Right now, even as you’re reading this, there are human beings living in space, conducting science on orbit of planet Earth.
Every moment of every day for the last 15 years, aboard the International Space Station or ISS for short, American astronauts and their counterparts from around the world have been living La Vida Weightless, orbiting Earth every hour and a half and doing … float-y, scienc-y things.
Ever wonder what that’s like? How it would be to live 24-7 for months at a time in a spaceship, looking down on the blue planet underneath from the void of space, conducting research that would be impossible down here on the ground, where things fall when you drop them?
If so, allow me to humbly suggest you do one of three things:
The first choice, while awesome, takes a lot of work. The second choice will definitely make you want to accomplish #1, but it does take some planning and saving. But option three? You could go do it right now! (Assuming you’re currently in Huntsville and it’s between the hours of 9-5. If so, stop reading and GO.)
Science On Orbit is the latest permanent exhibit at the USSRC, and it’s an impressive one. The museum opened in 1970, back when people had only walked on the moon twice, and it’s always done a great job of sharing that historic moment. With the shuttle era came Pathfinder, currently the only full-stack shuttle display in the world, among other exhibits. With Science On Orbit, the museum has entered the space station era in a big way, with an immersive experience that could only be presented by the folks behind Space Camp.
Learn more about the ground controllers that help astronauts with their experiments. (You can then see them live on the daily Marshall Space Flight Center bus tour.) Hear about the station from museum guides. Meet Robonaut, the station’s resident robot. And then walk through full-scale mock-ups of the station that are even higher fidelity than the ones Space Camp trainees use, perform your own “research,” and get an idea of what it would be like to look through the station’s cupola at Earth below.
Fun Fact: Huntsville, Alabama is home to the International Space Station’s Payload Operations Command Center – the “heartbeat” for station science research operations.
In fact, if there’s one downside to Science On Orbit, it’s that it very well may make you want to go to Space Camp yourself. (You’re never too old for Space Camp!) And, of course, that’s going to make you want to become an astronaut.
So come check out Science On Orbit, but, heed my warning: get ready to start saving for your Space Camp trip. And then to start studying science and engineering and to practice saying “Houston, do you read?” You may need it.
Which iHeartHsv blogger wrote this?
David Hitt is a native of Huntsville who enjoys telling the stories of his hometown. He works in strategic communications for NASA’s Space Launch System, the rocket that will send astronauts to Mars and prove once again that nobody builds ‘em like the Rocket City. David tells Huntsville history stories at the Huntsville Ghost Walk, Constitution Village’s downtown trolley tour, and the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll. He’s the author of two books on space history, “Homesteading Space” and “Bold They Rise” and is the director of the Comic Science Improv comedy troupe.