This entry was originally posted on July 25, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on


One of the main objectives of this blog is to highlight the scientific research being conducted on board the International Space Station. Specifically, I like to highlight how the research can improve life on Earth. This past week, I had quite a bit of training on some of the experiments I will be participating in while I’m on board the ISS. I will try to explain all of them in a series of blog posts (One even involves burning water – Did you know you could burn water?)

The first experiment that I want to describe is an ISS experiment called InSPACE-3 or Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions-3 (that’s a mouthful so from now on let’s just call it InSpace-3).  This experiment investigates a new class of “smart materials” referred to as MR fluids.  These normally stable fluids undergo a dynamic transition to a solid within milliseconds after applying an external magnetic field.  Chain-like microstructures formed by the particles in these fluids give them this unique property.

MR fluids have been incorporated in actively-damped shock absorbers in automotive suspension systems to improve the safety and performance of their vehicles by providing the ability to change a car’s suspension system in response to changing road conditions.  The Dongting Lake bridge in China actually utilizes MR fluids in its cable dampers to counteract gusts of wind.  Engineers are also exploring the potential use of MR fluids in seismic dampers to protect buildings during violent earthquakes.  The results of the InSPACE-3 experiment should lead to a vastly improved understanding of the mechanical behavior of these amazing fluids.

For more information on InSPACE-3, click:

Improving the Planet's Ability to feed all Inhabitants

This entry was originally posted on July 27, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on

Part II of how scientific research being conducted on board the International Space Station can improve life on Earth.

Another great experiment that we will participate in while on board the International Space Station is the ISS Agricultural Camera (ISSAC) experiment.

ISSAC is a multi-spectral camera that will be installed in a special dark “closet” that is attached to the Earth-facing window of the US lab. This “closet” is called the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF).  ISSAC will take frequent images, in visible and infrared light, of vegetated areas on the Earth, principally of growing crops, rangeland, grasslands, forests, and wetlands in the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States. Images will be delivered within 2 days directly to requesting farmers, ranchers, foresters, natural resource managers and tribal officials to support land management and precision agriculture. The rapid responsiveness of ISSAC imagery may also aid in disaster management applications such as flood monitoring and wildland fire mapping. Images will also be shared with educators for classroom use.
ISSAC was built and will be operated primarily by students and faculty at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND. Farmers will be able to delineate management zones as the crop vegetation changes during the growing season; this can result in more effective use of fertilizer and other chemical inputs and reduce negative environmental effects. This obviously has great potential to be used anywhere in the world that would benefit from improved crop yields.  Great research to help feed the world’s population! For more information see:

JAXA Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki inside the WORF during STS-131

Close up image of the Window Observation Research Facility (WORF) Flight rack at Kennedy Space Center

The 200 Best Songs in the World

This entry was originally posted on August 1, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on

I am presently building an iTunes playlist to take with me for my 6-month tour on board the International Space Station.  I’m calling the playlist “The Best 200 Songs in the World”. Presently I have 68 (listed below in alphabetical order).  I would really appreciate your suggestions and I’m open to suggestions from any genre.  Please just add your suggestions in the comment section of this post.

This is actually an important pre-flight task. The environment on board the space station is very sterile and the only sounds you hear are that of pumps and fans. It is very important to be able to listen to music while living and working onboard.  You definitely have a feeling of isolation while you’re off the planet and listening to music allows you to have a real connection with your home. On STS-124 it was a wonderful experience to be able to look down at the beautiful Earth while listening to great music. Here’s what I have so far:

