Bruce Sterling on life in the ISS

Here's Bruce Sterling's Dwell interview with ISS engineer Nicole Stott on the living conditions in space:
"BS: It would be great to hear about any wear patterns that reflect the traces human beings always leave in a home. Hand-written labels, fridge magnets, welcome mats, duct tape, foam padding on metal parts where people bump their heads, posters, decals, wise-cracking graffiti, barracks pin-ups, spittoons, any of that. The human dwelling element. "

NS: There are several places across the different modules where "human traces" can be found. We all try to make our sleep quarters as homey as possible with pictures of our families and pets and with special things from home: toys our kids gave us to have with us, books, hobby supplies. We as crews have also established traditions for putting crew patches on display; there is a panel in Node 1 with patches stuck to it from every shuttle crew that's ever visited the station. One of my favorite areas that has the human touch is in the Russian Service Module where there is a classic picture of Yuri Gagarin, an Orthodox Russian crucifix, and picture of [Russian space theorist Konstantin] Tsiokovsky. And then there are some of the science experiments that help bring more life to the station: plant growing, mice, protein crystals, Earth observation photography

Life in Space: Email from the ISS


  1. Bruce, baby, how difficult is it to ask the main question on everyone’s mind?

    “How many members of the space station have had sex up there, and where do they usually do it?”

    Seriously, look at the photos. I see a lot of relatively attractive men and women in good shape floating around up there. They’ve been orbiting for years. ASK THE GODDAMN QUESTION.

  2. Many years ago when this was all new I visited the shuttle in a building I once worked in in Downey, CA. There the interior panels were off. Every time wiring changes were made to the shuttles they were also made here. The one I visited was identical to the ones in space. Thus any problem could be duplicated and investigated on the ground in the event of an emergency. With me that day was Luther Monell who’d also worked in that building. Luther had made a widely published and popular chart of the frequency spectrum. It was done on a log scale. He told me, if it had been linear, it would have started at the sun and gone past Pluto.

  3. It seems marvelously appropriate that there would be a shrine to Tsiokolvsky on the Earth’s only space station.

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