Forget taking off your shoes and putting your liquids and gels in Ziploc bags. If you want to be a space tourist, better learn Russian and diaper up.
Richard Garriott, a video game developer and son of astronaut Owen Garriott, became the sixth space tourist in October 2008, spending a year training in Russia and ten days aboard the International Space Station, conducting experiments, living in zero-g, and making the first sci-fi movie filmed in space. (“Memorable” line: “Maybe YOU’RE the alien!”)
Now, Austin-based filmmakers Beef And Pie Productions have completed a documentary about Garriott’s journey, which premiered at South By Southwest 2010. No other screenings of “Man On A Mission” are scheduled just yet, but believe me, this doc will be going places–probably to a theater near you soon.
Garriott paid his own way to space through Space Adventures, a company he’s invested heavily in, but since he went through all the same training as Russian cosmonauts, anyone interested in the minutiae of how to get to space would love this film. You see Garriott and his two crewmates training in NASA’s neutral buoyancy lab (a model of the ISS submerged in a pool), studying Russian (as all the controls on the Soyuz rocket that took Garriott to the station were in Russian), having his body cast in Plaster of Paris to create the chair in which he’d sit inside Soyuz TMA-13. Fun fact: the chairs are actually made for a model about four centimeters taller than each astronaut, because in zero gravity, your spine will uncompress a bit.
In this film, you also learn more than you ever knew there was to learn about space toilets (“Think of squeezing toothpaste into a sink; on earth, once the toothpaste gets to be a few inches long, gravity will help you out and pull it into the sink. In space, it just gets longer and longer”) and how you last from launch to docking without access to said space toilet. Er, that’s the point in the movie where Garriott said, entirely without irony, “Everybody’s advice has been to wear a diaper and plan to use it.”
Digestive issues aside, I really got the feeling from watching this film that I knew what it was like to be in space– and it made me want to have $30 million to send to Space Adventures to buy my own seat on a Soyuz mission.
Rachel Kaufman is a freelance writer currently rocking out at South By Southwest. This is her first guest post for Breaking Orbit.
Images courtesy Beef And Pie Productions