  • Against the Wind, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  • Alison, Elvis Costello
  • All Because of You, U2
  • Baby, I Love Your Way, Peter Frampton
  • Bad Company, Bad Company
  • Beast of Burden, Rolling Stones
  • Black Dog, Led Zeppelin
  • Black Magic Woman, Santana
  • Black Bird, Beatles
  • Blowin’ In The Wind, Bob Dylan
  • Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
  • Boom Boom, Johnny Lee Hooker
  • Break On Through, Doors
  • Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits
  • Burning Down the House, Talking Heads
  • Carnival, Natalie Merchant
  • The Chain, Fleetwood Mac
  • Changes, David Bowie
  • Do it Again, Steely Dan
  • Do You Feel Like We Do, Peter Frampton
  • Europa, Santana
  • Fantasy, Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Feeling Alright, Joe Cocker
  • Fire & Rain, James Taylor
  • Fly Like an Eagle, Steve Miller
  • Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles
  • Hotel California, Eagles
  • I Will Remember You, Sarah McLachlan
  • Imagine, John Lennon
  • Jealousy, Natalie Merchant
  • Jesus is Alright, Doobie Brothers
  • Kashmir, Led Zeppelin
  • Landslide, Fleetwood Mac
  • Let it Be, Beatles
  • Let’s Stay Together, Al Green
  • Like a Rock, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  • Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan
  • Long Train Runnin’, Doobie Brothers
  • Maggie May, Rod Stewart
  • Moby Dick, Led Zeppelin
  • Moment of Surrender, U2
  • Money, Beatles
  • One, U2
  • One Last Breath, Creed
  • Paradise, Sade
  • Pride (In The Name of Love), U2
  • Pride & Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
  • Ramble On, Led Zeppelin
  • Ready for Love, Bad Company
  • Rebel Rebel, David Bowie
  • Reeling in the Years, Steely Dan
  • Respect, Aretha Franklin
  • Rhiannon, Fleetwood Mac
  • Roadhouse Blues, Doors
  • Roxanne, Police
  • Smooth, Santana
  • Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin
  • Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen
  • Under Pressure, David Bowie & Queen
  • We Are the Champions, Queen
  • What a Wonderful World, Louie Armstrong
  • Wild Horses, Rolling Stones
  • Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd
  • Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton
  • Wonderful World, Sam Cooke
  • You’ve Got a Friend, James Taylor

The 3rd Rock from the Sun is a Fragile Oasis

This entry was originally posted on August 19, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on

I want to devote this post to explaining the part of Fragile Oasis called “3rd Rock.”

The focus of the “3rd Rock” will not be on the problems of the world, but on how the problems of the world are being solved by amazing people. The 3rd Rock page will be dedicated to improving life on our planet, and highlighting those people and organizations making a difference.

It is very difficult to look at our beautiful Earth from space without being moved in some way. My own experience is described on the “3rd Rock” page:

Light from One of 16 Daily Sunrises strikes Solar Arrays as seen from the windows of the Japanese “Kibo” (Hope) Laboratory shortly after it was installed to the International Space Station on STS-124

“It was a very moving experience to see the absolute beauty of the planet we have been given. But as I looked down at this indescribably beautiful, fragile oasis — this island that has been given to us, and has protected all life from the harshness of space — I couldn’t help but think of the inequity that exists. I couldn’t help but think of the people who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, social injustice, conflicts, and poverty. It was an amazingly stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants.”

You may wonder why a “Space” website would devote a section to highlighting solutions to some of the problems facing the world. For me personally, it’s because those who fly in space have been given the unique perspective of living and working off the planet while still being close enough to our planet to see its beauty, vulnerability and to appreciate what an incredible gift it is. Just as this unique perspective continues to inspire those who experience it, the goal of the “3rd Rock” page is to share that unique orbital perspective, and hopefully to share the inspiration to protect our Fragile Oasis and its inhabitants.

Fortunately, we live in a world where many problems faced by previous generations have been solved. Yet, vast numbers of people still do not benefit from those solutions.

Children are the most vulnerable people on our planet. Adults have a responsibility to them not only because they rely on us, but because they are our future. Let’s take a moment to look at some sobering facts about the children of our world:

  • Despite the fact that diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are preventable and curable, The World Health Organization estimates that in 2006 there were over 1 million deaths as a result of malaria. In 2005, 1.6 million people died from tuberculosis worldwide. In both cases, most of these were children.
  • Despite our capacity to provide clean water to every person on this planet, 29,000 children die every day from problems associated with drinking contaminated water
  • Despite resources to feed every person on this planet, 16,000 children die daily from hunger-related causes
  • 22 million infants are not protected from disease by routine immunizations
  • 2 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV

These are not just numbers on a chart. These are children. These facts represent just a fraction of the immense problems facing our planet. When faced with such insurmountable challenges, one can become overwhelmed and frustrated and be left feeling that the problems are too big for them to really make an impact. They ask themselves, What could I possibly do? Is it worth my effort to even try?

