She says space smells like a “burned almond cookie.” She praises the wonders of Velcro, and describes the hazards of trying to wash her hair in zero gravity.
Space tourist Anousheh Ansari’s blog offers uncommon insight into everyday life on the International Space Station through the eyes of an American businesswoman.
Her 10-day adventure ended Thursday night when she touched down in a Soyuz vehicle on the steppes of Kazakhstan along with Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams.
“It is hard for me to write tonight,” she wrote Thursday in her last posting from space. “My emotions are high and there are millions of thoughts going through my head.”
The 40-year-old Iranian-born Dallas suburbanite, who sometimes signed her entries “Space Cadet,” paid $20 million for her adventure. She was a last-minute substitute for a Japanese businessman who failed a medical test for space flight.
Although she has a master’s degree in engineering and made a fortune in the telecommunications industry, Ansari’s blog entries have been free of tech-heavy jargon, exhibiting an enthusiastic, chatty style. She tackled topics that vintage, tough-guy astronauts such as Alan Shepard surely would have shirked from: motion sickness, the clumsiness of weightlessness and personal hygiene.
“Well my friends, I must admit keeping good hygiene in space is not easy!” she wrote in the opening of one entry as if a columnist for Cosmopolitan.
She then described washing her hair by opening a water bag to make a huge bubble over her head, rubbing in dry shampoo and then being careful not to make sudden movements that would burst the bubble into small pieces of water floating everywhere.
Zero gravity has made it impossible to keep objects from drifting away, she wrote.
“So God invented Velcro for this very purpose. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone up here but I’ve lost a few little things already, like my lip-gloss.”
One night, she discovered her toes were bruised from gripping bars along the walls of the space station. She informed readers that she uses her big toe to hold herself in one place.
And she wrote about the smell of space – at least the space inside the orbiting lab: “It was strange … kind of like burned almond cookie.”
At least eight astronauts have kept online diaries recording their stay at the space station, but they weren’t traditional blogs since readers couldn’t post responses, as they have on Ansari’s blog. Astronaut Ed Liu even described the nitty-gritty details of going to the bathroom at the space station.
But few achieve the entertaining, intimate tone of Ansari’s entries.
Her status as a private citizen gives her more liberty to describe the details of everyday life than active astronauts or cosmonauts, said Eligar Sadeh, professor of space studies at the University of North Dakota.
“Given the constraints the astronauts operate under, not being able to necessarily speak freely or share the real insights or thoughts, given concerns of them being government employees,” Sadeh said, “clearly (the blog) is an inspiration as well for many individuals.”
Hundreds of those individuals from around the globe have left comments on Ansari’s blog.
“I’ve been involved with the theme of manned spaceflight as a hobby (passion?) for more than 25 years, read a lot of books … spoken to numerous astronauts and cosmonauts,” wrote Luc van den Abeelen of the Netherlands in Ansari’s blog. “But only reading your blog entries do I really get a taste of what it is like to be in space.”