Dr Jeanette J. Epps On Spending Six Months in Space
My Story: Dr Jeanette J. Epps on spending six months in Space
She has a PHD in Aerospace Engineering, worked for the CIA in Iraq and once lived 50ft underwater. But in 2018, NASA’s Dr Jeanette J. Epps, 46, will undergo her most ambitious mission yet…
„Being an astronaut is one of those jobs where you’re guaranteed perspective in life. As we take off, I imagine I’ll be thinking about the newness of all the sounds and sights. I’ve spoken to a lot of fellow astronauts about what it’s like going into space; I remember NASA’s Gregory Chamitoff describing what it felt like to space walk. He said he remembered being surrounded by the deepest black you can think of. I’ve always had strange dreams of being in nothingness, just floating in complete darkness or going through the matrix. Soon, it will no longer be a dream.
Space-walk training is one of the coolest parts of my job. NASA operates a Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the Sonny Carter Training Facility in Houston, Texas; it’s a huge pool that’s 40ft 6in deep, 102ft wide and 202ft long. There are mock-ups of the International Space Station (ISS) there. We have to get into the space-walk suit, which weighs about 140kg, and then they lower us into the water to simulate what it will be like in space by making us neutrally buoyant, so we neither sink nor float.
We can be training underwater for six hours, which is pretty draining. At some point, you start feeling the weight of the suit. It’s also mentally exhausting, because you have to figure out how to make the suit work. When you spacewalk, you don’t actually use your legs very much – you mainly use your upper body, so you need to be able to operate tools and work wearing gloves, which feel like oven mitts. If something breaks while I’m on the ISS I might have to do a space walk to fix it. I’ll be one of the flight engineers, so my main duties will be conducting science experiments and maintaining the ISS systems. (…)“
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