Even those people who have made a commitment to improve the world eventually face periods of frustration. However, it is precisely those people who commit to making a positive change, and it is precisely at those moments when they feel discouraged, or when they don’t think they’ll be successful — people who persevere through those obstacles and step outside of their comfort zone are the ones who achieve success in reaching their goals and dreams, and who affect real change in the world. I for one, do not want to look back in the twilight of my life and ask “What would have happened if I really gave it a try, if I really put everything I had into trying to make life better on our planet?”

The first step to affect change is to believe that real change is possible. Here are some things that I believe are true:

  • That it is possible to live in a world without poverty
  • That it is possible to live in a world where no one dies from preventable and curable diseases
  • That it is possible to live in a world where everyone has access to clean water and no one goes to sleep hungry
  • That it is possible to live in a world that educates all its children
  • That we do live in a world where the possibilities are endless, and where we are limited only by our imagination and our will

Peaceful Sleep in Rwanda

We are challenged to make the part of the world we come in contact with a little better; simply because it came in contact with us.  The goal of “3rd Rock” is to encourage people to look for opportunities to better their communities and the world, and to inspire people to go out and make a difference.

Above all, the vision of “3rd Rock” is to encourage everyone, in all that they do, to look for opportunities to make life better for those with whom they share this Fragile Oasis.

Please stay tuned as this part of the website takes shape. As always we are open to your suggestions.

Training & Tribute: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, Russia

This entry was originally posted on September 12, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on

Expedition 25 Backup Crew (from L-R: Ron Garan Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko) (Photo courtesy of the Russian Space Agency)

Well, the second week of training in Star City has ended and it has been a busy week. The prime and backup crews of Expedition 25 have completed all the required pre-launch training in both the Soyuz spacecraft and the Russian Segment of the International Space Station.  Last week we had meetings at Mission Control, just outside of Moscow, with Soyuz and Space Station specialists. We were briefed on the status of the Space Station, the scheduled flight plan, and some of the experiments that will be conducted on board.

Training with the Russian tool kit (Photo courtesy of S.P.Korolev RSC Energia)



Scott Kelly and I also traveled to the Rocket & Space Corporation (RSC) Energia in the Korolev area of Moscow.  There we received training on the actual equipment that comprises the Russian docking systems and hatches. I was also trained on the video and photo equipment located in the Russian segment of the Space Station as well as the Russian tool kit. More pictures from our trip to Energia can be found at this link.

Next week we will face the “Commission” in our final exams to determine our readiness for flight.  We will have a day-long exam in the Soyuz simulator followed the next day by a day-long exam in the Space Station simulator.  Later in the week, we will travel down to Moscow to go before the Commission, conduct media interviews and visit Red Square to lay flowers on the tomb of Yuri Gagarin. It should be an interesting week to say the least.

On the tilt table with the “Braslet” devices

Besides all the preparation and training last week I also was fitted for a devise called “Braslet”.  Braslet was designed by the Russians to counteract the effects of fluid shift on orbit. As soon as the rocket engines shutdown and we arrive in a weightless environment, all the fluid in our bodies that is normally “weighed down” on Earth begins to migrate from our lower extremities to our upper body and head. Braslet is an ingeniously simply device designed to compress the upper thigh to slow the venous return of blood from the legs to the heart.  Basically, I was wired up with all kinds of sensors and placed on a tilt table. Braslet devises which are really nothing more than tourniquets, were placed on my upper thigh and tightened.  I was tilted head down for awhile and felt a marked decrease in pressure in my head when compared to the heads down position without the Braslets. After remaining in this position for awhile, the Braslets were abruptly released which allowed the blood to rush to my head which felt very much like the sensation right as the rocket engines shutdown.

