Space tourist takes ‘working holiday’ in orbit

US entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari is getting her ‘space legs’ as she spends her third day on the International Space Station (ISS). But rather than simply relaxing on her multi-million dollar vacation, she has been doing some office work from orbit.

The journey into space was somewhat difficult for Ansari. “I have to say the trip up here was not fun for me,” she said during an orbital press conference on Friday. “I did suffer a lot of the usual symptoms of being in orbit, like back pain, headache and motion sickness.”

“But the favorite moment, as I suspected, was the first time I was able to see Earth for the first time and see it so beautiful, peaceful, [against a] dark background. It was a moment I will never forget,” Ansari says.

Since her arrival at the station on Wednesday, she has shot video, snapped pictures and updated her blog. But she has also been checking email and making phone calls to the company she co-founded – Prodea Systems of Plano, Texas, US.

The company specialises in digital home technology and officially launched on 17 September. Ansari is expected to demonstrate their technology in space.

Orbital experiments

“I’m keeping up to date with what’s going on in our office and the progress everyone’s making so they’re sending me status reports,” Ansari says. “Of course, I’m trying to make the most of the eight days I’m up here and not work too hard.”

She is also conducting experiments for the European Space Agency. She will help ESA learn more about the effects of space radiation and bacteria on astronauts and onboard equipment and the effect of weightlessness on human blood cell formation and the development of back pain.

Ansari is the fourth tourist to visit the ISS and the first female tourist. She follows American Dennis Tito, South African Mark Shuttleworth and American Gregory Olsen.

She was actually the back-up tourist for this spaceflight. Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto was originally supposed to make the journey, but he was taken off the flight after doctors discovered he had an undisclosed medical condition.

Ansari rode a Russian Soyuz to the ISS, accompanied by US commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, who will spend three months on the station.

Repair work

On 28 September, Ansari and outgoing Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and US flight engineer Jeff Williams will return in an older Soyuz spacecraft that has been docked to the station for six months.

Tyurin and Vinogradov will spend Saturday replacing a portion of Russia’s Elektron oxygen generation unit, which is suspected of overheating on Monday before the Soyuz arrived.

A small amount of what appeared to be potassium hydroxide leaked out of the Elektron during this incident, prompting the three-man crew to activate emergency procedures such as shutting down the station’s ventilation system and donning goggles and gloves (see Toxic spill on the International Space Station).

The repaired Elektron could be turned on as soon as Sunday. The crew is using back-up supplies of oxygen while the Elektron is turned off.

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