Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cultural Differences

There are three aspects of spaceflight that always interest med and I always try to learn more about them; history, traditions, and cultural differences. 

The further we go, the more history we have. I believe it to be essential to never forget the beginnings and so looking back 30, 40 or even 50 years is so important to me. Many of us did not witness Vostok-1, Mercury, Gemini or even the Apollo program. Learning about those missions, the women and men working on them, the problems they had to overcome and the solutions they found, is an important part of understanding the present and improving upon the future. 

Traditions somewhat tie into the history. Some event triggered the need for a certain tradition. And there are many traditions found in US and Russian Space Flight history. 

Cultural differences is another fascinating aspect and I truly believe that over the years these differences have become less and less of a factor. We are adapting, adjusting, learning, and respecting. Will these differences go away someday? I do not think so - I do not hope so. Culture defines who we are and the differences between our cultures, provide wonderful opportunity to reach out and learn. 

I would like to tell you about a couple of differences between our US culture and the Russian culture in regards to our training here at Star City.

Exams in Russia are quite a bit different than I am used to. Nothing is written. A panel of 5-10 people gather with your instructor and over the course of an hour ask questions. I am typically sitting in the front of the room with an interpreter. It feels very formal. They always begin with "tell us about the purpose of this system and it's components" but they often get very detailed quickly. If they find an area where your knowledge is weak, they typically ask many additional questions, which can be somewhat embarrassing. Your instructor takes your performance very personally. If you do well, it reflects well on them. They will quickly jump to your defense if someone asks a question which you haven't been taught. It is really interesting.

Often there will be an expert from the design team (Energia) in the audience which means tougher questions, but you also get direct access to someone building the hardware. The Russians have flown the Soyuz since 1967, but the design is constantly evolving so having them show up is great access to
the most current information.

At the first greeting of the day with someone, you must shake their hand. But, never shake hands through a doorway...this is bad luck. Always walk into the room first and then shake their hand. And if you are wearing gloves, you must take them off first. And if you pass that person later in the day it is impolite to shake their hand again.
Whistling Inside
It is also bad luck to whistle inside, which I had a hard time getting used to.

Good Luck Wish
People are very superstitious here. Before an exam, they don’t wish each other “luck” because that would bring bad luck - instead they say “no tar, no feathers” (Ни пуха ни пера) – and the response is “go to hell” or more nicely, “go to see the devil.” (К чёрту). The picture here on this entry is what you will find if you googled the first comment. Fitting, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Russian ISS Space Toilet

In early March I visited several class rooms, libraries and science museums in the greater San Francisco Bay Area as part of "Destination Station", the traveling exhibit about the International Space Station (coming to North Caroline and then Boston next). There was not one day without somebody asking "How do Astronauts go to the bathroom in Space?". That question was not only asked by kids (mostly though), but by adults as well. With my very unique experiences in that field, I consider myself a good subject to talk a little more about this. But I did get help from people like Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Mike Massimino (see their videos on the bottom).

After learning about the Russian electrical food warmer on the International Space Station, Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques took me to the Russian toilet trainer. Just glancing at this toilet you realize it has no whistles and thrills. Come to realize, neither would really help me anyway! I already have a hard time going to the bathroom as it is without any thrills and since whistling is considered rude here in Russia, I can see why there is none of that going on in the bathroom!

Today in Star City, Russia
September 2010 in Houston, Texas.
There are two toilets on the International Space Station, located in the Zvezda and Tranquility modules. First of all, the principles of space toilets:

There are Liquid and solid wastes (#1 and #2, as they generally get interpreted) and they are trapped separately and processed separately. Air pressure (suction) is used to encourage/directed/wished for (you name it) waste to move in the right direction. Poo really can fly in space.

The primary rule of operation is always to prepare the loo after use, so that it's ready for the next guy. It's a simple rule to remember: After Pee or Poo, quickly prepare the Loo, so the crew doesn't have to wait in queue to let go the dew.

Assuming all systems are functioning, it should be possible to "fire" the toilet up in just a couple of minutes. I think it is an awkward process in the mockup, where gravity keeps everything in place. I don't know if it would be easier or more difficult in zero-G. There is a little seat in a wood finish here on the trainer. A nice touch indeed from the Russians! Below the seat is a disposable tank for solid waste. The hole in the seat should be pre-lined with a single-use packet. Assume the position. Then there is a receptacle with a funnel and hose that will grab liquid waste. It's very important to aim at the funnel from a distance away, rather than trying to get too intimate with it once the suction is under way. This point was stressed repeatedly and I think to remember why. I had an experience on the Space Shuttle potty trainer with Astro Clay...

