The road ahead

imagesCANHAU04Suppose for a moment that you were living in Washington, DC (assuming you don’t already) and you want to go with a friend to New York City. A 3rd friend, the driver, gives you the option of a route that will take 6 hours or another that would take 2 days to get there.

Would it matter if, once you got in the car, you knew you wouldn’t be making any stops during the trip, and that none of you would even be able to get out to stretch your legs until you arrived?

That’s not a tough choice, is it?

Until March 2013, astronauts going to the ISS didn’t have an option. While it took only about 8 minutes to reach orbit, it took about 2 days for their capsule (or Shuttle) to reach the station and dock with it.

The latest launch, though, utilized a new trajectory that got it to the station after only 6 hours and 4 orbits of the Earth, which comes out to about 1/8 the time it usually takes.

Bear in mind that a Soyuz capsule has less room inside it than the front seat of most cars. Even 6 hours under those conditions would be a long time, even if you were with your closest friends, but it would sure beat 2 days or more.

And yes, a car could go 230 miles in less time, but New York City isn’t moving at 17,000 MPH.

Remember that the astronauts will also be living and working together for about 5 months once the ISS is reached.

However, with new programs in the works, it won’t be long before the ISS is a sort of rest stop or layover rather than the destination.

So the real question is: Where are you headed?



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