English > ESL News Index

Online ESL News

Up-to-date news from around the world for ESL Learners.

Life on the International Space Station

LISTEN to This Article With REAL AUDIO -- Get Real Audio


This is Mary Tillotson.


And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth last month. It carried the fourth crew to live and work on the International Space Station. One member of the crew kept a written record of what it is like to live in space. Today we tell what astronaut Daniel Bursch wrote.



American astronaut Daniel Bursch returned to Earth June nineteenth after a total of one-hundred ninety-six days in space. He and the other American crewmember Carl Waltz now hold the American record for the longest time spent in space on one flight.

Astronaut Bursch was chosen to live on the space station crew because he had spent almost three-thousand flight hours in more than thirty-five different aircraft. He had also flown three times as a crewmember of the space shuttle. Before living on the space station, he spent more than seven-hundred-forty hours in space.


Daniel Bursch is an officer in the United States Navy. He was born in the eastern state of Pennsylvania in nineteen-fifty-seven. He is married and has four children.

Mister Bursch is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He has advanced education in engineering science. He was selected by NASA in January nineteen-ninety and became an astronaut in July, nineteen-ninety-one.


The space shuttle Endeavor was launched into space December fifth, two-thousand one. It was carrying two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station. Daniel Bursch began writing on his one-hundredth day in orbit, March eighteenth. He wrote the diary in an effort to give others a feel for what it is like to be a crewmember on the International Space Station.

Mister Bursch said the trip to the International Space Station was a little different experience for him. It was the first time he had flown in the space shuttle as a passenger, not a member of the crew. Bob Doughty reads from the diary of Daniel Bursch.



The launch was the first time for me on the middeck, inside the space shuttle. There are no windows there and you can not see outside. It surprised me when the shuttle began to roll as part of the launch. All space shuttles do this. But I was used to being on the flight deck where we can see outside through the forward and overhead windows. Up there you can see what is happening.

We soon were in orbit and linked with the International Space Station. Everyone became very busy. Things did not slow down until the shuttle left for the return flight to Earth. There is a limited amount of time to do all of the planned tasks. This caused a good deal of pressure as we worked hard to do all that was required.

The commander of our crew, the fourth crew to live and work on the International Space Station, is Russian Cosmonaut Yury Onufrienko. When we arrived at the station, Yury already had spent more than one-hundred-ninety-three days in space on the Russian Mir space station.

Yury told us that it would be a strange feeling when the shuttle returned to Earth and we three were the only ones left. It was a little like a family party¡¦very busy¡¦and it suddenly came to an end¡¦everyone left.

Our working days slowed a little, but we were still busy. We worked outside the space station two times in January and we had to move cargo into the space station from the Russian cargo ship Progress.

The Christmas and New Year holidays were a nice break from our work. It was very hard for me to be away from my family. We spent most of the holidays catching up on sleep, writing electronic mail and watching movies. We also called friends and family on a special telephone linked to the Internet communications system. It was very special to be able to call my family. It was a lot of fun to call someone and listen to their surprise when we said we were calling from space.



Daniel Bursch wrote in detail of the tasks he performed each day. He explained how they planned for future jobs such as the arrival of the next space shuttle, or Russian cargo spacecraft. And, he told about the food and how important it became.


Our days are controlled by ¡°Universal Time.¡± We start at six o¡¯clock each morning and our day ends at twenty-one-thirty hours.

Sometimes we have to change our workday because of a coming event such as the shuttle or a Soyuz spacecraft linking with our space station.

Each day we get several messages that we need to read that are part of a daily work plan. We read these messages and print them with the aid of small computers. We read our mail, wash, eat breakfast, read the plan of our work day. We also have a morning conference with our teams on the ground at Mission Control in Houston, Texas, the Operations Control Center, in Huntsville, Alabama and Russian Mission Control in Moscow. Each control center prepares questions for us about our work or sends us new tasks.

Our daily work includes safety inspections of all of our equipment, taking pictures inside and outside. We work on science experiments, and inspect and repair any equipment that needs work.

We also have about two and one-half-hours of physical exercise every day. We usually have our last meal of the day about seventeen hours-thirty.

We have a combination of Russian and American food. Yury told us our tastes would change in space. And, he was right. Food that I thought was hot or spicy¡¦is no longer spicy. Also, some foods that I really liked on Earth no longer appeal to me anymore. I still can¡¯t wait to try some pizza when we return to Earth. We all like to see the space shuttle arrive, or the Russian cargo ship because it means fresh fruit, different food and mail and gifts from our family and friends.



Members of the space station crew can fly from one part of their home to another because of the lack of gravity in space. Astronaut Bursch liked to play a game. He would throw an object across the room and then try to fly in exactly the way it did, like two aircraft flying together. However, he said he had to be careful because if you hit something, it hurt! Here he explains how difficult living on the space station can be for extended periods of time.


One important part of space flight is the mental challenges that take place when you live with two other persons in what is really a large can. Living with someone is very different than just working with them. And living and working together with only two other people for several months can be difficult.

If you have a bad day, you can¡¯t just go for a walk. I have come to accept that all of us will have good days and bad days. You have to quickly learn that you can not let small problems bother you. You can¡¯t think about small problems, you have to let them go. And soon you will realize how unimportant they are and will probably laugh that they even bothered you in the first place.

I learned that it is important to let the others know when something bothers you. Like any other relationship, if you let things go all the time they will collect inside and always come out at the wrong time. So, relations in space are a balancing act the same as on Earth.


Astronaut Bursch likes photography. He explained that he especially enjoyed taking pictures of Earth from the space station. One morning he saw the highest mountain on Earth¡¦something he would never forget.


I happened to be up early. I looked at our world map and saw that we would be passing near Mount Everest soon. I looked at our computer and saw our flight path would be over this famous mountain. I looked out the window and there was Mount Everest. It almost seemed to jump out at me. It was just after dawn there and the sun was low in the Earth sky. This made the mountains look very beautiful. I began taking photographs. It was just one of those sights that will be forever burned into my brain.



You can see Daniel Bursch¡¯s beautiful photograph of Mount Everest if you have a computer that can link with the Internet communications system.

The Web site address is www.voanews.com. Then look for Special English and the picture.

This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson and directed by Cynthia Kirk. The diary of Daniel Bursch was read by Bob Doughty. This is Mary Tillotson.


And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.


Many Thanks for Using the ESL News Service from 1-language.com.

Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.