Assembling the space station

Just this morning my Dad sent me this nifty Flash animation from USA Today: Building the Space Station. There’s a lot of depth to it. Keep on clicking and you can find out where the Soyuz periscope is stowed. The graphic is nifty and moderately interactive, but it also makes the station look a little toy-like and antiseptic, like something out of a Tintin comic.

If you want to see what it really looks like to put together a space station, take a look at the Big Picture version of the story. I love the human stories, like this picture of someone exercising. The place is a mess, there are Russian magazines and pictures of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky on the wall, and you just know it smells in there. And although this picture shows that up and down are arbitrary concepts in space, I once learned from an astronaut that on the space shuttle up and down are very important social constructs. It’s disconcerting to address yourself to someone else’s boots. Like facing the wrong way in an elevator, you can do it, but it’s weird and it makes everyone else uncomfortable.

That’s human nature for you. We like to think the world is defined by physics, but really it’s psychology.