Astronauts share stories of spaceflight

By IRENE BROWN, UPI Science News  |  Oct. 13, 2002 at 7:41 PM
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Astronaut Piers Sellers recalled Sunday a moment during his second spacewalk when he was perched at the end of the station's new 45-foot long truss, hanging on by one hand, feet dangling 240 miles above the planet when dawn appeared.

"It was night and then suddenly I saw the sun come up on the horizon ahead of me. I could see was the shuttle ahead of me and my feet hanging over the Earth. I watched the dawn come up over the planet in a straight line underneath me ... and then the sun hit me in the face. It's obviously the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," said Sellers, during the crew's inflight press conference.

"When you're hanging there ... just holding on by your fingers, you're not aware that you are wearing a spacesuit. It's just like you're standing in space naked ... in a totally new environment. It was an amazing feeling. You become very aware of how huge the planet is below you and how beautiful it is," said Sellers.

He and his partner David Wolf are scheduled to make a third and final spacewalk on Monday.

Sellers and Wolf are part of a six-member shuttle crew that is halfway through a week-long stay at the station to install and set up the new solar array truss and deliver new science experiments, gear and food for the station crew.

The visit to the station is the second for shuttle Atlantis' pilot Pam Melroy, who said she was stunned by her first glimpse of the station as the shuttle approached the outpost last Wednesday.

"I kind of gasped and said 'It's a lot bigger!' I realized it was going to be bigger, but I think the part that amazed me was the solar arrays .. they're so enormous," she said. "Probably the biggest change is having people to hug and kiss when we got on board. It was wonderful."

Melroy said being in space with so many other people -- there's a total of nine currently aboard -- takes some getting used to, particularly when a woman wants a moment of privacy to change clothes.

"Even when I'm alone on the middeck, I can't change without checking both directions," she said.

For the long-duration fliers who have been aboard the space station for more than four months, living in space has been a mind-bender. Astronaut Peggy Whitson found it odd to find calluses growing on the tops of her feet -- from using foot restraints -- while the soles are now soft and smooth. She's also lost her taste for shrimp -- one of her favorite foods on Earth -- and learned to live with a haircut by her commander, cosmonaut Valery Korzun.

Whitson and her Russian crewmates are scheduled to return to Earth next month.

"I am having a great time up here," said Whitson. "It is fun to live here and to do the science and as long as I am busy, I'm quite happy to stay."

It's hard for me to imagine actually being back home," she added, "because I guess I feel like this is my home right now."

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