Astronauts talk life, and music, on the ISS


By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff Story Body:

By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff

NORTH ADAMS -- Turns out music and science can coexist in a vacuum.

Inside the International Space Station, that is.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts Catherine "Cady" Coleman and Daniel C. Burbank, who were residents of the space station at different times, both played songs in space with popular musicians who were on Earth.

Coleman, who plays the flute, accompanied Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, also a flutist, while she was on the space station and Anderson was in Russia at the time.

While he was on the space station, Burbank played guitar with James Taylor, who was in New York.

The revelation was a popular aspect of a presentation the two astronauts made during a March 27 visit to MCLA’s Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation for a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math event, "STEAM: A Space Odyssey."

They played a few tunes as part of a four-piece ensemble, and spoke with students and faculty about their experiences in space.

Both noted that after a six-month stay on the space station, in a zero gravity environment, one finally gets the hang of the space lifestyle and navigating through the station, but that’s when you have to go back to Earth.

"After six months, we’re just starting to figure out this magical place," Coleman said. "Many of us feel the same way -- that if your family could come with you, you’d stay forever."

A favorite spot for both on the station was what they called the cupula, a dome with lots of windows on the earthward side of the station, where astronauts tend to spend some of their down time. Both Coleman and Burbank said playing their music while gazing at their home planet was a pleasure few will experience.

Anderson actually gave one of his flutes to Coleman to bring to space for their accompaniment. At one point, though, she was playing the flute and got called to another section of the station, only to return and find that the flute had floated away.

"I looked everywhere," she said.

She found it where the astronauts find most of their lost items -- resting against an air vent.

She described the station as being like taking 10 train cars and welding them together end-to-end.

"The space station is huge," she said.

"You can go for hours without seeing anybody else," Burbank added.

Coleman has logged more than 4,330 hours in space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station. She coached "Gravity" star Sandra Bullock during Expedition 27 on the Space Station to help the actor prepare for her role in the film.

Among her many accomplishments, Coleman was the lead mission specialist for the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory during a five-day shuttle mission. The telescope has allowed scientists to study exploding stars, quasars and black holes.

She resides in Shelburne Falls with her husband, glass artist Josh Simpson.

Burbank has logged 188 days in space, and seven hours and 11 minutes of spacewalk time.

With his crewmates, Russian Space Agency cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, Burbank launched from the Baikonur Cosmo-
drome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 14, 2011, aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 and docked to the station on Nov. 16, 2011, landing their Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan on April 27, 2012.

During their 163 days aboard the station the crew completed dozens of repairs and enhancements to the station’s systems.

Burbank, of Yarmouthport, is married with two children.

"I never wanted to be an astronaut because I never thought I could do it," Burbank said. "But now I show up for work every day and think, ‘I can’t believe I’m really doing this.’ It’s like being a kid in a candy shop."

To reach Scott Stafford:
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford


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