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Author Topic: Music In Space  (Read 1018 times)

TehBorken

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Music In Space
« on: Mar 25 06 07:38 »
Astronaut Carl Walz once lived on the International Space Station (ISS) for 196 days--about six and  a half months. That's a long time to look down at Earth, and  not be able to touch it.      Before he went up in 2001, Walz recalls, the psychological  support people asked him what kind of things he'd be interested  in taking along. "I said, 'Well, a keyboard would be nice.'  And they said, 'We'll look into that.'"[/p] [a href="http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-110/html/sts110-375-032.html"][img]http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/images/music/party1_med.jpg" naturalsizeflag="3" align="right" border="1" height="284" width="270"][/a]A lot of astronauts play  instruments. There's even an astronaut rock-and-roll band. And  a surprising variety of musical instruments have found their  way into space: in addition to the keyboard, there's been a flute,  a guitar, a saxophone, and an Australian aboriginal wind instrument  known as a didgeridoo.[/p] [font face="Arial" size="-1"]Right:[/font][font face="Arial" size="-1"] Carl Walz plays the keyboard for a group of astronauts  onboard the International Space Station. [/font][/p] Astronaut Ellen Ochoa, a classical musician, brought her flute  as one of her personal items on her first shuttle flight. She  only got to play it once, though, and that was as part of an  educational video for school kids. On short shuttle flights, she explains, astronauts are so busy that they really don't have  much time to play an instrument. "For a shuttle flight,  it's probably more of a sentimental thing, a memento for people  who have had music as a serious hobby."[/p] But on long duration stints onboard the station, "you do have a fair amount of free time," says Walz, "especially  on Sundays." There's more opportunity to take out an instrument    and play.[/p] "It's a link to home," says Walz, who plays for  his hometown church, sings in the astronaut band, is known for  his Elvis imitations, and, during his time on station not only played the keyboard, but also found the time to teach himself  some guitar. Walz thinks that link is important. "Some guys  might disagree, and say, 'well, you know, you want to cut all     those links.' But I prefer to have them." No matter how   long an astronaut remains in space, he says, "we all know  we're going back to Earth. We know we're going back to that life."[/p] For Mike Pedley, the concern isn't music, it's safety.  Pedley is the NASA space station manager for Materials and Processes,  which means that if an astronaut wants to bring up a musical  instrument, Pedley has to make sure it's safe to fly.[/p] An electronic keyboard, for instance, might be a source of   electromagnetic radiation capable of interfering with the operation  of the shuttle or station. Such items can usually be modified,  explains Pedley. The type of casing makes a difference: something   in a metal case generally doesn't emit much radiation; in a plastic case, it emits more. Usually, he says, it's possible to change one or two components in a way that reduces the radiation without    affecting the function.[/p] Wooden instruments like guitars raise another concern: they're flammable. These things are allowed to go up only if astronauts  agree to handle them with care and stow them while not in use.[/p] When you play music on the shuttle or the station, it doesn't  sound different, say the astronauts. The physics of sound is  the same in microgravity as it is on Earth. What changes is the way you handle the instruments.[/p] [a href="http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/crew-7/html/iss007e07897.html"][img]http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/images/music/ISS007E07897_med.jpg" naturalsizeflag="3" align="left" border="1" height="254" width="223"][/a]"When I  played the flute in space," says Ochoa, "I had my feet  in foot loops." In microgravity, even the small force of   the air blowing out of the flute would be enough to move her  around the shuttle cabin. In fact, even with her feet hooked  into the loops, she could feel that force pushing her back and  forth, "just a little bit" as she played.[/p] As for guitar, says Walz, "you don't need a guitar strap  up there, but what was funny was, I'd be playing and then all  of a sudden the pick would go out of my hands. Instead of falling,  it would float away, and I'd have to catch it before it got lost."[/p] [font face="Arial" size="-1"]Left:[/font][font face="Arial" size="-1"] ISS science officer Ed Lu--another astronaut musician--performs  for space station commander Yuri Malenchenko in the foreground.  [a href="http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/images/music/PianoInSpace.qt"]Click here[/a] to watch  a video of Lu playing Peanuts during a interview with  CBS Radio news on NASA TV.[/font][/p] And when he played the keyboard, Walz, too, had to use foot  restraints to hold himself in place. In microgravity, he says,  every time you hit a note, you push the keyboard away. "You  have to sort of get used to that." Walz managed by strapping  the keyboard to his legs with a bungee cord. "That constrained  it a little bit more," but he never did figure out how to  use the foot pedal without moving out of position.[/p] Instruments are also checked for any gases they might produce.  Unlike Earth where noxious fumes can waft harmlessly out the  window, the space station is airtight. Even tiny amounts of gas  could accumulate given time.

[table align="right" border="1" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="237"][tbody][tr][td width="100%"]        
                                           [table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="2" width="99%"][tbody][tr][td width="100%"]            
[font face="Arial"]"Well since I left my baby;
             "I found a new place to dwell.
             "It's 400 kilometers in the air.
             "It's called space station Alpha.
             "But baby it's lonely.
             "Oh it's so lonely.
             "But I'll be back in May.
             "Ohhhhhhh, yeah."[/font]
             [font face="Arial" size="-1"]Onboard the ISS, Carl Waltz sang             this rendition of Heartbreak Hotel via radio to a group of teachers             in Houston, Texas. [[a href="http://www.greenbush.org/MSSWeb/Stargazer7.htm"]more[/a]][/font][/p][/td][/tr][/tbody][/table]
[/td][/tr][/tbody][/table]"We test some of them by putting a piece of the     material into a closed chamber and heating it to as much as 120  degrees Fahrenheit for three days," explains Pedley. Then     they take a sample of the gas and analyze it. (NASA testing procedures     are so good that the US Navy is adopting them for submarines.)[/p] "You always get a mixture of stuff coming off,"     he says. It's very common for things to give off high levels     of alcohols, because they're often used as cleaning solvents.     But, since the alcohols aren't very toxic, the levels don't normally     matter. "Something like benzene, though, is relatively toxic,  and it would take only a small amount to make the hardware unacceptable."[/p] Says Pedley: "The failure rate is miniscule," but  it has to be done.[/p]
[hr width="66%"]
Astronauts are starting to spend longer amounts of time in  space. The physical stresses of space travel are widely-known--but  there are psychological stresses as well. And the astronauts  know this. "In long duration," says Ochoa, "you  want to prepare yourself for being away a long time. One of the  things you want to do is to carry on with activities that are  important to you on the ground. A lot of those, you can't. But  whenever you can--and playing a musical instrument is an example   -- people sure like to do that."[/p] "The strangest thing about playing music in space,"  says Carl Walz, "is that it's not strange. In most homes,  there's a musical instrument or two. And I think it's fitting  that in a home in space you have musical instruments as well. It's natural."[/p] "Music makes it seem less like a space ship, and more  like a home."[/p]  
The real trouble with reality is that there's no background music.

 

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