NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik: Ukraine should continue space program


Written by: Sergiy Vakarin, UkraineIS Chairman

Photos: Vitaly Mamchyn and Bresnik Family Archive

NASA astronaut, International Space Station Commander Randy Bresnik visited Ukraine soon after his space mission ended. I had a chance to chat with him at the KPI Kyiv Polytechnic University. Several hundreds of Ukrainians attended his lectures all over the country.

Bresnik showed many amazing photos taken during his mission, including beautiful images of Ukraine. Some photos of the planet were taken by his GoPro camera during his spacewalks when he was fixing a robotic arm.

Randy and I discussed the importance of secure communication with the Earth during future human missions to other planets – this was one of the central showcases at the recent MWC. The supercomputers on board the ISS, which were installed soon after Randy took the command of the station, are gathering data to check sustainability of computation during the future Mars or Moon flight. Due to the bandwidth issues, it is difficult to send and receive data between Earth and space. The key issue is safe autonomous work of the spaceborne computers.

It was an emotional moment when the astronaut showed us the Ukrainian flag he brought back from the space. It was the flag that he displayed during his space call to Ukraine from the ISS last year. He was the second astronaut, after Leonid Kadenyuk, who went to the outer space with the Ukrainian flag.

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During their Ukrainian trip, Randy Bresnik and his family visited Dnipro, hometown of his adopted son Wyatt. They also went to Zhytomyr, Sergey Korolyov’s birthplace, and visited the Space Museum.

Moon is closer than it seems

Bresnik believes that humankind will colonize the Moon in the foreseeable future, and Ukraine’s space program could play an important role. In Dnipro,representative of Pivdenne / Yuzhnoye Design Bureau Gennady Osinov presented to him the Lunar Base project. Last year, Oleksiy Ponomaryov already presented the project at the Space and Future Forum. Moon is the most likely direction for the space industry. The base would take decades and efforts of many countries to build. The first stage is preparatory, which includes the study of the Moon and creation of the Earth-Moon-Earth space transport system and elements of the infrastructure of the base – energy blocks, lunar transport, etc. At the second stage, the minimum configuration base is constructed: the gateway module and the housing module. At the third stage additional modules are added and the site for production is being prepared. Production begins at the fourth stage – resources are produced for the needs of the base and for transportation to the Earth. A permanent base at the fifth stage will provide, in addition to production, scientific research and space tourism.

Next year, the first mobile network will be deployed on the Moon, which will be used to transfer high-definition data to Earth. The project of Vodafone Germany and Nokia is called Mission to the Moon. During his visit to the MWC, Sergiy Vakarin discussed importance of international cooperation in Moon exploration with representatives of the Mission to the Moon project and mentioned Yuzhnoye / Pivdenne’s Lunar base project.

Her happy scarf: Bresnik family and Amelia Earhart

One reason the astronaut and his family visited Ukraine was to show Wyatt the country of his origin. I found out a number of fascinating details from Randy’s relatives. In particular, he is not the first famous photographer in the family – he inherited this talent from his grandfather Albert Bresnik, official photographer of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Randy brought Earhart’s multicolored “lucky scarf” to the ISS during his first mission in 2009. Earhart always wore the scarf on long-distance flights but for some reason left it with her mother before starting her unsuccessful attempt to circle the Earth.

Albert took many images of Earhart during five years prior to her mysterious disappearance. When she planned her circumnavigation of the equator, Albert was initially listed as part of the crew. But due to concerns of weight of photo equipment and additional food, Earhart could not take Albert with her – and this saved his life.

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As the ISS was orbiting our planet, Randy was taking pictures that no doubt included the resting place of Amelia Earhart. Even though this place is still unknown and it was impossible to locate it from these space photos, Randy was thinking of Amelia. And somehow after his second space flight an anthropologist Richard Jantz from the University of Tennessee came out with a fascinating hypothesis. Jantz noticed that the bone measurements of a skeleton found on the island of Nikumaroro, Kiribati, in 1940 were virtually identical to those of Earhart, and it may belong to her. If confirmed, this discovery could solve this almost century-long mystery.

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