Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Story of the Birds and the Bees – Goodbye to Space

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This post is about real birds and real bees (sort of). On St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2011, I left Houston for Star City, Russia via Frankfurt and Moscow, and the start of my journey to space. As I sat at the airport, I wrote the blog post, “IAH Gate E7: 1st Leg on the Journey to Space

As I prepared to leave for final launch preparations, I experienced an interesting phenomenon. Realizing that leaving Houston starts me on a journey that will take me off the planet for six months, I started to take note of things that I will not experience for half a year. Whether it’s a flock of birds against the sunset or early morning mist on the water of Clear Lake, or a million other things that define the beauty of life on our planet, I experienced a profound appreciation for the gift of the beauty of our world. I will miss a great many experiences that I normally take for granted, but I also look forward to the new experiences that define the beauty of life off the planet.
So here I am about to return to Earth after five and a half months in space. I’m getting excited about again experiencing all those things that define life on Earth. At the same time, however, I’m realizing that I will leave behind all those things that define life in space.
I’ve been told that when Sasha Samokutyaev, Andrey Borisenko and I land later today, we will have spent 164 days in space (162 on the International Space Station), made 2,624 orbits of the Earth, and will have flown 65,340,224 miles (but who’s counting?).  After all this time in space, separated from the Earth, I have come to know a new existence up here. An existence that is without many of the sights, sounds, smells and feel of life on Earth, but an existence with its own share of special defining qualities.
Among the things I will miss is the freedom of movement we have here inside the space station.  Nothing is out of reach. If I want to go somewhere, I can be there with the push of a finger. If I need to work on something on the floor, I don’t need to bend down – I have the freedom to flip my body around and stand on the ceiling — turning the floor into the ceiling.  If my hands are full and I need to grab something, I can simply let go of what I’m holding, and it will stay right in front of me (for a little while, at least).
Not upside down!
I will also truly miss looking out the windows. 
The view from my window in the Space Station Cupola: the west coast of Africa
I will miss looking at our beautiful planet and the grandeur of our universe from this vantage point. I will miss watching meteors streak across our atmosphere below us, the rapid fire paparazzi flashbulbs of lightening storms at night, and flying so close to dancing curtains of auroras that you feel like you could reach out and touch them. 
Dancing lights near Tasmania 11:00am GMT September 14, 2011
I will miss gazing from space at places on Earth that have significance to me because of the memories of visits or their beauty. I will also miss seeing those places on the planet where  life is being made better through the work of amazing people.
The Horn of Africa 1:45pm GMT September 14, 2011
I will miss watching the Earth transform from day into night and night into day sixteen times a day. 
Sunrise from space, August 27, 2011, as we flew along a path between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I will miss watching thunderstorms casting long shadows across the Earth as the sun starts to set. I will miss watching the Earth change from blue, white and green to pink, red, and then black as the sun sets. I will miss watching the Earth come alive after the sun has set and the cities and towns light up the planet.
The California coast at daybreak April 17, 2011
I will miss seeing the line that separates day from night and contemplating the stark differences in the human experience on either side as it slowly moves across the surface of our Earth.
The man-made border between India and Pakistan, visible from space on August 17, 2011
I will miss a thousand other things that define life in space and I understand and appreciate that I have been given a special privilege to have these experiences. 
Because of this, I also feel a great responsibility to share these experiences, as best I can, with as many people as possible. I have tried very hard over these past months to do just that. I have found that sharing this experience with all of you has made the experience more meaningful and enjoyable.  I thank you all for being with me on this journey.
Above all else, what I will miss most about living and working in space is striving to use the orbital perspective to inspire people to make a positive difference and help improve life on Earth. The good news is that I don’t have to be in space (or ever have been in space) to have the orbital perspective. I don’t need to have ever been in space to realize that we have one planet that we are all riding on together through the universe, that we are all interconnected, that we are all family. 
I look forward to continuing the efforts of Fragile Oasis after I return to Earth. I look forward to continuing to share this experience with others as best I can. I took tens of thousands of pictures during my time on the International Space Station, and I look forward to continuing sharing those with you after my return to Earth.
Thanks to everyone for being with me on this journey. Let’s continue it together. This my last blog post from space, but in my next post from Earth, I’ll tell you what it was like to be human meteor as Sasha, Andrei and I return to Earth in our Soyuz capsule.
I want to wish all the best to everyone on our good Earth,
Ron Garan, Earthling   
                                                                                                          

