Lift11: Claude Nicollier, The reality of space [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

Missing: video of the astronaut we saw in the other talk drinking tea with chopsticks 🙂

Space. World of silence, incredible beauty and opportunity. Claude was very impressed by the fact that you’re moving very fast around the earth, in silence. You can recreate sound, though.

We’re probably the only species to wonder about our origin and physical phenomenons.

Outline: what is space? why go there? personal experience, visits to Hubble; Earth below, sky above; future: rise of commercial space, faraway destinations for NASA.

Space is everything outside of the boundaries of Earth atmosphere. Surface of the Moon, or Mars? Probably not. But when you’re in a free environment governed by the laws of orbital mechanics… there you are.

Claude was impressed by the blackness of space. Had the impression that in all directions, he could see the big bang as it is today, after all these billions of years of cooling.

The reason we go into space:

  • political, demonstration of capabilities (NASA responding to Sputnik and Gagarine)
  • useful! communications, precise navigation, earth resources
  • science, obtain knowledge in many fields, including biology
  • it brings people together (international space station)
  • beautiful views — will never be able to emphasize this enough. It’s really cool!

In LEO (90 minutes revolution) you have one hour of light, then 30 minutes of night.

Space is very close: 8.5 minutes in the shuttle. You just need a very high velocity to stay there.

The assembly of the ISS (International Space Station) has been going on for 10 years. The shuttle has brought most of the parts for the station. Shuttle flights last 10-15 days, normally. Normally people stay six months at a time on the ISS. Brings people together.

Hubble: a perfect view of the universe. Optical, near-UV and near-IR. Some of the 5 visits saved the telescope. Claude was part of two of them.

Training in water.

8.5 minutes to get into space, but then 2.5 days of manoeuvres to get close to Hubble, both moving at 20’000 km/h… Then 5 days of space works following a very precise plan.

Re-entry by night. Land like a glider (no propulsion at that moment, when landing!)

Six years later, back to Hubble. Gyroscope and computer and fine guidance camera problems.

*steph-note: I’m starting to feel star-struck, quite impressed that this guy on stage before me was actually all the way up there.*

NGC 602 — beautiful picture. Another one which took ten days to take, Hubble Ultra Deep Field, revealing hundreds and hundreds of galaxies.

It takes six minutes to fly from Pakistan to China from orbit. Another incredible picture. 30 seconds to fly over Switzerland. It takes 20 seconds for the sun to set.

Success, why? clear goals and priorities; teamwork; strict operational discipline; always a plan for failures and problems — train a lot for them; train, train, train, overtrain.

NASA transition: hand over to commercial companies the transport of people and material to LEO. A courageous step by NASA, thinks Claude.

Space tourism. Virgin Galactic: equipment tests and preparation are happening now. First flights probably in a year from now.

Mars Express in orbit around Mars.

Space is inspiration and useful.

Space to discover, to learn, dream, put people together.

Success through imagination, clear goals, focus.

*steph-note: wow.*

Space blues? Yes, Claude’s missions were all short, so yes, wanted to stay longer. Not like those who stay up six months and are really ready to come back. Would love six months here, six months up there.

Very regimented life on the shuttle: 12h work, 7 hours sleep, 1.5 hours before and after. Wet towels to wash (no shower, icky after spacework). Need to spit in a towel, no sinks.

Many people who go into space are sick for the first 5 minutes. Uh-oh 🙂

Claude is now involved in SolarImpulse 🙂

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