The Call of the Abyss

In the days of sailing ships, healthy young sailors would occasionally throw themselves from the boat and drown, overcome by a fascination with the deep, seemingly endless sea. This often-reported syndrome, labeled the call of the abyss, seems to have a modern-day equivalent in spaceflight. Just as psychologists describe some people who are compelled to stand on the edge of precipices or tall bridges staring into the abyss and then jumping, more than one astronaut has expressed the same...

Wernher von Braun

Wernher von Braun was one of the most important rocket developers and champions of space exploration between the 1930s and the 1970s. Born in Germany in 1912, he became enamored with the possibilities of space exploration as a young boy by reading the science fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. As a college student, von Braun mastered calculus and trigonometry so he could understand the physics of rocketry. As a means of furthering his interest to build rockets, in 1932 he went to work for...

What Is Weightlessness

Gravity is a force that governs motion throughout the universe. It holds all things to the ground, keeps the Moon in orbit around Earth, and Earth in orbit around the Sun. Many people mistakenly think that astronauts on the space stations are in a zero-gravity environment high above Earth and this is why they float throughout space stations along with their pens, paper, and anything else not tied down. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to physicists who understand the...

Music in Space

Space physicians are always aware of the importance of a calm environment on long space station deployments. They try to accommodate the psychological needs of the crew, especially during their personal time between dinner and bedtime. For those two to three hours, crew members are free to do whatever they wish. One of the favorite activities on the ISS, in addition to e-mailing family and friends, is playing musical instruments. Astronaut Carl Walz once lived on the ISS for 196 days. Before he...