Cupola Corner 6 – Conversation With Mike Fossum

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Welcome to Cupola Corner Episode 6 – My conversation with Expedition 28 crewmate Mike Fossum, that actually began just about one hundred days ago when he arrived on the International Space Station looking for coffee.
“Don’t leave me Ron!…” — Mike Fossum

Cupola Corner 5 – Conversation With Satoshi Furukawa

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Welcome to Cupola Corner Episode 5 – A conversation with Expedition 28 and 29 crewmember Satoshi Furukawa about how we can use the view from the International Space Station to inspire people to make a difference, and to make life better on our planet.
When I first looked out the window of the ISS…I was moved by the the thin blue atmospheric layer…that protects Earth from the harsh environment of space…”  — Satoshi Furukawa

September 11, 2001 Remembered September 11, 2011

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Originally posted 09-11-2011 on Fragile Oasis

During this morning’s flyover near New York City, the Expedition 28 crew stood in silent tribute to those who were lost on September 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

New York City Under the Clouds Sunday, September 11, 2011 10:37am Eastern Time
Mike Fossum and I reflect on September 11, 2001 in this video recorded a few days ago.
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Cupola Corner 4 – Conversation With Sergei Volkov

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Dobro Pozhalovat Cupola Corner
Welcome to Cupola Corner Episode 4 – A conversation with Expedition 28 and 29 crewmember Sergei Volkov about how we can use the view from the International Space Station to inspire people to make a difference, and to make life better on our planet. 
You can see how thin the atmosphere is that keeps life on earth…” — Sergei Volkov

Cupola Corner 3 – Conversation With Andrey Borisenko

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Dobro Pozhalovat Cupola Corner
Welcome to Cupola Corner Episode 3 – A conversation with Space Station Commander Andrey Borisenko about how we can use the view from here to inspire people to make a difference and to make life better on our planet. 
The more people who can observe our planet from orbit, more will understand how beautiful it is…” — Andrey Borisenko

Cupola Corner 2 – Conversation With Alexander Samokutyaev

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Dobro Pozhalovat Cupola Corner!
Welcome to Cupola Corner Episode 2 – A conversation with Soyuz Commander Sasha Samokutyaev about how we can use the view from here on the International Space Station to inspire people to make a difference and to make life better on our planet. 
“I wish all (could) fly to space and maybe they’ll realize how fragile life is on earth and they will be able to cooperate better.” – Alexander Samokutyaev

The Sunrise From Space – Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires August 27, 2011

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The Sunrise From Space – Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires 
August 27, 2011

Update 8/26/11: The Eastern time zone in the U.S. had the most mentions as of the cutoff of 8:00am Friday, August 26, 2011. But, with #Irene a factor along the U.S. east coast, we’ll need a rain (hurricane) check on that! 
GMT-3 was in a close second place. Beginning at 09:28 GMT, Saturday, August 27, 2011, Ron will point his HD camera at the rising sun as the International Space Station flies along a path between Rio de Janeiro in Brazil & Buenos Aires in Argentina. Thank you all for the many, many Tweets! 
Editor’s Note: On Saturday, August 27, 2011, Ron Garan will point an HD camera out a window of the International Space Station Cupolato film one of the sixteen sunrises he sees each day, and then describe it for all of us on Earth.  Which sunrise is up to YOU.
How’s that work?  Simply Retweet the following between now and 8:00am Eastern Time, Friday, August 26th:
@Astro_Ron: Share a sunrise w/ the #ISS http://bit.ly/nFfM50 #SunSpace
Be sure to include your location or time zone, and the hashtag #SunSpace!
A sunrise in the location/time zone with the most Tweets will be the one Ron films with his HD camera the next day. 
Sometime during the afternoon of the 26th, Ron will Tweet the “winning” location/timezone. On the 27th, Earth bound humans can share the experience of watching the sunrise with him and with each other, then compare notes. Here’s what Ron has to say:

