    The film, tho a new one, missed the termination, even if 
temporary, of the Russian tourist rides! It also stayed away from the 
silly uproar over the Iranian flag patch Ansari wore on a shirt. It 
did show how a woman goes to toilet, with a grotesque funnel to fit 
onto the effluent part. 
    After the screening, Dr Michael Shara, of American Museum of 
Natural History, Christian Frei, the filmmaker, and Ira Faltow, of 
NPR's 'Science Friday' show sat on stage to discuss the future of 
private and commercial spaceflight. Shara moderated the dialog, but 
got into the discussion from time to time.
    All three were level-headed folk who pointed out many of the 
obstacles to a large-scale public travel industry in space. Not the 
least of which is that there is at present only one destination, ISS. 
The trio agreed that suborbital flights will dominate for the next ten 
or so years because an orbital ride is an order more complex and 
expansive, even for a free-flying capsule with no landing at ISS. 
    There was some banter about elevators, the fantasy of hoisting 
people and material into space on a rope winched up by a satellite. 
They noted the sheer impracticality of the effort, apart from the 
utter lack of a material suitable for the rope. 
    Probably for most of this century public travel into space will 
confine to low Earth orbit, not a visit at the Moon. One compromise 
may be a round-&-back loop of the Moon that takes about a week.
    Capsules and bases will be very utilitarian with no embellishments 
or finishing, like ISS itself and previous space bases. They'll be 
like army vehicles or submarines. With upmass so costly, any gram ut 
unessential material will be left out. 
    I recalled that the pressure to reduce upmass already causes 
mechanical breakage of parts and equipment on ISS. The wasted time and 
effort to work around the fault and has to call off certain 
    Questions from the floor were generally good ones. Some were 
technical, others asked about future plans. Only one was whiny. A man 
pouted that with NASA's budget so much larger than in the Apollo 
years, why isn't the agency building the rockets to return to the 
Moon? The team explained that NASA"s budget is not all that much 
bigger now, due to inflation. The more important factor is that much 
of the funding is assigned to projects other than going back to the 
Moon. I didn't hear mention of the by-gone 'Moon-Mars-Beyond' idea.
    We left the theater at quite 9:30PM, milled around for a while, 
freshend up, and went our ways. I walked to the subway to go home.