July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 7 - A Day in the Life of a Space Station
The chapter begins with a humorous "Interoffice Memorandum" that's circulating at Mama's Soups, Inc. NASA is upset because some packets made by the soup company exploded on the space station Magellan
. The memo outlines a corrective course of action.
Clarke then describes a typical day on the imaginary Magellan
, which was launched in 2012 (26 years in Clarke's future). He describes the view through a porthole, and then the alarms go off, waking the astronauts. There are 18 of them onboard and they sleep in cocoon-like bunks.
Bonnie Dunbar becomes the focus of the chapter. Most of the action is seen from her point of view. She was an actual astronaut in 1986. Though she retired years ago, in Clarke's book she's still in space at the age of 70. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnie_J._Dunbar
After rolling out of her bunk, Bonnie bathes with damp towels in lieu of running water and then dons coveralls with lots of pockets. The pockets hold all the sundry little things she will need during the day.
Exercises come before breakfast. Muscles atrophy on long space flights, so daily exercise is important. The gym area has the usual equipment, plus a couple of devices to help with blood flow.
Breakfast is next. The food is freeze dried and reconstituted, not very tasty to begin with and even less so because of nasal congestion. Stuffed sinuses are a problem in zero G (has to do with circulation), and astronauts use lots of nasal sprays and handkerchiefs.
Bonnie is in charge of the materials lab. Each of the scientists on the Magellan
performs experiments, but only a few can be done at any one time because of the cramped quarters. Between Bonnie's experiments, scientists on the ground look at her test results and crunch numbers.
Meanwhile, on July 20, 2019, the super-shuttle Christa
has lifted off from Cape Canaveral and is approaching the space station. It docks just in time for lunch.
Bonnie performs some medical tests on herself after her meal. She's grown taller and thinner, as is usual in zero G. People's vertebrae tend to separate when freed of gravity.
The medical area is adjacent to the veterinarian's lab. The Magellan
has several animals aboard--mice, rabbits, dogs, monkeys, and a couple of pigs. Part of the lab is inside a cylinder that rotates once every 12 seconds, simulating lunar gravity (1/6th of earth's). The vet is conducting tests on animals that will be used when settling the moon.
The afternoon wears on, and the commander and crew prepare to launch a space tug into geosynchronous orbit. It will snare a dead satellite and store it in the tug's cargo bay. The tug will then descend, enter the earth's atmosphere and land.
It's Saturday, so the rec room is busier than usual. There's a wine tasting (from squeeze-bottles), somersaults in zero G, acrobatics, velcro-tipped darts and so on.
Bonnie socializes for a while, then she exercises, has dinner and takes a shower. After that she does her assigned chores. She deals with the trash and does some general cleaning.
And then it's off to bed. She looks out the porthole for a while and can't sleep, so she reads from a Joan Didion novel. Then she decides to have a snack. She goes to the galley and selects one of the new packets from Mama's Soup, the company from the memo at the opening of the chapter. The new and improved food pouches have doubly-reinforced seams, to keep them from bursting. Bonnie adds hot water, kneads the pouch carefully...and it explodes.
THOUGHTS: This was a fairly long chapter, full of the detail that Clarke was noted for. Some people say his attention to detail can distract in his fiction, but it serves this narrative well. As far as how well Clarke pictured the space station of the future, I think he was on target. The link below offers a short history of space stations and a look at where we are today:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_station