The first thing that spins up is the urine/air separator motor. This is because we don't want any urine to get sucked into the fan, which would be a mess. So first we have to be sure we can separate urine from the air stream that pulls it along. This is done in a centrifuge. If you spin a mixture of heavy and light fluids together, the heavier stuff goes to the outside. In weightlessness, this is how they separate urine from air.

Once that device is spinning fast enough, a dose of urine preservative (mostly sulphuric acid and chrome trioxide) is flushed into the separator. This is to prevent crystals of urea or other contaminants forming in the plumbing, or in the tanks. This is another complication - we don't want nasty stuff like sulphuric acid to leak into the ISS. Horrible things could happen (far worse than if urine leaked into the compartment). So the tank that stores the preservative has to be triply redundant and extremely robust, and all the pipes have to have double layers and be resistant to acid corrosion.

What's really amazing is how accessible all of these components are. Simply lift up the floor panels around the loo, or open up the wall panel, and you can replace any pump, fan, device or tank. It has to be that way... this is a mission critical system!

And just this week the crew on the ISS had to do some toilet repairs. 

Here are some additional pictures from the Russian space toilet inside the Zvezda module

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 19/20 flight engineer, performs the daily ambient flush of the potable water dispenser in the waste and hygiene compartment.
ISS toilet and the KTO container in the Russian Zvezda module
The urine collection system panel
A female urine collection cup
A male urine collection cup
The solid waste collection bag. It locks on to a ring under the toilet/commode seat and dangles inside the silver KTO container. When you are finished you just tug on the red tab. That action unseats the bag from the seat lip and airflow pulls the bag inside the KTO container. The red tab is connected to a drawstring encircling the bag’s opening. As the bag is sucked into the KTO you hang on to the red tab and the bag pulls itself shut, when it shuts you let go and it disappears inside the KTO.

Canadian Astronaut and soon to be 
1st Canadian Commander of the ISS Chris Hadfield:

NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino

** some information I got from Mark Shuttleworth who trained in Star City and spent almost 10 days in Space in 2002. 

Being intimate with the Russian ЭПП Electrical Food Warmer


Today was a fairly easy day. Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques (he is @Astro_DavidS on Twitter) and I were learning about some of the ISS components inside the Russian segments. First, let me tell you a little about David. 

(on a site note, when we first met, he reminded me of The Wiz in Seinfeld - I wish I had a crown with me for him to put on! Ok, off topic, sorry David)

Born in Quebec, raised outside of Montreal, Canada, David speaks French and English fluently. But not just that. He has a pretty good handle on Spanish, Russian and Japanese! What's even more amazing, David has a medical background and an astrophysics one! Plus he has a commercial pilot license! His postdoctoral research included the development and application of the Mitaka Infrared Interferometer in Japan and the Subaru Telescope Adaptive Optics System in Hawaii.

After that he joined the Astrophysics group at Université de Montréal. His international experience also includes engineering study and work in France and Hungary and medical training in Lebanon and Guatemala.

In October of 2011 David was part of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project, known as NEEMO. 

NEEMMO sends groups of astronauts, engineers, doctors and professional divers to live in an underwater habitat for up to three weeks at a time. These crew members, called aquanauts, live in Aquarius, the world's only undersea laboratory, located about 19 metres below the surface, 5.6 km off Key Largo in the Florida Keys.

David was a crew member of NEEMO 15, the first undersea mission to simulate a visit to an asteroid. For part of the mission, he was supported by his colleague CSA Astronaut Jeremy Hansen who, as CAPCOM, provided information and directions from the Key Largo surface to the NEEMO 15 team.

The undersea environment is the closest analogue on Earth to a gravity-weak asteroid, making it the best place to test relevant exploration concepts. During NEEMO 15 the crew evaluated different strategies for anchoring themselves to its surface, traveling along its terrain and collecting data. They also coordinated their efforts with DeepWorker submersibles, one-seater submarines built and developed by Nuytco in British Columbia, Canada.

Told you, David is another one of those interesting people to get to meet and know. 

Anyway, today I learned about the Russian ЭПП Food Warmer. David told me to get "intimately" familiar with the device. Since I always follow instructions...

The electric food warmer is designed to heat foods in cans, and plastic pouches.

