Friday, July 11, 2008

"It's In, Thank God"

In a wild and woolly improvised space walk, Russian Cosmonauts struggled to remove a defective explosive bolt that they feared would throw their Soyuz craft off course during reentry, and event that plagued two previous Soyuz flights.

In stark contrast to space walks on Space Shuttle missions, in which every move is planned out well in advance and every tool specially built for the particular set of tasks required, this space walk was put together on the fly using whatever tools happened to be on hand.

The Cosmonauts, obviously deeply familiar with the Soyuz construction, kept up a constant stream of chatter between themselves and ground control as the worked their way through insulation and wiring toward the offending bolt. One false step could have set off the bolt, which would have ripped through their space suits. Finally the bolt was out and was put in a container strong enough to contain an accidental explosion. "It's in, thank God," the cosmonaut said.

These are the kinds of men necessary for pioneering work in space, with the guts, knowledge and skill needed to take on whatever comes. I know that we have many extraordinary people serving as astronauts, but, considering how they are trained and how they operate in hyper specialized little categories, I wonder how many of them are capable of such work.