After the “Braslet” evaluation (photo taken by the late Dr. Greg Shashkan)

There is a collaborative research project with the Russian Space Agency and NASA to quantify the effects of the devise using on board ultrasound imaging.  Besides the obvious benefit to future space flight, the study of the physiological responses to altered fluid distribution may lead to increased insight into the diagnosis and treatment of terrestrial conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Gregory Giancarlo Shaskan ~ January 14, 1966 – September 02, 2010

I want to end this post with a tribute.  We ended our week with a memorial for our NASA Star City Flight Surgeon, Greg Shaskan, who died suddenly and unexpectedly the week before last.  The memorial was attended by the American and Russian members of the NASA Star City Office and all the astronauts currently training in Star City.  Gathering with our colleagues to celebrate the life of a great and caring man was very moving. Greg was not only a selfless member of our nation’s space program, who endured long family separations from his wife an infant daughter to care for astronauts training for spaceflight, he also was making a big positive impact on our world. He was a member of Doctors Without Borders and traveled to places like Sri Lanka after the tsunami to provide medical care to those affected.   Greg was not satisfied with the status quo on our planet. He was determined to make life better for those with whom he shared this fragile oasis. My thoughts and prayers are with Greg and his family during this difficult time.

Star City: June 2010 Let the Sims Begin!

This entry was originally posted on June 16, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on


I started training this week with my Expedition 25/26 backup crewmembers Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko (2 Russian Cosmonauts that I spent time with on the ISS during STS-124 – Together we are the back-up crew for the Soyuz that will launch this October).

June 2010: Walking to the first suited simulator training session as the backup crew for Expedition 25 with Sergei Volkov and Oleg Konoenko

Tomorrow is the 2nd of 3 Soyuz simulator training sessions. Today we practiced rendezvous and docking with the Space Station and also an emergency re-entry to Earth. Tomorrow we will climb into the Soyuz simulator in our full Sokol spacesuits and practice all the pre-launch and launch procedures. I’m sure the training team will also input allot of malfunctions for us to deal with.  I’m ½ through my 3rd of 5 weeks of training this trip to Star City. It has been a very busy trip this time but I’m coming up to speed fast on all the Soyuz systems and the Russian Segment of the ISS.  When I return home to Houston in a week and a half I’ll have a week there before heading out to Japan for more ISS training.

Did You Know You Could Burn Water?

This entry was originally posted on August 11, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on
Expedition 27/28 Astronaut Ron Garan (left), and crew instructor Wayne Wright, pose for a photo during a payload training session on Device for the study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC) in the Jake Garn Simulation and Training Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

One of the main objectives of this blog is to highlight the scientific research being conducted on board the International Space Station (ISS). Specifically, I like to highlight how the research can improve life on Earth. This past week, I had quite a bit of training on some of the experiments I will be participating in while I’m on board the ISS. This is the 3rd in a series of blog posts to explain the ISS experiments.

Device for the study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization(DECLIC): In a strange flashback to high school chemistry I vaguely remember that there’s a specific temperature, pressure and density where a liquid and its vapor become identical. When these conditions all exist, the substance is at a state known as the critical point. A supercritical fluid is any substance at a temperature and pressure above its critical point. The International Space Station, DECLIC experiment hopes to lead to a vast improvement in the understanding of how fluids behave near the critical point and further understand fluid compressibility. Water close to its critical point (around 374°C), exhibits a unique behavior that is scientifically very interesting to investigate in absence of gravity. This study will look at the transfer of heat and mass in near-critical water and measure its physical properties. A very informative (but a little goofy) video explaining how the critical point relates to DECLIC (in very easy to understand terms) is at:

In the new environmental technology of supercritical water oxidation (the burning of water) the temperature and pressure are typically above the critical point and it is important to be able to predict the behavior of various dissolved materials. This research could enable the development of supercritical water reactors to treat waste (household waste; nuclear waste; and oil fuels) in an environmentally safe manner.

This research could lead to advancements in the field of clean technologies for producing energy and treating waste.

For more information about the DECLIC experiment please see the CNES website at:

Forecasting Volcanoes & Earthquakes and Making Better Mayonnaise

This entry was originally posted on August 22, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on

This is the 4th in a series of posts to highlight the scientific research being conducted on board the International Space Station.

With Columbus Training Team in front of the Columbus Training Facility at the European Astronaut Center near Cologne Germany

I spent the last week at the European Astronaut Center just outside the beautiful city of Cologne Germany. I have one more week here before I head to Star City Russia for more training with the Russian Space Agency. This past week, I received training on the International Space Station’s European Laboratory known as, “Columbus”. In addition to learning about the systems and equipment of the Columbus Laboratory, I also received training on two of the laboratory’s research facilities: The Fluid Science Laboratory and BioLab.

