Clad in a training versions of his NASA spacesuit, astronaut Tim Kopra is submerged in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near NASA's Johnson Space Center for a spacewalk rehearsal prior to his flihgt.
An American astronaut has brought social networking to new heights aboard the International Space Station, where he is ?tweeting? about the ups and downs of life onboard a $100 billion laboratory that flies 220 miles above Earth.
NASA astronaut Tim Kopra is the latest active spaceflyer to use the Twitter microblogging site, and he?s the first to do it from the space station as an Expedition 20 flight engineer. He was dropped off at the station by the space shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 mission, which landed July 31. Kopra is due to return home to Earth aboard the shuttle Discovery's STS-128 flight in early September.
"What a fun shuttle mission - especially w 13 people on board station. Life here is amazing - still getting used to floating!" Kopra tweeted Tuesday under the name "Astro_Tim."
Kopra is ?a rookie astronaut making his first spaceflight. He is due to return home to Earth aboard the shuttle Discovery's STS-128 flight early next month. Discovery rolled out to its Florida launch pad on Tuesday.
Living alongside Kopra at the outpost are station commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Roman Romanenko - both Russian cosmonauts - as well as astronauts Mike Barratt of NASA, Frank DeWinne of Belgium and Robert Thirsk of Canada. Thecrew is the first six-person team to live and work at the International Space Station (ISS), which hosted only three-astronaut crews until late May, when the current expedition began.
"These are the first tweets from a station resident," NASA spokesman James Hartsfield told SPACE.com. "The others we've done have been during shuttle missions. There's a lot that'll give a neat perspective that we haven?t had."
Kopra joins a cadre of other twittering astronauts, including his STS-127 commander Mark Polansky ("Astro_127"), Mike Massimino ("Astro_Mike"), who recently rode aboard STS-125 to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope, and Jose Hernandez, who tweets in English and Spanish under the name "Astro_Jose" about training for his upcoming STS-128 shuttle mission to the space station.
All astronauts in space send messages to Twitter through an intermediary on the ground. They type their message via e-mail from a laptop on the station or shuttle, and then, a few times a day, those messages are sent back to Earth. There, NASA personnel post the astronaut's tweet on Twitter.?
Kopra, 46, was raised in Austin, Texas. He is a U.S. Army colonel and West Point graduate who served in the first Desert Storm. Kopra was chosen as an astronaut candidate in July 2000. He is married and has two children.
Kopra also plans to answer questions submitted on the Army's Web site.
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