A Beautiful Disaster

Aug. 27, 2011


We’ve been watching Hurricane Irene take shape as we’ve flown overhead the last few days.  I took this picture as she was clearing the Caribbean and pressing toward the Carolinas on Friday afternoon. Stunning. And scary.


When I look down from my vantage point on the space station, most of the time I marvel at the complexity and beauty of our home planet. We mostly look for bits of brown and green (i.e., land) on an otherwise blue and white tapestry of ocean and clouds. In fairness, you can sometimes see traces of ocean currents and mildly interesting patterns in the clouds, but those just don’t draw my attention like the land with its mountains, rivers, fields, and pallet of colors.


This week I watched a mildly interesting circular pattern of clouds turn into a fearsome storm. I may never look at clouds with marginal interest again.

After living on the Texas Gulf Coast for most of my life and experiencing the raw power of several hurricanes first-hand, this sight of a full-blown hurricane evokes a lot of emotions.


Good luck down there!

You’re in our thoughts and prayers up here!!


Living the Dream!


-Mike Fossum

 ISS Expedition 28/29

Keeping a Tight Ship After Cargo Crash

Aug. 25, 2011


Sorry so long without writing! It has been really busy in a mostly great way. We have settled into a routine of cranking through the weeks – keeping the space station running, ramping up the science, and learning how to get some really cool sequences of night photos I can’t wait to show you. We recently commented on how we could see what life will be like up here in the post-Space Shuttle era. Today, however, we get a curve ball thrown at us when a Russian Progress cargo ship had a failure during launch and didn’t make orbit. In other words, it crashed.


You probably know more about this than we do tonight.


There was no crew on the cargo ship, so apparently no loss of life and that’s a very good thing.

We lost some cargo and supplies, but are pretty well stocked thanks to Atlantis and the STS-135 crew, so this isn’t a serious setback.

The bigger deal right now is the fact that the booster system (i.e., “rocket”) for the Soyuz spacecraft (which is now the only way to get crew to the space station) shares many components with the one used on the cargo ship which failed today.


In short, uh oh.

With very little knowledge of what went wrong, we have to be very careful before strapping another crew in for launch.


What this means for us immediately is we are as safe as you can be living 240 miles above the planet while orbiting at 17,500 mph! Our rockets worked perfectly during launch, got us into orbit and to the ISS. It seems fairly certain the failure which occurred is related to launch. We don’t use the same huge rockets for the ride home, so there is no reason to worry about a problem with us getting home safely.


To make a long story just a little bit longer, we’re fine. We have a mission to accomplish: We’ll stay focused on taking care of this amazing international outpost and getting as much science accomplished as possible. As always, the ones who take the emotional brunt of this kind of deal are the loved ones waiting for us at home.


You’ll hear from me again soon – I promise! In the meantime, here’s a single photo to whet your appetite. It was taken over Central Europe looking south down the length of Italy. I have a few thousand more.

Central Europe from ISS


In the meantime, thanks for your prayers and stay tuned. This is going to continue to get interesting!


Living the Dream!


-Mike Fossum