Source: Sherman Publications

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Drama in space unfolds like a TV show

May 25, 2011

By Matt V. Phillips

Special Writer for The Review

Have you been tuning in to the hit new reality TV show? No! Well, it can best be described as combining shows Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and Fear Factor, mixed with movies like The Right Stuff and Star Trek.

And to top it off, it stars a former Lake Orion resident and shows 24-hours a day, 7-days a week through June 1, 2011.

Interested? Well, look no further than NASA TV or online at

This blockbuster aired continuously since Monday, May 16 when the six-person crew, which includes 1983 Lake Orion High School Graduate Drew Feustel, lifted off aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It continues a through June 1, when the Endeavour lands at the Kennedy Space Center to complete a historic 16-day mission in space.

While it may seem like a stretch to compare a Space Shuttle mission to reality TV, the similarities are striking. There is drama, suspense, human intrigue, humor, teamwork, renovations, back stories, a sense of voyeurism, races against the clock and even eating some strange food.

Unlike most Hollywood productions however, this show features real stars (literally twinkling stars right out of their windows) and individuals who are stars (figuratively speaking -- astronauts) who are brilliant, brave and humble.

Over the past week, Feustel, the Endeavour crew and their hosts at the International Space Station (ISS) continue to make history.

Two days after their launch, the Endeavour docked with the ISS; after a brief celebration and tour of their accommodations, the crew got right to work with the installation of the most expensive scientific instrument in history. The $ 2 Billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was transferred from the shuttle to its new home on the truss grid outside of the ISS. This incredible device was partially the brainchild of Noble Laurent Dr. Ting and was funded through a cooperative partnership of 16 countries and numerous private donors.

Within hours of being installed, and AMS was already sending back data as intended. The AMS detects and analyzing space particles and provides scientists with a deeper understanding of the composition of space matter and allows for a greater view of our solar system.

Friday began with the first of four spacewalks, or Extra Vehicular Activities as they are called at NASA. During this EVA, Feustel and Greg Chamitoff spent 6 hours outside of the ISS conducting critical repairs, construction and maintenance to the station. Drama ensued when the astronauts' work had to be rushed, and ultimately cut short, when the CO2 device on Chamitoff's space suit began to malfunction. With calm precision, the EVA duo finished their work and returned to the relative safety of the ISS.

The second space walk, paired Feustel with Mike Fincke and was conducted on Sunday. While the space suits performed without malfunction, Feustel and Finke spent 8 hours 41 minutes outside of the ship, conducting scheduled and unscheduled tasks. This marked another historic aspect of the mission as it became the sixth longest EVA in space history, after 157 total space walks.

If the week was not busy and monumental enough, the six-person ISS crew joined with the Endeavor crew for a call from the Vatican on Saturday. In the first ever papal call to space, Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in English, began the 15 minute conversation with an excited greeting, "Dear Astronauts, I am very happy to have this extraordinary to converse with you during your mission."

The Pope asked questions of the crew and commented on the role of science and technology toward resolving problems on Earth. Additionally, the Pope offered words of comfort to Commander Mark Kelly on the recovery of his wife United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffor. The Pope concluded the historic call by congratulating the Astronauts for inspiring young people.