NASAastronaut Gregory Chamitoff is settling into life aboard the InternationalSpace Station (ISS) and gearing up for the long orbital haul.
Chamitoff,45, is newest member of the station’s three-man Expedition 17 crew, wherehe’ll serve the dual role of flight engineer and NASA’s scienceofficer for the next six months of his long-duration spaceflight.
“It’samazing to be up here, but what makes it meaningful are our family and friendsback there,” Chamitoff said of Earth this week in a televised interview.
A native ofMontreal, Canada, Chamitoff is a planetary geologist and engineer by trainingand grew up in San Jose, Calif. He is married and father to three-year-oldfraternal twins, and is making his first career spaceflight on Expedition 17.
“Iwanted to do this my whole life, it seems,” Chamitoff said before flightin a NASA interview, adding that he caught the spaceflight bug ate age 6 whenhis family watched firsthand as the astronaut crew of Apollo 11 launched thefirst lunar landing mission in July 1969. “My dad was always very excitedabout the space program. I told him then that’s what I want to do, andkind of never gave up on that.”
Chamitoff launchedtoward the station aboard NASA’s space shuttle Discovery on May 31and watched from orbit last week as his former crewmates landedsafely at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.,on June 14. He replaced fellow NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman and helped toinstall the space station’s new Japanese Kibo laboratory, a massivelaboratory the size of a large tour bus that Chamitoff will continue to work onduring his mission.
“It’sjust a spectacular new module,” he said this week. “It’s apretty amazing addition to the space station.”
The newKibo lab is 37 feet (11 meters) long, about 14.4 feet (4.4 meters) wide andsports two windows, a small airlock and a primary 33-foot (10-meter) roboticarm designed to move experiments out to an porch-like external platform that isslated to launch next year. A smaller robotic arm for fine movements I alsoexpected to be delivered in 2009.
Chamitoffwill work alongside the station’s Russian cosmonaut commander, SergeiVolkov, and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko during his flight to completerobotic arm tests and outfit the new lab, as well as its roof-mounted storageroom, for space operations. He is slated to return to Earth aboard NASA’sshuttle Endeavour in November.
But despitehis busy work schedule, Chamitoff is making sure to take some time to gaze downon his home planet from orbit. Earlier this week, he caught a glimpse of hishome state of California just before bedtime.
“Icould see all the way to the Baja Peninsula,” Chamitoff said. “Itwas amazing to realize that so many of my favorite places, so many of myfavorite people and family and friends, were all in this one area and we flewby it in such a short period of time.”
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