Borders From Space

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I have always said, “you can’t see any borders from space.” Apparently I was wrong.
On the evening of August 17, 2011, I “flew” to the Cupola of the International Space Station to shoot some photographs for a time-lapse photography project I have been working on for Fragile Oasis. 
Before beginning the sequence, I took some practice shots to verify camera settings. As I was about to delete them, something caught my eye. In one of the pictures, a very obvious illuminated line snaked across a large landmass for hundreds of miles. 
Initially, I wrote it off as a strange exposure from moonlight reflecting on a river. But, I was intrigued and did some investigating, only to learn this was not a natural reflection at all. Rather, it is a man-made border between India and Pakistan to control passage between the two countries.
Realizing what this picture depicted had a big impact on me. When viewed from space, Earth almost always looks beautiful and peaceful. However, this picture is an example of man-made changes to the landscape in response to a threat, clearly visible from space.  This was a big surprise to me. 
Since the beginning of human spaceflight fifty years ago, astronauts have reflected on how peaceful, beautiful, and fragile the Earth looks from space. These reflections are not clichés that astronauts say because it feels good. It is truly moving to look at the Earth from space.
The point is not that we can look down at the Earth and see a man-made border between India and Pakistan. The point is that we can look down at that same area and feel empathy for the struggles that all people face. We can look down and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family.
When we look down at the Earth, we are faced with a sobering contradiction. On the one hand we can clearly see the indescribable beauty of the planet we have been given. On the other hand is the unfortunate reality of life on our beautiful planet for a significant portion of its inhabitants.
It saddens me and compels me to action when I realize that we have the resources and technology to overcome almost all of the challenges facing our planet, yet nearly 2 billion people do not have access to clean water, countless go to bed hungry every night, and many die from preventable and curable diseases.
I believe that we live in a world where the possibilities are limited only by our imagination and our will to act.  It is within our power to eliminate the suffering and poverty that exist on our planet. 
The answer is quite simple – just do something.  The challenges of the world are really about how each of us individually responds to them.  In other words, to what extent does humanity, on a person-to-person basis, commit to making a positive difference, no matter how small, or how big?
The vision for Fragile Oasis is to be a vehicle to effect real change. We want to provide a means for people and organizations to collaborate and develop synergy toward overcoming our planet’s challenges. We want to encourage people to make a difference, and we want to help organizations that are striving to make the world a better place reach their goals.
In short, the goal of Fragile Oasis is to help reduce that sobering contradiction that we see when we look at the Earth. We want to assist those that are striving to improve life on Earth so that it is not only visibly beautiful, but life is beautiful for all. 

The Fruits of Labor – From Earth to Space

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I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has submitted a project to the Fragile Oasis community. 
The vision for Fragile Oasis is for it to become a vehicle to effect real change. We want to provide a means for people and organizations to collaborate and develop synergy toward overcoming our planet’s challenges. We want to encourage people to make a difference, and to help organizations that are striving to make the world a better place reach their goals.
I have been very impressed with the projects that have already been submitted.  But, in this post, I’d like to highlight a project that I have been involved with personally.  The members of the  Johnson Space Center Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (JSC-EWB) have been volunteering their time for several years to develop a fruit dryer for the L‘Esperance Children’s Aid Orphanage in Rwanda.
Several JSC-EWB members with dried fruit – (left to right) Angela Cason, Tom Bryan, Jake Garan, Matthew Fiedler, Tyler-Blair Sheppard, Lauren Cordova.  Not pictured is Samantha Snabes.
L’Esperance is near and dear to my heart. I visited the orphanage in 2006 during a trip to the area with the humanitarian organization Manna Energy Foundation. I founded Manna in 2005 outside of my work with NASA and it has no affiliation with my “day job.”
The orphanage director, Victor Monroy, is committed to developing L’Esperance into a financially self-sufficient community that can also provide employment to the orphans when they reach adulthood. One of the ways they are doing this is to grow fruit on the orphanage grounds, and staffing the orchards with adult community members, who were orphaned in childhood themselves.
The orphanage plans to produce up to 18,000 kg per year of wet, cored peeled pineapple, 16000kg/year of guava, and 24,000 kg of wet, peeled, sliced mango. While some of the fruit feeds the children and staff of the orphanage, the goal is to dry most of the fruit to sell at market, producing a source of income from just under five metric tons of organically-grown, sustainably-dried premium snack food per year, and perhaps 50,000 jars of mango preserves.  As I write this, members of the JSC-EWB are at the orphanage installing the first prototype solar fruit drying systems.
Besides the solar dryer, the team is investigating kitchen waste heat, dedicated wood stoves, and biogas as potential sustainable heat sources for the many months in Rwanda when sunlight is insufficient to dry the fruit.  This trip will help to characterize the overall systems engineering of the project, and build expertise with fruit preparation, handling, and storage issues at the orphanage.
As the team prepared to leave Houston for Rwanda, they ran their prototype solar fruit dryer through a test program which produced some great dried fruit. The team was kind enough to send me a sample of dried pineapple on the Progress Cargo ship which docked to the International Space Station in June. It’s great to have this tasty fruit up here as a reminder of this great project, and the hard work of all the team members to improve the lives of those at the orphanage.
Keep submitting those great projects to Fragile Oasis!
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