Fluid Science Laboratory – As its name suggests, this facility studies the properties of fluids. One of the experiments called GeoFlow, will take advantage of the weightless environment to improve our understanding of how fluids behave. Why do we need to do this research in space, you ask?  The weightless environment of the Space Station allows us to vastly simplify or eliminate the following processes that are involved in the study of fluids:

With European Space Agency Instructor Riccardo Bosca in the Fluid Science Laboratory Training Facility at the European Astronaut Center near Cologne Germany
  • Convection is the process where heated fluids, due to their lower density, rise and cooled fluids fall. This process doesn’t take place in the absence of gravity.
  • Hydrostatic Pressure is the pressure exerted by a fluid due to its weight. An environment where objects are weightless= no hydrostatic pressure.
  • Sedimentation is the tendency for particles in suspension to settle out of  a fluid.  In a weightless environment this process is vastly simplified and particles are much more likely to remain suspended in the fluid.
  • Stratification, or the building up of layers is also greatly simplified in an environment where gravity does not cause changes in density.

All this simplification, afforded by a weightless environment, will allow us to build better mathematical models and improve our understanding of the geophysics of the inner core of the Earth. This could lead to better methods of forecasting volcanoes and earthquakes.

Another experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory is called FASES.  This experiment will study the characteristics of emulations. An emulsion is a mixture of two or more unblendable liquids. Emulsions in foods like mayonnaise are mixtures of oil and water. These normally do not mix and will separate if left without an emulsifier. This research can lead to improvements in food production and storage, advanced cooling fluids and a better understanding of how fluids flow.

With European Space Agency Instructors Frank Salmen (left) and Uwe Muellerschkowski (right) in the BioLab Training Facility at the European Astronaut Center near Cologne Germany

BioLab –  is a biological research facility designed to perform experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. The major objective of these experiments is to identify the role that weightlessness plays at all levels of an organism, from single cells to complex organisms including humans.  Some of the experiments we will be doing onboard will expand our understanding of how plants grow in harsh climates and poor soil conditions. This research can lead to more effective food production in areas of the world where it’s presently very challenging to farm. Other experiments in this facility should lead to a better understanding of the human immune system with the hope that this research will lead to better methods of boosting the immune systems. Another interesting experiment will research how our biological clocks are effected by gravity, digestion and light.

Next week I will continue training on many more interesting experiments.  It really is rewarding to be a part of an international science team whose research will make life better on Planet Earth.

I suspect my airplane seat mate has not bathed in months & has likely never brushed his teeth!

This entry was originally posted on August 29, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on
Beautiful Moon behind the Cologne Cathedral (Dom) on our last night in Cologne

My latest training trip to the European Astronaut Center near Cologne Germany is over and I am presently back in Star City Russia. These past two weeks at the European Astronaut Center have been very productive. During the second week of training, I was joined by Scott Kelly on his last trip to Germany before launching to space on October 8th.  As we boarded the airplane from Germany to Russia, Scott sent out the following “Tweet” from his @StationCDRKelly Twitter account: I suspect my airplane seat mate has not bathed in many months and has likely never brushed his teeth“.  No, he wasn’t taking about me. The picture below should explain it.

Scott Kelly’s seat mate on his last flight to Russia prior to his Soyuz launch
Scott and I were paired up for his last training because I am his back-up for the Expedition 25/26 mission to the International Space Station.  The purpose of a back-up is to be ready to launch in case something happens to the prime crew which would prevent them from flying. I will mirror all of Scott’s training and activities between now and his launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will be very interesting to not only participate in all the final training preparations but also all the pre-launch traditions. We will be in Star City for the next 4 weeks and then we will head down to Baikonur and stay until launch.

It will be surreal to be at the place where Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he launched on the Vostok spacecraft on April 12th, 1961. It will be even more surreal when I launch from the same place 6-months from now on almost the exact 50th anniversary of human spaceflight. I will be sure to document all the action with pictures and blog posts.  I also promise to catch up on my posts describing the experiments we will be conducting while on board the International Space Station. It really is amazing seeing the potential for a great positive impact on the world that can come from the research being conducted on board.