The ЭПП consists of a heater, an automated unit, and a control panel. The warmer contains a number of cells for heating food. The heating elements inside the cells conform to the shape of the various packages.

The Service Module has two food warmers, “Подогреватель пищи 1”, “Подогреватель пищи 2” (Food warming 1, Food warming 2), connected to onboard outlets. The foods are warmed to 65°C (149°F) within 30 minutes. The food warmer operates automatically. The foods are inserted into the warmer to the maximum depth of the cells. Any combination of foods may be warmed – from one meal ration to four.

I am glad that David realized that giving me instructions like "get yourself intimately familiar with..." just don't work all that well with me. Glad we first learned about the food warmer and not the Russian space toilette...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life in Star City, Russia

I've been asked to share some inside information about life in Star City and also about my Astro buddy Reid Wiseman. So, tonight we had a group dinner and I thought this would be the perfect time to share some personal stuff. See, when you come from a different culture and you get to a new place,  with different alphabet, a different language and a different culture, it really just feels nice and homey getting together with your friends and having a relaxed group dinner.

Tonight we all sat down together; Flight Surgeon Blake Camberlain, Astronaut Chris Cassidy and Astronaut Reid Wiseman (and me, of course) and enjoyed a delicious group dinner. They do them 1-2 times a week with whoever happens to be around.

Last night, after Reid turned off the lights and we were just resting in our beds, I asked Reid how he felt to be here again.

Reid explained to me that this is his third of 12 trips to Star City for training. Most trips are four weeks long.

Now since he has two little kids at home these trips are somewhat tough when he has to say goodbye every other month. They don’t understand why Dad is leaving so they are usually more than willing to tell him how sad it makes them when he leaves.

Aside from that, life in Star City is very comfortable. Reid really enjoys seeing and learning the cultural differences here. Almost everyone lives in very small two bedroom apartments which results in a much more active outdoor social life.

Despite freezing cold and deep snow the playgrounds and parks are always packed with children playing and parents talking.

The funny thing, we both also expected the grocery stores to be fairly sparse compared to the US but we have found quite the opposite. Even the smallest corner store is loaded with fresh bread, fruits, vegetables…everything you need for a healthy lifestyle.

All of the US Astronauts live in townhouses right on the edge of the training facility. It is an easy walk to class. (may I add for Reid - not for me!). The visitors here we now have many great conveniences like VOIP phones and Skype to keep in touch with our families.

Just down the road we have Reid's favorite destination, a Russian sauna. For a small fee, you and your friends can rent a private sauna for two hours and enjoy superb relaxation. They keep the sauna around 210-220 degrees F (no kidding) so you alternate between 10 minutes in the sauna, a quick run outside to roll in the snow, followed by 15 minutes relaxing on a bench. Sounds crazy, but Reid says it is the most relaxing experience he has ever had. And the Russians take it extremely seriously.

Does anyone know at what temperature rubber melts?

Well, at dinner tonight I managed to gross out the entire table. Reid asked me to say a few words before we ate. Having been very hungry, a little tired and totally hyper, I offended everyone with my story about Clayton C. Anderson and that space toilet he got me stuck in. I just couldn't stop talking about it so Reid had to lecture me about manners..

Good night now!

From Star City, Russia - With Love!

Hello from the Russian Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Today was truly an amazing day on so many levels. I'll get to it shortly.

But first, today we also remembered the passing of Colonel Yuri Gagarin in 1968. He died in a MiG-15 airplane crash at the young age of 34. Only 7 years earlier he had become the first human to visit Space. The Russian Cosmonauts went to the Red Square today to remember Yuri, a true Hero. I visited the his statue here at Star City.

Here is a quick video I put together remembering Yuri's first and only flight to Space. He made major history that day of April 12, 1961.

Today Astronaut Reid Wiseman and I finally got into the Soyuz simulator for a few hours. It is smaller than I thought in there!

Conceived in 1960, the Soyuz spacecraft became the second-generation Soviet vehicle capable of carrying humans into space. Unlike its predecessor - a one-seat Vostok - the Soyuz would be able to conduct active maneuvering, orbital rendezvous and docking. These capabilities were all necessary for a flight around the Moon and to support lunar landing. In the early scenario of a "circumlunar" mission, defined in 1962, the Soyuz complex would be assembled in the low-Earth orbit out of three consecutively launched elements.

