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Soyuz a Smoother Ride than Shuttle, Astronaut Tells Students:

from The ARRL Letter, Vol 24, No 09 on March 4, 2005
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Soyuz a Smoother Ride than Shuttle, Astronaut Tells Students:

Youngsters attending St John's School in Houston, Texas, used ham radio to pose 15 questions about life in space to International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao, KE5BRW. For Chiao, the contact February 23 between NA1SS and W5RRR--the club station at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)--was a way to "phone home," in a manner of speaking. The QSO was arranged through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. One student was curious about the differences between traveling into space aboard the Russian Soyuz vehicle and the US space shuttle.

"The Russian rocket, because it doesn't use solid-rocket boosters, is actually much smoother. It's liquid engines the whole time and just feels a little bit different," Chiao explained. "Also, because it's a missile--not a winged vehicle like the shuttle--the actual trajectory is a little bit different that than of the shuttle, so we actually pull a few more Gs. We get up to about four and a half Gs as opposed to three Gs on the American space shuttle." So-called "G" forces refer to the force of gravity during acceleration.

Both spacecraft convey crews into space--the Soyuz can hold three passengers, while the shuttle can accommodate a crew more than twice that size, and both take the same amount of time to get into space--about eight and a half minutes, Chiao pointed out. The Soyuz vehicles have been the sole means of transporting crews to and from the ISS since NASA grounded its shuttle fleet following the 2003 shuttle Columbia tragedy. As a result, ISS crew complements dropped from three to two members. NASA hopes to return the shuttle to flight this summer.

Chiao said haircuts and shaving in zero gravity present minor challenges to the ISS crews. "For haircuts we do have an attachment we hook up to the vacuum cleaner to keep the hairs from flying all over the place when we cut each other's hair, and so we've both become amateur barbers," he told the students. Chiao said that for shaving, the crew has a choice of electric razors or blades.

The Expedition 10 Commander also said humans are naturally curious and explorers. "We want to know what's on the other side of that mountain," he said.

St John's teacher Rene Wright thanked Chiao for selecting the school for an ARISS school group contact. "For us it has been the experience of a lifetime," she said. Chiao allowed that the contact was a real pleasure for him and that it was "great to be talking to home again."

Ten St John's students ranging from elementary through high school age participated in the QSO. Looking on were some 400 students, teachers and parents. The Johnson Space Center's Nick Lance, KC5KBO, served as control operator for the contact.

ARISS is an educational outreach with US participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.


The ARRL Letter Vol. 24, No. 09 March 4, 2005

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