Fantastic tour of the International Space Station

Sunita Williams was in charge of the International Space Station for six months. On her last day in space, she made this 25-minute video — a much more in-depth tour of the ISS than I've personally ever seen before. This is the first time I've actually been able to get a sense of the whole interior layout of the ISS, rather than just seeing one place and then another with no understanding of how they connect. What's more, you really get a sense of the unearthly weirdness of moving through this space where walls are never just walls and "up" and "down" are essentially meaningless.

The video includes a detailed (but safe for work) demonstration of how to use the ISS bathroom; a behind-the-scenes peek of the pantry (with separate pantries for Russian and Japanese food); a visit to the Soyuz craft waiting to take Williams home; and the vertigo-inducing horror pod where all the really great pictures of Earth get taken.

Money quote: "I haven't sat down for 6 months now."

Also, for some reason, it bothers me that she refers to the "left" and "right" side of the Space Station, instead of port and starboard.


    1. My 26 year old self was in the same boat. I honestly have to say that this video almost moved me to tears with the awe-inspiring reality that this, this marvelous thing, is real and that is amazing.

  1. What, pray, is a _not_ SFW demonstration of the toilet of the ISS? What in space are you talking about when you say SFW? And, just BTW, could be the reason to be able and possibly even allowed to watch a 25 min vid on teh tubez at work?

    Am I missing something? Or, everything?

      1. :-) I am still of the opinion that this would still be save for work, as long as the cameraperson had the decency to pan a way for a sec to give her a moment to sit down. And she would have had to sit down, I’m positive. (BTW: Webster’s on “ISS” may contain: one of the few places where every male human will sit down on the toilet.)

        Somewhat related, in one of my former labs, a lady with a certain sense of humor had placed this in the tea kitchens cupboard. Still wrapped in cellophane. Had a handwritten notice: in case of emergency, rip plastic open.

    1. First of all, being a programmer, my second monitor always has a video going. So I think a good number of people can watch things at work. Second of all, as already stated, “demonstration” of a devise doesn’t mean “using” as much as it means “showing how it works”.

      1. Second point first: see above, would using instead of demonstrating a space toilet be NSFW? Its in SPACE! That awesome!

        First point second: my second display has the X.11 devices with the output, and usually a pdf with literature, or a browser hooked on stackexchange (ok, more tabs with other stuff, but not vids of 25min. And none with sound.). The other got scripting windows and the console. Which reminds me, I should get back to interpreting these figures.

  2. Also, for some reason, it bothers me that she refers to the “left” and “right” side of the Space Station, instead of port and starboard.

    But now there’s another direction to talk about. You could use “port” for down toward the earth and “starboard” for up away from it. Then for the first time ever, the names would be descriptive!

    1. On the ISS, the up/down axis directions are “deck” and “overhead”.

      X axis (along Velocity Vector) = fore/aft
      Y axis (perpendicular to VV) = port/starboard
      Z axis (toward/ away from earth) = deck/overhead

      That’s assuming the ISS is flying in its XVV (X axis along Velocity Vector) orientation. 

      During construction, it sometimes flew in YVV (Y axis along Velocity Vector) and XPH (X axis parallel to H – Momentum Vector – Inertially stabilized flight), depending on the solar Beta angle.

      But since the main solar panels were installed, it only flies XVV.

    1. I really wish long-haired people would tie their shit up when they are in outer space. Or at least come up with hairstyle fashions designed for microgravity.

      1. It’s much easier to control shed hairs if you have long hair than if you have short hair. If it’s long, you just untie it, brush it out and dispose of them; if it’s short, they’re constantly shedding and floating around.

  3. thank You very much, this is indeed fantastic. so when i watch a pass of the ISS again, i can picture an astronaut looking down at me through this neat cupola.

  4. Thanks for posting the video — that was fascinating. She seems to have taken to a weightless environment like a fish to water. She probably didn’t use terms like “port” and “starboard” because she was talking to a non-technical audience, including children.

    (One would imagine it helps to have a sunny disposition, like she does, if you’re going to be stuck with 5 other people in a cramped area for months on end. Oh, her biography is worth reading, too.)

  5. For me the most fascinating part of watching Williams maneuver thru the station was the way her toes instinctively went to the grab-bar/hand-holds/straps when she stopped. Much like a cyclist clipping into pedals or a skier stepping into bindings, she does it via pure muscle memory, almost without thinking. Yeah, we’re not super-well-adapted for space (bone density, muscle loss, etc.), but our motor control systems aren’t the weak link.

    Also, “vertigo-inducing horror pod” is frickin’ gold.

  6. That was amazing.  I think what would bother me most is the extreme “busy-ness” of the surroundings–nary a smooth or blank surface to be found.  And the constant noise of what I assume is the air/ventilation system running.

  7. She is so lighthearted in the video that it’s tempting to forget that everyday the crew is putting their lives at risk to further human understanding and the space sciences.

  8. Left and right side is correct, that is a space station, not a space ship. If it was a space ship then port and starboard would have been correct.

    Regardless, there’s no real sense of direction really so none of them make much sense to me either way.

  9. my favourite film ever is kubrick’s space odyssey. to see cmdr williams scoot about in zero-g and to think back about the ponderous way people moved about on the various spaceships in kubrick’s film is quite amazing. but then to imagine how difficult it would be to film something like cmdr williams on a film set in london in the late 1960’s ….

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