Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The boundless abyss and the beautiful Earth

Randolph James Bresnik told Kyivans about NASA astronaut training and future flights to the stars
28 March, 2018 - 18:39
Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day

“Marine Fighter Pilot, Test Pilot, NASA Astronaut, Citadel Grad, but most important: incredibly blessed to be a Husband and Father,” Randolph James Bresnik says about himself on Facebook. He visited Kyiv recently, and spoke to a packed senate meeting room of the Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (KPI) University. The visitor was greeted with a roaring ovation when he displayed the flag of Ukraine which he had unfurled at the International Space Station in October 2017. Also, the astronaut spoke about his path to the stars and the future of the space industry.

IN CAVES AND UNDER WATER

It all started with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s degree in aviation systems. He continued by training with the US Air Force and graduating from The Citadel military college. All in all, Bresnik flew over 83 planes over his time in military service, but realized that they “cannot reach the orbit.” Therefore, he tried to join the 18th astronaut class in 1997, but succeeded in reaching his objective only in 2004, joining the 19th class. The next step was to go through the general astronaut candidate training course.

It is obvious that space is a unique environment. That is why astronauts use extreme spots on the Earth to get at least a similar experience. According to Bresnik, one of such training rooms is made of underground caves. There is always darkness there, and it is good for astronauts, because the concept of “day and night” is rather nominal in space: a “day” lasts for 45 minutes, and then is followed by a 45-minute “night” (the space station orbits the Earth in about an hour and a half). Also, astronauts train a lot under water. Such training is intended, among other things, to create conditions in which an individual cannot return to the surface of the Earth on a whim. They should be isolated and try to solve some issues in this environment, just like people have to do in space.

GRAVITATING TO FAMILY

Bresnik compared spaceflight with the most important test which one has to pass. Life at a space station, taking walks in the boundless space require a lot of strength and concentration. In addition, astronauts work as scientists, conducting various studies, for example, in microbiology. However, the most famous of them are experiments that demonstrate how the laws of physics, which we are used to on the Earth, operate in space. These videos are quite popular on the Internet; one of the most popular videos shows a spinner spinning on a space station.

Astronauts also need to train their bodies a lot. This is due, again, to the environment. In space, muscles work much less and can get atrophied. Bresnik compared the consequences of this process with the experiences and health issues faced by the elderly.

However, it is probably missions outside the station, also known as spacewalks, which are the most difficult. “When you see an astronaut in a spacesuit in open space, you realize that they have a boundless abyss under them. If we get out of the university now, get to the top of it and lean, then the body will instantaneously react, telling us that it is dangerous, and we can fall. We have the same feeling when we go for a walk outside the space station... You need to calm down, relax, and overcome this natural reaction to the fact that there is nothing under you,” explained the astronaut.

And it is especially difficult to do it when you have to deal with other feelings as well. Bresnik has repeatedly emphasized that astronauts are ordinary people. And although they need maximum concentration during work, especially during spacewalks, life circumstances can significantly affect them. The thing is, when Bresnik was going to space, his wife was close to her due date. He was aware of this, so he had to carry a double load. At the space station, the husband had to go for a spacewalk, and only then he could learn about the events on the Earth. When the astronaut returned to the station again, he learned that his wife had not yet given birth. Then Bresnik went for a second walk. In general, waiting took a whole day, and he still speaks of it with trepidation.

“OUR PLANET IS DIFFERENT WHENEVER YOU LOOK AT IT”

Still, Bresnik admitted there was a lot of fun in the life of an astronaut, for example, in moving about, when one can walk with the help of hands, or move by spinning around. Funny videos such as Pizza in Space offer another confirmation that space can be fun as well.

However, Earth observation is the most captivating experience. The astronaut shared his impressions: “Our planet is wonderful, beautiful, and different whenever you look at it, because the weather is changing.” Such observations offer incredible variations of colors, the ability to see the highest places in the world, such as the Himalayas, as well as our planet as it is at night. Of course, astronauts not only enjoy the views themselves, but also make photos that allow other people to at least partly imagine themselves at the space station. Bresnik, by the way, presented the Sikorsky KPI with space photos of Kyiv.

He even did a project called #OneWorldManyViews. It was basically about Bresnik photographing from space locations which he had visited on the Earth. So now you can see the Colosseum, the Big Ben, the Egyptian pyramids, and Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral from the space height. As for the latter sight, the astronaut noted: “The idea was to allow the Kyivans to look at their hometown in a different way, to make them understand how beautiful it is, and for people who are not Kyivans to see how wonderful your capital is from space and Earth, and maybe come here, making this big world closer.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR HOLIDAY IN SPACE?

By the way, it is possible that not only terrestrial locations, but space as well will soon become closer and more accessible for people. Bresnik hopes that soon (perhaps 50 years or so down the line), 5 to 15 people a day will be able to travel to open space. The astronaut told the public about businesses taking an interest in organizing such voyages. The meeting in the KPI also featured a discussion of companies potentially leasing parts of space stations and the possible settlement of Mars. Such a prospect is highly impressive, is not it?

In conclusion, Bresnik appealed to students: “I was like you. We have geologists, astrophysicists, and engineers in the ranks of astronauts. What unites us is not what we studied at school, but what we did and how we were guided by our passion for knowledge.” This proves once again that even the vastness of space cannot resist the power of dreams.

By Maria CHADIUK, The Day

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