Over the years the Soyuz went through several upgrades, from the original 7K-OK (which started off with a deadly accident; Soyuz-1 (also called "Union") with a veteran cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov onboard, experienced a parachute system failure during landing and Komarov tragically died. Yuri Gagarin was his back-up crew), to the 7K-L3 (LOK, designed to orbit the Moon), the 7K for station plans, which also experienced a tragedy of mission Soyuz-11 where three cosmonauts died as a result of decompression of their reentry capsule on the way home.

In 1978 the Soyuz T Transport was introduced and carried its first crew to Space in 1980. The Soyuz TM (Modified) added additional enhancements and was used to the deliver a crew to Mir the first time in 1987. In the late 1990s the Soyuz TMA (Anthropometric) version got into production and after some delays, the TMA version finally flew in 2002.

The TMA-M, became the latest step in a series of gradual upgrades to Russia's legendary manned transport. Originally designated as Series 700, Soyuz TMA-M was also informally known as "digital Soyuz," - a reference to an advanced flight control computer onboard. The first launch of the TMA-M occurred on October 7, 2010 with NASA's Scott Kelly on board.

The way the Soyuz capsule is configured it is rather difficult to reach the control panel and all the buttons. So the crew uses this awesome stick to press buttons. The stick is actually called the ykazka (oo kaz ka) from the Russian ykazatb (to point).

So the Soyuz TMA increases safety, especially in descent and landing. It has smaller and more efficient computers and improved displays. In addition, the Soyuz TMA accommodates individuals as large as 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 209 pounds, compared to 6 feet and 187 pounds in the earlier TM. Minimum crewmember size for the TMA is 4 feet, 11 inches and 110 pounds, compared to 5 feet, 4 inches and 123 pounds for the TM.

Two new engines reduce landing speed and forces felt by crewmembers by 15 to 30 percent and a new entry control system and three-axis accelerometer increase landing accuracy. Instrumentation improvements include a color "glass cockpit," which is easier to use and gives the crew more information, with hand controllers that can be secured under an instrument panel. All the new components in the Soyuz TMA can spend up to one year in space.

One of the most fascinating tools used inside the Soyuz capsule is this stick! The way the instrument panel is configured and how the astronauts are situated in their seats, this stick is used to push buttons. This tool is actually called the ykazka (oo kaz ka) from the Russian ykazatb (to point). 

I did tell Reid that I could be of multiple uses during a mission. I could not only give out very good commands and say very smart things, but I could actually be used as one of those button pushers! Beats my paper-pushing job by far...

Later that day I offered to take a picture at the end of Reid's first Soyuz Motion Control class. His instructor was Виктор Суворов, and he has been teaching motion control since 1965! The motion control syllabus will take roughly two months to complete and is considered the most difficult portion of Soyuz training.

I decided to help Reid study. After all, what could possibly go wrong with having me around?!

Remembering Yuri Gagarin; March 9 1934 - March 27, 1968

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to Star City, Russia

After a pretty uneventful flight Astronaut Reid Wiseman and I made it to Moscow. From there we drove to Star City. Let me tell you, it is cold here. I watched "Wonder Years" on the plane. I had forgotten how many wonderful Apollo references this show has. Was truly great. 

Reid and I dove right in to Soyuz Thermal Control Systems class. However, I was the one being a huge hit with the interpreter and instructor. They were very patient. It's a not that easy to learn a new system and a new language at the same time.

Here I am pictured in the classroom from this morning with the Soyuz control panel in the background.

The Soyuz TMA spacecraft is designed to serve as the primary International Space Station's crew "to-and-return" vehicle. It is also acting as a lifeboat in the unlikely event an emergency would require the crew to leave the station. Just as over the weekend the crew had to take shelter in their Soyuz capsules due to some space debris.

A new Soyuz capsule is normally delivered to the station by a Soyuz crew every 3 or so months -- the arriving crew then stays on the ISS, while three of the ISS habitants returns to Earth in the older Soyuz capsule.

The Soyuz spacecraft is launched to the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. It consists of an Orbital Module, a Descent Module and an Instrumentation/Propulsion Module.

This afternoon Reid and I learned all about the ВСК-4. This is the backup periscope we use in the Soyuz to align ourselves for orbital corrections, deorbit burn, and rendezvous with the ISS. The crew uses the target on the orbital complex outer surface for monitoring visually the angular errors between the spacecraft and the orbital complex looking through the ВСК-4 visor.
I forgot to tell you about the fantastic lunch we had. It was cooked by Astronaut Chris Cassidy. It was so delicious, I had seconds.

