ou might have seen the news about a dangerous chemical alarm (turned out to be a potassium hydroxide leak) in the International Space Station today. According to the Associated Press: "NASA declared a spacecraft emergency for only the second time in the eight-year history of the station. The first time was for a false alarm of an ammonia spill. . . Because the station's emergency system was activated, the ventilation system was shut down, but ground operations reactivated it a short time later. Astronauts used a charcoal air-scrubbing device to remove the offensive smell and [Jeff] Williams said the odor 'decreased significantly.'"
About an hour after I heard about the emergency (I saw the news on TV this morning as Darlene and I were getting home from our morning walk), I got an e-mail from Jeff with the title: "Big Fire."
That got my heart going for a minute, but it turns out Jeff was sending me a digital photo of a wildfire he snapped from his orbit over southern California this morning. This is the big fire that has been burning for two weeks just west of the Grace to You offices. It's a spectacular photo:
(I added the county borders and a few landmarks to give perspective. Click on the image for a higher-res copy.)
Jeff quickly sent a follow-up message with the title "All is well on board." He wrote:
I realized that the "subject" line in the previous email might have gotten your attention given the news you might have heard when waking up. The last email was obviously referring to a forest fire.
The emergency we had a board today was one I would rather not experience again but rest assured that all is well and we are safe. The mission will continue as planned and, as of early this morning, our relief is on the way!
If you're following the news with NASA, notice that there's a ton of activity in space today. I wonder how nerve-wracking it is to do space traffic-control when things get this active:
- The Soyuz crew that will replace Col. Jeff Williams and Commander Pavel Vinogradov launched successfully from Kazakhstan this morning.
- The shuttle crew undocked from the Space Station yesterday and are on their way home.
- And then there was the smoke-alarm incident.
- Things are very busy for Jeff and his crew right now