Christer Fuglesang's newsletter: space chess!
Houston, 7 July 2009 Yesterday I saw the ISS. For real. Albeit from the ground. The Station passed almost directly over Houston about an hour after sundown. It was like a bright star sailing from the south-west and after only about five minutes disappeared to the north-east.
It was fascinating to see it zip along up there, 350 kilometres up, and imagine that in just a month I'll be there myself. Then I'll be looking down at the Earth quickly passing by below me while I clamber around on the outside. The time is approaching!
You can see the Station from Sweden too, but never directly overhead. The northernmost part of its orbit is over the middle of Germany, but it's so high up that it can reach 37 degrees above the horizon in southern Sweden. ESA actually has a website where you can see when ISS will be passing different cities all over the world: http://www.esa.int/seeiss.
For Sweden you can go to : http://esa.heavens-above.com/esa/iss_step1_3.asp?CountryID=SW. And then enter your town or city. Thursday night would seem to be a good opportunity, if you're up at 23:53 – and if it isn't cloudy.
It was good to have a long weekend after ‘tough week’. The US Fourth of July Independence Day , fell on a Saturday, so everybody had the third of July off instead. I was out with friends and saw several very impressive fireworks on the evening of the fourth of July.
The training wasn't that intensive during the ‘tough week’, but such a long simulation was exhausting in the end. It felt, however, like it was a very valuable exercise and gave a good overview of the flight. We didn't just train for different episodes, but focused on how it all hangs together. Details that are otherwise often forgotten came up. One example concerned where a cable, that is needed to plug in the video camera so that we can send down a video feed, should be stored. That was exactly what happened to me and took two days to solve completely.
This week we have two pool exercises. One was yesterday, when we practiced the third space walk – for the fourth and penultimate time. It went really well this time. On Friday we'll be in the water, all three at the same time: Danny, Nicole and I. We'll go over a number of problem situations that can arise and how we will deal with them.
The STS-127 crew flew to KSC in Florida today. The preparations are underway for a third attempt for them on Saturday 11 July. You just have to keep your fingers crossed that both the weather and technology will be OK this time, third time lucky.
I've made a chess game in Velcro that sits as a page in my Crew Notebook. Now I want to challenge everyone that wants to play a game of chess with me, from the day we enter quarantine, one week before launch, until the game is won!
The Swedish National Space Board, the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter and the Chess Academy will help to organise this. The plan is that the game will be shown on a web page and Dagens Nyheter's chess experts suggest three moves for every move I make and then everyone that wants to can vote. The move that gets most votes is the one executed. I hope to be able to communicate two moves per day, even when I'm in space, so the game can be finished at about the time when we return to Earth. It can be tough, so I'll at least take the liberty of playing white!