And I am very happy to report that I only mildly complained of jet lag. The cold, however, is a completely different subject...

After class, and a few minutes of putting my feet up, it was time for dinner. After a quick chicken noodle soup dinner (which I profoundly refused to eat!), Reid and I started to study up on the Soyuz television system for our first big test on Wednesday.

Now I thought it would be a TV system to watch cartoons and maybe some good movies like Armageddon. Turns out that the television system only allows to downlink video from the reentry capsule, provides TV images of rendezvous and docking, as well as it allow data display and downlinking television data via the transmitters.

I thought this would be more fun & games. But it is actually rather hard.

Our planet and our different cultures are truly fascinating and remarkable. What 50 years ago was almost thought to be unthinkable is now happening; we are working, training and traveling to Space together with our Russian friends and cosmonauts. Thanks to our efforts in working together, in achieving one common goal, we get to share our values, believes and culture with our friends from Russia, Japan and European countries. With that also comes learning about each other's customs, something as simple as shaking hands.

Today we learned a few Russian cultural lessons. At the first greeting of the day with someone, you must shake their hand. But, never shake hands through a doorway...this is bad luck. Always walk into the room first and then shake their hand. And if you are wearing gloves, you must take them off first. And if you pass that person later in the day it is impolite to shake their hand again.

It is also bad luck to whistle inside, which I had a hard time getting used to. Especially since I have had the Wonder Years soundtrack stuck in my head.

Oh, I was also caught off guard that most stores outside of Moscow only take cash. ATMs are hard to find. Poor Reid Wiseman had to lend me some rubles to get myself some eggs yesterday. 32 rubles to the dollar. I sure owe him!

Below is one of my favorite pictures of Space East and Space West meeting. By the way, April 12 is Yuri's Night; a worldwide celebration of the first human to visit Space. More info here:

Gemini 4 Astronauts Meet Yuri Gagarin
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin shakes hand with NASA's Gemini 4 astronauts, Edward H. White II and James A. McDivitt at the Paris International Air Show in June 1965. This first meeting between Gagarin and the Gemini 4 astronauts occurred shortly after the completion of the Gemini 4 mission, where White performed the first American EVA. Yuri Gagarin achieved fame as the first human to orbit Earth. Also shown in the picture (seated) are Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and (standing) French Premier Georges Pompidou.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A for Aeronautics

NASA's first "A" stands for Aeronautics. But what exactly does this mean and how does this impact my work? 
I feel the need. The need for speed - those little chicken wings kept us flying!
Well, I thought today would be a great day to talk about "Aeronautics". Why today? Because I just landed from my first T-38 piloting gig. For realz! But first things first. 

Aeronautics has been part of NASA for more than 50 years. Before that, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics conducted pioneering research that influenced the design of every U.S. aircraft. NASA integrated that knowledge and existing testing facilities when it was created in 1958. 

NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate works to solve the challenges that still exist in our nation's air transportation system;  air traffic congestions, safety and environmental impacts and geese and ducks. (sorry, couldn't resist - I love a good goose and duck joke!). 

There are actually four NASA centers conducting aeronautics research. Those four are: 
Ames Research
Dryden Flight Research
Glenn Research
and Langley Research Center 

NASA’s aeronautics activities are organized into four research programs and one test facilities management program:
• Aeronautics Test Program
• Airspace Systems Program
• Aviation Safety Program
• Fundamental Aeronautics Program
• Integrated Systems Research Program

A T-38 is silhouetted against the sun in flight. Photo courtesy of Terry Virts
Ok, enough about that. Let's talk about flying a little more. In fact, let's talk about one of the iconic NASA airplanes; the T-38 Talon. It is also called "White Rocket" because of its NASA paint scheme (largely white with a blue stripe down the length of its narrow fuselage). The 38s have two GE J85-GE-5 turbojets engines with afterburners, reaching a top speed of up to Mach 1.6, and soar above 40,000 feet, which is about 10,000 feet higher than airliners typically cruise.

The two seater can wrench its pilots through more than seven Gs, which is seven times the force of gravity. I am telling you, that is enough to make simple lifting a hand a very hard chore and makes my neck feel like it is balancing on a cinder block. Besides, the average person blacks out. Not me though. 

