It's not easy to steer spacecraft in the frictionless environment of space, as the latest episode of "Spacing Out with the Everyday Astronaut" shows.
This episode — the fourth of five planned for the Facebook Watch series — airs on Friday (June 8). It features astronaut-training simulations and homemade hovercraft that demonstrate just how hard it is for astronauts to work and maneuver in the vacuum of space.
First, the Everyday Astronaut — photographer Tim Dodd, who took on the persona after buying a Russian spacesuit in an online auction in 2013 — travels to NASA's Astronaut Training Experience at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where his astronaut abilities are put to the test. [Weightlessness and Its Effect on Astronauts]
For his first training simulation, Dodd must repair parts of a mock space station while in a "hover chair" that floats above the ground like an air-hockey puck. The chair is designed to mirror what it is like for astronauts during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
"I’m quickly learning that without friction to slow you down, every little push off of the space station could mean hurtling into a death spiral, into the empty abyss," Dodd says in the episode.
After surviving his first mission, Dodd continues with other astronaut-training simulations using virtual reality — though he is not quite ready to go to space just yet.
Next, Dodd heads to the Knoxville Convention Center in Tennessee, where he and spaceflight historian Amy Shira Teitel explore the logistics behind spacecraft docking and rendezvousing. Using homemade hovercraft that consist of a lawn chair, some tarp, a cordless leaf blower and two fire extinguishers for thrust, they demonstrate how tough it can be for astronauts to pilot spacecraft.
Dodd and Teitel re-create the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission of 1975, during which the U.S. sent an Apollo capsule to rendezvous with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in Earth orbit. This mission was the first in which spacecraft from different nations docked in space. Watch for what happens when Teitel attempts to pilot her replica Apollo capsule and dock with Dodd’s replica Soyuz spacecraft. Will they crash? Or will they pull off a successful docking?
You can watch the new episode on Space.com's Facebook page. (Space.com is a partner on the show, which is produced by Jupiter Entertainment and MadWest Content.) Visit Spacing Out with the Everyday Astronaut on Facebook for more information on the series.