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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Smarter Every Day: Opening the Shutters on the Space Station

By Phil Plait

My friend Destin is the brains behind the fantastic Smarter Every Day video series, where he investigates cool science facts. They usually start with a question Destin has, and then he dives into it.

So here’s a good one: On the International Space Station, the astronauts take all those amazing photographs through the “cupola,” a bump in one nodule on ISS equipped with seven windows. The windows are equipped with shutters to protect them … but how do the astronauts open them?

To answer this, Destin went to Johnson Space Center in Houston to talk to ISS astronaut Don Pettit, to a motorcycle parts shop where the original shutter design engineer now works, and then, finally, to the wonderful Samantha Cristoforetti—who is currently on the ISS.

The video Destin put together for this is great. Watch to the very end. It put a big smile on my face.

What a fun video! And good on Cristoforetti for doing this. I hope to meet her someday in person and shake her hand. She’s great. I'll note too that she will be staying on the ISS longer than expected; she and astronaut Terry Virts and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov were scheduled to return to Earth this week, but the loss of the Progress resupply capsule has delayed further launches, messing up the scheduling. The plan now is for their return to occur in June.

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