Monday, October 09, 2006

Anousheh Ansari returned to earth last week

The name was new to me but I had read about her in passing. Anousheh Ansari is a "space tourist," an astronaut (astronette?) who goes along for the adventure and is at the cutting edge of making private space travel more than a fantasy.

She has a blog. Though she is from Iran, she and her husband live and work in Plano, Texas. Fluent in several languages, she writes of her trip into space with lines of poetic charm, as noticed by Doc Searls. Check this out.

Being in space for six months does a trick on your body. Your muscles get so lazy that they have a big shock dealing with your weight back on Earth… I also experienced the same effects but mine, I suppose, were milder than what Jeff and Pavel were feeling. Your body is so weak upon return to gravity that it is almost impossible for you to crawl out by yourself…

Next it was my turn… After a few moments of hanging there and just taking a few breaths of fresh air, the same guy returned and started cutting out my straps. This was a little more challenging for him since I was in the right seat and because of the way the capsule landed, I was up higher than the rest of the crew. He finally stretched his torso so much that he could reach over the hatch and cut my knee straps and unbuckle me.

Then he tried to pull me out and I got stuck on the communication hand stick in front… It was hot in the capsule and we were all sweating. I felt heavy and moving was a big challenge. Finally I was able to unhook myself and he pulled me out.

They wrapped me in a blanket and two people carried me to a beach chair… someone came over and handed me a beautiful bouquet of Roses and told me that it was from the Search and Rescue team. There were cameras everywhere and they were continuously snapping pictures. Before descent, Jeff reminded me to make sure I moved slowly upon landing and to keep my head steady… This helps with the vestibular system’s readjustment to gravity. I followed his instruction and made sure that I did not make any sudden movements. The head of the Training Center handed me an apple that looked appetizing but as soon as I started to take a bite someone from the medical team started shaking his head telling me not to eat it… I guess he was worried that it would make me feel sick. I waited a while but the apple looked too good to give up so I started taking small bites.

Her essay is long and beautiful. She obviously had a wonderful time and seems ready to go again. She speaks of leaving her heart in space...a metaphor with physiological underpinning.

In reality I was happy to be back and to see my family but I had left my heart on the station. I kept trying to close my eyes again and pretended that I was back up there, where it was safe… where it was free… But I kept getting interrupted by reporters and photographers… I didn’t want to forget that peaceful image and I was afraid that if I don’t try to capture it in my memory now, that it would be gone forever… But I kept getting interrupted…

I looked over to Jeff and Pavel… They were happy and smiling. They looked really pale. The gravity was taking its toll on them. All the blood was draining down into their feet, leaving their faces white as ghosts. This is just one of the things Astronauts and Cosmonauts have to get used to upon their return. The heart goes on vacation in Zero-G. The blood flows into your head and satisfies your brain that your body is well fed so your heart doesn’t work as hard. Back here on Earth the gravity keeps pulling the blood down to your feet and the heart has to work hard to pump it up to your head.

Here is a YouTube clip of this glamorous young woman.

ABC News bio.

Wikipedia article. Content is "disputed" they say.

Huffpo article by Anousheh Ansari, with bio.

Joe Gandelman's blogposts.

Your humble blogger posted his first picture two years ago using the Ansari Prize story.

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