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Armchair Traveler - Outer Space (Pt 2)

Monday June 29th, 2020


We’re going interstellar for this segment of Armchair Traveler! Last week we learned about several sites in the United States related to research that essential for space travel and exploration. In this post we’re traveling a little farther out to the International Space Station. 

International Space Station 

The International Space Station (ISS) is a multi-national collaborative research station that orbits the Earth. The first piece of the station was launched into orbit in 1998 and more pieces were subsequently added over the next two years. By 2000, the ISS was ready for long-term use. The United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency are the primary partners on the ISS, but astronauts from 19 countries have worked at the station. Astronauts living in the ISS conduct research on topics such as biology, Earth and space science, human health in space, microgravity, and technology. Tour the ISS with American astronaut Sunita Williams in the video below. 


You can learn more about the ISS on NASA’s website here.

I also highly recommend a browse through “Best Year in Space Photographs from Scott Kelly” which you can find here. [link: https://www.nasa.gov/content/best-year-in-space-photographs-from-scott-kelly ]. Astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko spent nearly a full year on the ISS to study the human health effects of long-term living in space. The photos in the above collection record Kelly’s time during the research project. 

Mango Languages 

Want to learn one of the many national languages of the astronauts who have worked on the International Space Station? The Library provides members access to Mango Languages, an online language learning tool. Visit the Library’s database webpage and scroll down to the big, colorful “M.” Click “Access Mango Languages” to log into the database with your library card and start learning one of these languages on your phone, tablet, or computer. The countries in parentheses are those that have visited the ISS. The only country that has had representatives visit the ISS whose official languages are not offered on Mango Languages is South Africa.  

  • Canadian French (Canada) 

  • Danish (Denmark) 

  • Dutch (Netherlands, Belgium) 

  • English (United States, UK, Canada) 

  • French (France, Belgium, Switzerland) 

  • German (Germany, Belgium, Switzerland) 

  • Italian (Italy) 

  • Japanese (Japan) 

  • Kazakh (Kazakhstan) 

  • Korean (South Korea) 

  • Malay (Malaysia) 

  • Modern Standard Arabic (United Arab Emirates) 

  • Norwegian (Norway) 

  • Brazilian Portuguese (Brazil) 

  • Russian (Russia, Switzerland, Kazakhstan) 

  • Spanish (Spain) 

  • Swedish (Sweden) 


Explore The Library’s Collections 

We’ve got loads of media in The Library’s collections on the topic of space, so we’ll suggest a few titles in each blog post that are good starting points if you are new to reading fiction and nonfiction books about space. We’ll also sprinkle in some movies and tv series on the topic.  


Chasing Space


Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances
by Leland Melvin

In this revelatory and moving memoir, a former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver shares his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance and grace that align to create the opportunities for success. 

Leland Melvin is the only person in human history to catch a pass in the National Football League and in space. Though his path to the heavens was riddled with setbacks and injury, Leland persevered to reach the stars. 

While training with NASA, Melvin suffered a severe injury that left him deaf. Leland was relegated to earthbound assignments, but chose to remain and support his astronaut family. His loyalty paid off. Recovering partial hearing, he earned his eligibility for space travel. He served as mission specialist for two flights aboard the shuttle Atlantis, working on the International Space Station. 

In this uplifting memoir, the former NASA astronaut and professional athlete offers an examination of the intersecting role of community, determination, and grace that align to shape our opportunities and outcomes. Chasing Space is not the story of one man, but the story of many men, women, scientists, and mentors who helped him defy the odds and live out an uncommon destiny. 

As a chemist, athlete, engineer and space traveler, Leland’s life story is a study in the science of achievement. His personal insights illuminate how grit and grace, are the keys to overcoming adversity and rising to success. 


Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery
by Scott Kelly

The veteran of four spaceflights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly hostile to human life. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both life-threatening and mundane: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk; and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home--an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on a previous mission, his twin brother's wife, American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space. 

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and determination resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging, step in spaceflight. 


To Be Taught if Fortunate
by Becky Chambers 

In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.  
Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does. 
Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.  

Elysium (2013)

In the year 2154, humanity is sharply divided between two classes of people: The ultrarich live aboard a luxurious space station called Elysium, and the rest live a hardscrabble existence in Earth's ruins. His life hanging in the balance, a man named Max (Matt Damon) agrees to undertake a dangerous mission that could bring equality to the population, but Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) vows to preserve the pampered lifestyle of Elysium's citizens, no matter what the cost. 

Ashley Famularo is the Adult Programming and Outreach Coordinator at The Library

The above piece represents the views of the author and is meant to inspire dialogue and increase understanding and a sense of community. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of The Library. Members are welcome to comment below or contact us privately by using our online contact form >