Popular Science

SPACE LIKE HOME

AUGUST 2007 WAS A SPECIAL TIME ON THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. A SHUTTLE CREW—NEW BLOOD, FRESH SUPPLIES—WOULD SOON ARRIVE. ASTRONAUT CLAYTON ANDERSON, THE ONLY AMERICAN ABOARD SINCE THAT JUNE, WAS READY FOR NEW PEOPLE TO TALK TO.

First, though, he had to deal with Mission Control. Anderson had come aboard the ISS with the explicit goal of improving procedures for future crews; his work on the ground had included astronaut support and communications. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that he regularly felt annoyed by the tedious processes Houston demanded he follow. In preparation for the shuttle’s arrival, for instance, they had instructed him to remove a special spacewalk bag (storage for equipment like gloves and eyeglasses) from the airlock, place it in a second bag, take a new spacewalk bag from the arriving crew, remove the old bag from the outer bag, and give it to the new arrivals to put in the shuttle

If you think that sounds convoluted, Anderson would agree. He tried to suggest a simpler approach, but the people on the ground weren’t interested. In fact, the flight director forwarded him an email containing their frustrated internal communications: “Why doesn’t he just be quiet and do what he’s told?” and “Why don’t they just bring him home?”

Anderson kept notes and journals about his gripes—as well as more-pleasant experiences—and turned his reminiscences into a 2015 memoir, . But his diaries were also part of a review that NASA had commissioned to identify the most difficult aspects of lengthy space travel as the agency began planning for missions to Mars and elsewhere. Promised anonymity, Anderson and 19 other space-station crewmembers shared their reflections with anthropologist Jack Stuster, who heads a consulting firm specializing in behavioral research. Password-protected and encrypted, the dear-diaries winged their way to ground stations whenever the astronauts composed an entry. They slipped onto a

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