SPACE TOURISTS ------------ John Pazmino NSkies Astronomy Inc www.nsykies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 2010 October 23
Introduction ---------- 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 order. 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 hall.
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.
X-Prize ----- 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 circumstances. 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.
Rocketry ------ 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.
Astronautics ---------- 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.
Monuments ------- 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 challenge. 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.
Preparation --------- 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 snow). 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?
Metrics ----- '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.
Propaganda -------- 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.
Conclusion -------- 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 experiments. 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.