The T-38 was first flown by the U.S. Air Force in the early 60s as an advanced jet trainer. In fact, the U.S. Air Force still uses it in that capacity. Did you know that the Air Force Thunderbirds used it during the 1970s?

There are several NASA astronauts who learned to fly the T-38 during their time in the Air Force. Terry Virts for example, who learned to pilot this sleek plane when he was a 21-year-old lieutenant. I remember Terry saying how it doesn't pull Gs like a frontline fighter, but the 38 can do rolls amazingly well. And believe me, I had always wanted to jam the stick to the side and see the plane roll, really fast roll. Today, when I flew and did a bunch of rolls I was like "Okaydokey, that's enough rolling for now!". 

Did you ever wonder why NASA's astronauts need to fly this great airplane? Anyone who did not fly a T-38 before they got to NASA learned to fly it once they joined the astronaut corps. Basic Astronaut training includes T-38 courses, and mission specialists, who dido not sit at the controls of the space shuttle, had to record four hours a month of stick time. Commanders and pilots were required to fly 15 hours a month to keep up their proficiency.

But the T-38 is also used for other aspects, like scout weather conditions during the hours before liftoff, chase other aircrafts and report about flight characteristics and yes, it also served as a training tool to simulate a Shuttle landing. So the T-38 was modified with some extra-large set of air brakes on the bottom of the plane and the astronaut pilots had to prove it could fly safely with the landing gear down and those air brakes open. With those steps in place astronauts could point the T-38s nose down at the ground and fly it toward the runway faster than 300 mph. It wasn't an exact physical simulation but flying these approaches in a T-38 showed the astronauts what a landing in the Shuttle would look like, time and time again.
A pair of T-38s dive toward a runway at Edwards Air Force Base in Calif., on a steep approach like the one the shuttle uses on approach. Photo courtesy of Story Musgrave
Furthermore, flying the T-38 also helps pilots with spacewalking. Yup! That's right. Even though mechanically there are no similarities. A spacesuit does not have a control stick and rudder pedals. However, on the mental side, a T-38 and a space suite have critical supplies that cannot be allowed to run out. That means the operator in both cases have to follow their progress carefully and make sure that they aren't using too much fuel, in case of the T-38, or running low on oxygen, in case of the spacesuit.

Anyway, this morning I had breakfast with Astronaut Reid Wiseman. Reid, an U.S. Naval Test Pilot, who has flown the F-14 Tomcat (one of my favorite birds), and the F/A-18F Super Hornet, was a very comfortable choice for me to be my instructor. I decided on some greasy food, since that helps with airsickness. So I had a piece of pizza while Reid only had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Well, off we went to the airfield, boarded the plane and took off...
At first I was scared, but then I realized it was all numbers and math.

I had so much fun until I looked into the rear-view mirror...

Since we are talking about flying - do you know Space Weather has a big impact on flying too. There are several issues - as you know a solar flare's main effect is an atmospheric one. So if you are a high-frequency radio communicator in a ship at sea or flying in a place, you might not have a working high-frequenzy radio signal during those flares.

Maybe even more of an issue could be the loss of a power grid. See, when a coronal mass ejection hits the Earth, currents are being induced into our power grid. This could cause to overhead transformers and take down entire power grids. Also, during solar storms airlines avoid flying very northern routes because of the increase radiation doses. Now also include that Space Weather can have effects on satellites and the fact that navigation signals, weather maps and GPS signals could get lost. Hey, even Air Force One once lost all radio contact while flying over the pole.

Since the early 1800's, all aspects of our technology have been affected by severe solar disturbances beginning with telegraph outages during 1850-1900, radio disruptions between 1910-1960, and then during the Space Age, satellite outages and failures between 1965-2006. Ground-based electrical power systems have blacked out (Quebec, 1989) and airline flight crews have begun to worry about radiation exposure during solar flares. All of these events can be traced to the interaction of the Sun with Earth's magnetic field and its environment in space.

Well, I am now back and have recovered from my several aileron rolls with Reid. We had a good flight, a nice landing and I hope you learned a few things too. Don't stop here. I have a few good links for you below. One to a cool Air Traffic Control game and two others to learn more about Aeronautics and Solar Storms, especially if you are a teacher.

Stay tuned... I am heading to Star City Russia soon...

Sector 33 - Air Traffic Control Game App for iOS
Aeronautics Education: K-12 Students/Teachers Activities 
Solar Storms and Terrestrial Impacts: K-12 Students/Teachers Activities

Talk to you soon!
Camilla & Reid