Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Cologne - Looking to the heavens

In Cologne we had a very special Christmas Day experience - one which is most unlikely to be repeated.  Andrea, a former student from Judy's school, is one of the team of trained mission controllers responsible for overseeing day to day activities on the International Space Station (ISS).  She took us to the Control Centre on the outskirts of Cologne for a tour of key training facilities for astronauts preparing for space missions.

Three units of each ISS module are built: one is the actual module sent into space.
One is for pre-mission training, and one is for the engineers to be fully acquainted
with systems.  These are modules used to train the astronauts..
The path of the ISS shifts a few degrees of longitude west on each orbit. Here the ISS is
over the Pacific, off the coast of Peru.  It is travelling at almost 8km/second.

The large screen showing video direct from cameras in ISS.
The "scrambled" screen at bottom left is for private
communications between ISS astronauts and families.

Viewing showing some of the ISS modules and antennae.

Andrea and Judy. Not quite "sitting in the driver's seat"
but as close as we are ever likely to get to real space travel.

During our time in the Control Room the ISS traveled from the Eastern
Pacific across the USA and Atlantic, and we "watched" it pass over
Cologne.  We then saw it glowing in the setting sun as it entered
darkness, roughly as it passed over the Arabian Sea.
Screen showing ISS's position in space.  At this moment it was roughly overhead.

The crew of the ISS mission 46.

Thank you Andrea for giving us this unique experience.

Paul and Judy
January, 2016

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