Kowie astronomy buffs discuss International Space Station

ROB KNOWLES

OUT OF THIS WORLD: The members of the Astronomy Club of Ndlambe met at alderman Louise Swanepoel’s home on Wednesday last week to discuss the International Space Station. From left (seated) are Georg Spieker, Alan Lubbe and Lindsay Walker with (standing) Johan de Wet, Peter Grist, Barry Fourie and Louise Swanepoel Picture: ROB KNOWLES

TRAVELLING at thousands of kilometres per hour while standing on your head might not be everyone’s cup of tea but, to the crew of the International Space Station (ISS), it’s just another day on the job.

The Astronomy Club of Ndlambe discussed this and other fascinating star-gazing information when they met at former councillor, now alderman, Louise Swanepoel’s home last Wednesday.

Member Georg Spieker brought with him a video of the latest crew of the orbiting ISS, where American flight engineer Sunita Williams showed off the habitat, from the onboard laboratories where microgravity experiments are carried out, to the specialised ablution units designed to minimise “accidents” in space.

On the video Williams took the viewer through the vast array of passages connecting the various modules showing that, in space, one can fly around (although, as she demonstrated, stopping can more of a problem).

“The problem is that, in microgravity nothing falls down, and one orientation (for example, standing on the ceiling of the module) is just as valid as any other.”

She showed the sleeping quarters were each member of the crew places themselves in a sort of cupboard, one on each of the four walls of the sleeping quarters, where they keep a sleeping bag and other personal effects.

The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Skylab and Mir stations as the ninth space station to be inhabited. The first modules to be launched left Earth in 1998 and the ISS is effectively the merger of three US space station projects along with the Japanese Kibō module and Canadian robotics.

In 1993 the partially built Soviet/Russian Mir-2, the proposed American Freedom, and the proposed European Columbus merged into a single multinational programme and now form part of the ISS.

Spieker shared his knowledge of the ISS and was questioned regarding its size and operation.

The ISS travels at an altitude of between 330km and 410km above the Earth and orbits the planet 15.7 times a day. It can be seen with the naked eye, without use of specialised equipment.

To establish when next to spot the ISS over the Eastern Cape interested parties can visit www.iss.astroviewer.net.

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