Sunday, January 9, 2011

Small world extends to space

The first I heard of the shooting rampage in Arizona was this Discovery News link on Dr. Ian O'Neil's twitter feed. I saw the big picture of Gabriel Giffords with her astronaut husband and thought, "Oh NO! This woman was just shot through the head and her husband is CIRCLING THE EARTH in the SPACE STATION?!" Fortunately the article clarified for me that the astronaut on the space station is the identical twin brother of the man in the picture. Scott Kelly is clean shaven with glasses and his brother has a mustache and no glasses. Thanks for that, twins.

Just last week I watched a great video Scott Kelly made on the space station about how he prepares and eats his food.

My impression at the time was that people with shaved heads look very professional in zero gravity. But I wondered if he has to wear his glasses frames especially tight to keep them from drifting off his head. I still wonder these things, but now I also wonder how he deals with doing his job in space with the emotional distraction of having his sister-in-law targeted by a gunman with a whole slew of her friends taken out at the same time. Once again I've gone all hyper-emotional over something that has nothing to do with me. I can't help crying for this engineer in space.

I imagine him watching Brian Williams tomorrow night (no news feed on the weekends) on that tiny little monitor while he eats Starkist tuna out of the same pouch Alton Brown recommends for home use. If I was up there watching news about my family in crisis I would break down and cry, therefore my eyes are welling up right now just thinking about it. But I'm pretty sure there is no crying on the space station. And I expect that Scott Kelly is similar to other engineers I know, like my brother, who could always block out any distraction to focus on what he needed to get done.

Back in college I had a crappy K-car with $60 tires. That's what I paid for all four. One afternoon I slid off a rain-slicked road into a tree, broke a headlight and was left with one front wheel hanging in midair. I rang the doorbell at a nearby house and borrowed the phone to call my brother to come help me. He told me he had a test the next day and couldn't leave his books. He said he would call our friend Tom for me. Tom liked any excuse to avoid school work. He came with a rope and pulled my car back so all four tires were on the ground. I envied my brother his ability to concentrate like that back in the day, and I still do. I'm starting to figure out that it's basically a kind of handicap -- I have extreme emotional reactions where normal people are blasé. The only sure way to concentrate is to write about whatever it is I'm overemotional about. I'm not sure what other people feel about this shooting spree. Not a lot of people in my social network have said anything about their feelings. Plait says his heart is heavy. "It’s OK to grieve, it’s OK to be horrified, and it’s OK to be angry. I’m angry, damn angry." From the sound of this I'm not getting the same emotional reaction. Am I grieving? I'm pretty sure I'm not horrified or angry. I'm just really sad in a kind of oblique way. I guess that's grieving. I'm not interested in the details other people are so much. I haven't even bothered to go get a look at Sarah Palin's crosshairs map. I'm just worried about the engineer stuck in space while his twin brother is probably pacing the floor of a waiting room somewhere.

So anyway, I hope Scott Kelly is like my brother. And considering he licked the scissors after he opened his beef stew in that video he made I am pretty sure he is exactly like my brother. Before we moved off campus to an apartment together my brother lived in the new swanky dorm on West Campus. One day I took the Stinger bus from my unairconditioned old dorm on East campus to go visit him. He was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and asked me if I wanted one. I was so relieved that I said no when he licked off the spoon and put it away in the pencil tray of his desk drawer.

I hope Brian Williams has good news for you tomorrow night, @StationCDRKelly. I think the green beans and mushrooms sounded a lot better than asparagus, especially since you're drinking your reclaimed urine. I would go right out and buy NASA brand water filters if you were the spokesperson.


  1. I wonder if Mark Kelly will fly on STS-134 as scheduled. He has flown before, so it wouldn't surprise me if he decides to stay near his wife.

  2. Apparently he still wants to go!

  3. Interesting thoughts. And if he did cry in space, his tears would just be floating around in front of him, taunting him for the rest of his stay. Maybe he can distract himself by writing his memoir, Floating Tears.