Home' Technology Review : January February 2009 Contents ORAL HISTORY 69
WWW. TECHNOLOGYREVIEW. COM
burning up that caused the darkness. The window has like
three panes, and the outside pane is made to burn o a bit.
Shuttleworth: You're on your back, spinning around, and the
G force is building up, and your vehicle is ablating away. It's
intense. You've got to focus on the G forces building up.
Simonyi: The G forces are substantial but much easier to take
than the G forces fighter pilots take, because it is through
a di erent axis of your body. It's not down to your feet, but
through your body, back and forth.
Garriott: The next big event is the opening of the drag chute,
which can get a bit rough and tumble. Then when the main
parachute opens, it's kind of like being at the end of a whip
that has been cracked. Debris begins to scatter through the
capsule even if it is really held down. Lots of projectiles.
Simonyi: I was entrusted to carry all the books, because the
bookshelf was full of scientific stu . Nobody seemed to be
worried that I was carrying these books through impact.
Garriott: We were all in space suits with helmets closed, so we
were all quite well protected.
Simonyi: Ten meters per second is your terminal velocity. Basi-
cally, you're running into a brick wall at 25 miles per hour.
Ansari: I thought it was going to be hard, but I never thought
it was going to be this hard. The impact was shocking. You hit
the ground so hard that the impact stops the blood flow. It felt
like thousands of needles ran through my back.
Olsen: We bounced, we rolled a bit, we made some radio con-
tact. We were instructed to wait for the search-and-rescue
people. The next thing I know, I hear some banging on the
capsule. They're just letting us know, "Hey, we're here."
Shuttleworth: You have to wait for the capsule to cool down. We
were kind of impatient, so we opened up our visors.
Ansari: It gets really hot inside the capsule while you're coming
down. You're hot and sweaty inside your space suits, and the
whole experience really makes you feel disoriented. You're not
used to gravity. You feel heavy. You can barely move.
Shuttleworth: The three of us were kind of staring out with
our eyes wide open, smiling and looking at the hatch. In the
impact, a whole spadeful of dirt had basically gone onto the
hatch. And as they opened the hatch, we all got a face full of
dirt. Sort of, "Welcome back to Earth." It was very funny.
Olsen: They just cut all the straps with knives, pulled us out,
and put us in chairs.
Garriott: Even just 10 days in space and you really do lose the
ability to really even stand up properly.
Ansari: It sort of reminded me of being born again.
Olsen: It was like when you graduate from college. You have
this wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I really felt good
about myself in a serene, secure way, not in an egotistical or
bragging way, but just, "Wow."
Garriott: In training, you learn who has made what mistakes.
And so you realize that if you make a mistake, your name will
be used in association with that mistake for training for the
rest of the history of the Russian space program.
Olsen: "Thank God I didn't screw up." That was my first
thought when we landed, honestly.
Garriott: People have powered on or o things they shouldn't.
Radios have been misconfigured. The toilet has been abused.
Simonyi: So anyway, we are in Kazakhstan, and then we take
the helicopter to the airport, and then we take the plane back
to Star City. I didn't take a bath that night. I just went to bed.
Olsen: First thing I did was have a shower. A shower and a shit,
if you'll excuse me. Then I went back home. Now I look up and
say, "Hey, there are my buddies, just floating up there."
Ansari: You're out there in space looking back at Earth, and
in a way, you're also looking back at your life, yourself, your
accomplishments. Thinking about everything you own, love,
or care for, and everything else that happens around the world.
Thinking bigger picture. Thinking in a more global fashion.
Simonyi: I don't think the purpose of spaceflight is to make bet-
ter people. Because it will somehow change you or change your
life---those are not the right reasons to go to space.
Garriott: I would agree with that, in principle.
Shuttleworth: For everybody, a year of your life in some odder
circumstance is going to change you. That's kind of human
nature. It's hard to put a finger on how, exactly.
Olsen: It's a life-changing experience in a subtle way. I mean,
I'm not hugely spiritual or anything like that, but it's so much
more than the flight. You make lifetime friends.
Simonyi: For example, Sergei [Krikalyov] is an amazing guy. I
mean, he is so smart and so athletic. He's just a wonderful guy
to be with, and so multifaceted. People don't appreciate how
many people have flown multiple times. The top 10 people
have 60 missions among them---six apiece.
Garriott: On the American side, I began to have what I'll call
intellectual discussions about experiments and designs and
things [with the astronauts]. I have some ideas for even some
contemporary NASA research. In fact, they are truly doing
some research based upon an idea I proposed. That really
made me feel good, because I realized that even in the engi-
neering aspects, I could play with them. Participate like I'm
their equal, if you know what I mean.
Simonyi: Experienced people just do so much better in space
In October, Simonyi exercised his $5 million option to buy a return
ticket to the ISS. He is scheduled to fly this spring.
ADAM FISHER WRITES ABOUT SCIENCE AND TRAVEL. HIS WORK HAS APPEARED
IN THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, NEW YORK, AND WIRED.
Links Archive March April 2009 November December 2008 Navigation Previous Page Next Page