back to article ISS crew drops from 12 to 2

After being jam-packed with a dozen astronauts last week, the International Space Station will look mighty empty with only a two-man skeleton crew holding down the orbiting outpost for most of December. Expedition 21 crew aboard the ISS are spending Monday preparing to bid adieu to three of its members. The trio's ticket to …

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Pint

They'll all have...

... booked their christmas holidays I expect. Nobody wants their christmas dinnner in paste form.

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Pint

pasty Christmas dinner

Actually, they've come a long way since those old-skool paste/dehydrated food packets and tubes they used in Mercury and Gemini. Aboard Apollo, they had hot dogs, sliced bread, deviled ham (remember the video of Buzz Aldrin making a deviled ham sandwich aboard Apollo 11?), and a special beef stew made with an extra-thick broth to keep it from floating out of the cup. Much of the food aboard the Shuttle and ISS these days is actual Earth food -- some in cans, some in little plastic tubs. Things like soups and drinks still require special packaging, of course, but other than that, pretty much anything that won't float out of the can or bowl can be eaten normally, with a fork or spoon.

Hell, they even have shrimp cocktail and M&Ms out there, now, and ice cream -- although the ice cream isn't quite up to Earth standards, as I understand from friends who've actually tried the foil-packaged space ice-cream bars which one can actually buy in the gift shop at the National Air & Space Museum. They tell me it's fun to try once, just to say you've tried it, but it's not all that great. However, the shrimp cocktail is apparently quite popular with Shuttle crews, and is actually sometimes used as a trade medium ("hey, are you gonna finish that shrimp cocktail? I've got enough deviled ham left here for one more sandwich...")

Pint of lager, as they don't have beer in space yet, so I'm going to have another for the ISS skeleton crew.

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Coat

So, the absolute critical question:

.. will the toilet now remain operational as it doesn't have to cope with so much, well, crap?

The one with the long rubber gloves, thanks.

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With a title like that,

I was expecting either an 'Alien' attack,

or

"Can someone go and shut thge airlock, it's letting in a helluva draft!"

Anyway, wheres the predator when you need it?

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FAIL

@Fractured Cell

Surely you mean 'letting *out* a helluva draft!" ?

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Happy

NASA's T.J. Creamer

Am I the only one to find this persons name faintly amusing?

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Coat

'They'll be joined December 23 by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov'

...not if World War 3 breaks out ala Def-Con 4!

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Coat

Taking the piss

I think you are missing a "golden" opportunity to make some bad jokes....

Were the other crew members "pissed off" with the ISS so they left....

They just couldn't "hold on" any longer.....

Mines the one with the catheter and piss bag in the pocket

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Pint

1 down, 5 to go...

Shuttle flights, that is.

The Russians don't mess around. 90 minutes after Soyuz undocks, they're on the ground. None of that faffing about for 3 days checking tiles and waiting for the weather to clear. In fact, the weather was so bad, the usual recovery helicopters were grounded, and they had to use trucks.

I wish my space program was Russian instead of American. I'll hoist a vodka to 'em.

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Go

Good old Soyuz

Kudos to the Russians' nerves of steel and tried-but-true technology. Just 90 minutes (one orbit) from undock to crunching into the snowdrift... But let's keep in mind it's 3 people stuffed into a little gumdrop of a spacecraft with limited consumables (air, water, food, toilet storage). Don't think they orbit for days waiting for a storm to clear.

The space shuttle has the luxury of more storage and more time to be perfectionist built in...after all, it's trying to land on a runway at its home spaceport, not just plonk down out on the steppes, anywhere within a 100-km oval.

But there is something definitely compelling about the Soyuz technology's "good enough" approach. But do I like it better? Can't decide.

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Y'know, I've been thinking about that, too...

A lot of us might point and laugh at Soyuz for looking like it was hammered together by a bunch of fat little old babushka-wearing women at the Heroic Peoples' Spacekraft Works, but, seriously... the Soyuz has been sort of like the Volkswagen Beetle of space... carefully, incrementally updated and improved; it may look clunky and ugly, but it's proven, and it works... even if the outer thermal blanket looks like the lining of an old Army sleeping bag. They've been flying the thing for over forty years now, and they've pretty much got it down pat.

Honestly, it makes me jealous as hell; iirc, we quit building Apollo spacecraft roundabout 1970ish, with just enough left in stock to fly the remaining lunar expeditions and three or four SkyLab missions. I can remember, as a young teenager, reading about the upcoming Shuttle program and thinking it was going to be cool as hell -- a spacegoing DC3 that can carry large cargo, satellites or space-station components to orbit, and glide back in and land on a runway like a regular airplane.

Thirty years of retrospect, though, makes me think it was the biggest mistake NASA ever made -- a spacegoing white elephant. Apollo could've been our Soyuz -- easily adaptable and dependable. By the time the SkyLab missions were flying, it had finally matured into a really sweet machine, and it would've been a relative piece of cake to replace the LM with a mission module -- like the one Soyuz uses -- that could be easily custom-outfitted depending on the mission, such as long-duration science flights, or ferrying cargo to a space station. Heat-shielding wasn't as big an issue, either -- an abalative coating on the bottom that burned away and carried the heat with it. Granted, the heat shield could only fly once, but it wasn't as big a pain in the ass as trying to heat-shield a winged boost-glide vehicle like the Shuttle. They don't call that goddamn' thing the Flying Brickyard for nothing.

I know a lot of folks like to bust on NASA for going back to a ballistic capsule design for their next-gen manned craft, and give them shit for building a craft whose command module outwardly resembles Apollo, but I think it's the best decision they could've made. I think if, after the lunar expeditions were finished, they'd stuck with the tried'n'true Apollo design, incrementally modifying and adapting it as the Russians did with Soyuz, we wouldn't be having the pissfight over the next-gen manned craft that we're having here now.

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Boffin

Dragon Capsule joins the fray

Well, in about 2.5 years, the Dragon capsule will be flyable by SpaceX (barring exploding test flights, etc.). What's the story there? Will they have their own set of crews and flight attendants (would you like another Tang with your bag of lunch, sir?), or will the NASA kids have to bring their resumes over to California if they want to fly to orbit before they reach mandatory retirement age? I bet a few of the folks who have left the Astro League in the past few years have already got their ducks in a row for working for SpaceX or Orbital Sciences to live the dream.

Remember, even the Russians are seeing the end of the Soyuz in the next decade or so, not that they know yet what will replace it.

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