Meanwhile, Up There


Six Astronauts from Three Nations
Flying High Above Us at 17,300Mph

How easy it is for us to forget. In the time you’ll spend reading this post, Commander Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin, André Kuipers, Oleg Kononenko and Don Pettit, will zip by over us a few times, busy tending to the 30th astronaut expedition to the International Space Station.
Since we’ve started the week marking the 50 years last Monday of John Glenn‘s historical flight circling the Earth aboard the Friendship 7, it’s only fitting to take a few minutes today to think about the current crew of six working 24/7 to keep his legacy, and our stardust dreams, alive.
We do forget about them, sometimes, so focused we must be on our own ant-like business of being alive. But, as flight engineer Don Pettit wrote this week, “when earthlings can see us, we cannot see them. The glare from the full sun effectively turns our windows into mirrors that return our own ghostly reflection.”
Pettit, from Oregon, along with Turkumenian Konokenko and Dutch Kuipers, arrived at the ISS two days before Christmas. Burbank, from Connecticut, was already there, and so was Russians Shkaplerov, who turned 40 last Monday too, and Ivanishin, all brought aloft on board two Soyuz rockets.
They should all be back to Earth for Easter. But make no mistake, these guys are the text-book combination of super-athletes and rocket scientists: if there’s anything humanly possible to do to avert disaster, they’re perfectly capable of doing, with honors, as most of everything they’ve done in life has been.
Up there, though, they’re but a speck of dust, racing among 500,000 other objects of different sizes, all capable of ending their adventurous lives in the time it takes us to complete this sentence. From up there, they can’t expect to get help from any of the seven billion who mostly ignore them.
That’s why this Saturday, out of the blue, we thought we should try to spot them crossing over our heads, as silently as the other heavenly bodies around them. Except that theirs carries some of our own shine and hearts. The ISS is fair game to be wished upon too, just like any other shooting star.
You can follow them on Tweeter, read their blogs or find out more about their mission. You can also talk to your friends or children about them. Or just keep them on your mind, as you go about your daily chores, usual aggravations and small miracles.
Click on the two pictures that illustrate this post for the videos that will help you picture yourself up there, watching us from above, as Pettit says, without really seeing us, but the planet as a whole, as it wakes up and goes dark several times a day.
Here’s to you, ISS and the only star in the vast wide universe to carry six beings just like us. Take good care of them.

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