Living in Space – an Institute of Physics Lecture given by Lieutenant Colonel Duane Carey

James chats to Digger.
James chats to Digger.

After descending from the Physicsmobile where the Raspberry Pi, quantum tunnelling and other scientific stuff had been discussed we headed to the lecture theatre. At the start of the talk we were told about the early part of Duane “Digger” Carey’s life which included being desperate to get out of school and then going around America on a motorbike.

However, it then went on to how he decided to become a fighter pilot, after talking to a pilot in a bar. To do this he had to go and get a degree to be allowed into fighter pilot training. Having just scraped in by getting the minimum requirement in the maths test, and being well behind his classmates in the first few years, he got a his degree and then in the year between that and being able to start pilot training he went for a masters, even though it normally takes two years, because ‘it felt like the right thing to do’.

He then went through the planes he flew from the A-10 to the F-16. From there he applied for test pilot training, because those were the people selected by NASA for the space program, which is what he had set his sights on. After three and a half years testing the F16 he joined NASA, the mission that he flew into space was to the Hubble telescope (STS-109) on the Space Shuttle Columbia. The very next mission was STS-107, the Columbia Disaster which resulted in the loss of all seven astronauts on board.

During their flight they set a record for the most consecutive days of space walks, at five days and a total of thirty-five hours of EVA. Their mission was to make improvements to the Hubble space telescopes with new instruments and solar arrays. On the mission where both the world’s tallest and the world’s shortest astronauts (on the official picture they stand next to each other). After the work on Hubble was complete, the crew had a day of rest in which Carey and Mission Specialist Mike Massimino made a short film showing the answers to all the important questions their kids might have, such as how and what they eat, how they sleep and of course how they go to the bathroom. However, up until recently it had been classified, since the design of the loo was top secret, even now parts had to be edited out. The film ended with a tribute to the families of the crew of flight STS-107.

The floor was then open for questions, which included a question on whether he thought that the moon landings were faked, and his argument basically said that if it had been faked the KGB would have known and let it out. We then left ascending back into the Physicsmobile for the return journey to school.

By Mat Pardoe


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