Tuesday, November 4, 2008

easter island international airport

Astronauts often spend the night before a spacewalk in the airlock to lower the pressure in themselves and allow the Nitrogen to escape. They can wake, don their suits & step out the airlock into infinity.

Viktor & Gary wake in the airlock. It is the 131st day of the year. Their watches work on Greenwich Mean Time. That ancient astronomical & nautical measurement guides them through their days and connects them to something concrete, something with gravity, a place on earth that is the base of time. Those traveling astronomers viewing transits, comets & eclipses had to have a way to remind themselves that their observations could possibly mean anything relative to their home. & surely home still existed if they could see that Greenwich means time. They wake at 0530 GMT

Cosmonaut: Alexei Leonov was the first to perform an Extra-Vehicular Activity. There is nothingness out there. Nothingness & micrometeoroids. One cuts throughout your soul. Other cuts through space suit.
Gary: Shit, Vik, you're a riot before anything dangerous. I know they make these things out of Kevlar & nonex & meshes & foils for more than one kind of protection. Maybe more people just died in Soviet Space.
Cosmonaut: Leonov was the first. He said: It was an extra ordinary sensation. I never felt anything like it before. I was free above the earth & saw it rotate majestically below me.
Gary: It's even better out there than here in the ISS. It's all bigger.

Gary rustles out of his sleeping bag held to the wall with Velcro and bungee bands that hold the sleeper's body against the wall to halfassedly simulate laying in an actual bed. Humans are unaccustomed to sleep when they can't tell which way is down. Allowances must be made to help fool the body.

Cosmonaut: I always think of Alexei Leonov when I walk in space. He nearly died any variety of ways. His space suit overinflated because of the lack of pressure. He could barely move.
Gary: Our suits are much better.
Cosmonaut: How can you be sure?
Gary: We just used them the other day.

Gary preps some breakfast. He manipulates specially designed bags of liquids, tins of semi-solids & wafers. The Cosmonaut slithers out of his sleeping bag to the tune of tearing Velcro They have Russian tins of appetizing appetizer to accompany their freeze-dried eggs. the coffee must be cold because the hot water is located in another module of the Space Station.

They slurp liquids from nippled bags & nosh 'eggs' & appetizing appetizer.

They will be out there a long long time & the Cosmonaut likes to start with a full stomach & work his way into a stride & rhythm of work. Nothing worse than trying to perform sensitive, life-threatening, dangerous operations in space on an empty stomach.

With a belch the Cosmonaut realigns himself after his meal. He turns one up to down and concentrates on the space walk preparation.

Cosmonaut: Leonov is also an artist. A great Soviet err... Russian Space hero & an artist. I think of this. Leonov had to violate protocol to survive the vacuum.
Gary: I'm pretty sure violating procedure got him into that mess. You ate too many propaganda berries as a child.
Cosmonaut: He is a Hero.
Gary: Yes, he is. Just don't say he's a hero for reasons he isn't. He was the first one out there.
Cosmonaut: His art...
Gary: Maybe more of us should make art.
Cosmonaut: Definitely, more perspectives from this perspective.

The Cosmonaut floats to the next module to verify the preparations of the suits which appear as ready as before the travelers went to sleep.

They don their fancy suits.

14 layers or more of protection from micrometeoroids, lack of pressure, cold, heat, solar wind & cosmic radiation. A backpack contains climate control equipment. Air to breathe & cool the suit. That many layers provide serious insulation. It's cold in the nowhere.

Space Suits support Extra-Vehicular Activity up to 7 hours. Yes, they also provide for excretion of bodily wastes.

Cosmonaut: Alexei's paintings are beautiful representations of the cosmos. His understanding of the vastness is always growing.
Gary: Houston's gonna get mad at you talkin about Alexei Leonov all day. They've heard that story. They really don't like it when you talk about danger.
Cosmonaut: We are special. We have special luck. Special circumstance. We have Cosmos & possibility to understand how it is made.

Gary the Astronaut & Viktor the Cosmonaut are nearly into their suits. They check each other's seals & equipment positions.

Gary: Houston, this is Sparrow. Ready for migration.
Houston: Kzzt. Roger, Sparrow.

The Astronaut & Cosmonaut attach their helmets for so to venture into the night.

Secured in their suits the air in the airlock is removed to holding tanks to equalize the pressure with that of the vacuum so they aren't violently flung from the craft when the airlock door is opened. All parties are in constant communication: Spacewalkers, ISS Control & Mission Control in Houston.

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