El Segundo, Calif., Dec. 20 – People who have to work away from home during the holidays always try to make special accommodations to get that feeling of home, but what do you do when you’re a couple hundred of miles in space?
If you’re an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, then you get a little something extra in the most recent food and equipment delivery.
Holiday stockings, supplied by Wyle’s expert “space-rated” seamstresses, have been delivered and are now hung aboard the Space Station to give astronauts that special feeling of home. The stockings and presents were delivered in November when the Progress 45P re-supply vehicle docked with the Space Station.
“We know that personal holiday items really help astronauts reduce the home sickness that is natural when someone is so far from home,” said Wyle’s Steve Vander Ark, who manages the company’s Behavioral, Health and Performance section. The work is part of Wyle’s 10-year Bioastronautics contract where the company provides a wide range of medical and health-related services to NASA.
The section’s mission is to identify psychiatric, psychological, psychosocial and psychophysiological factors that could impact extended-duration space missions and to develop countermeasures to facilitate adaptation to the space environment.
Among many other areas, the Wyle section is responsible for supporting astronauts and their family members during all mission phases. Wyle personnel assist the astronauts in monitoring and maintaining their behavioral health, well-being and performance during International Space Station and Shuttle missions.
“Long-duration spaceflight on the International Space Station means that astronauts and cosmonauts not only work in space, but they ‘live’ there, too,” said Vander Ark. “At Wyle, we try to make the space station a little more liveable. A little more like home."
“A common thread among all partners and cultures is that they celebrate specific events and holidays. Part of the psychological support that Wyle provides is to ensure the events and holidays, as well as mission milestones, are celebrated. Having these celebrations facilitates a cohesive team onboard the station."
“Providing a few holiday decorations helps the astronauts and cosmonauts make the place a little more festive. It helps the crew to celebrate the season and provide a connection to what’s happening back at home. Holidays are a time for family and Wyle also arranges several opportunities for the astronauts to have two-way videoconferences with their families by way of the videoconferencing equipment that we have set up in their Earth-bound homes.”
A holiday tree, fabricated by Wyle’s Dona Hooker and her softgoods team in Houston using various colors of flight certified Nomex material, was launched to the International Space Station aboard the STS-112 shuttle mission in October 2002. Nomex is a non-flammable material used by Wyle for a wide range of storage needs about the Space Station and Space Shuttle.
Each year, new stockings are made and customized for each astronaut and cosmonaut, and then flown to the International Space Station on a mission just before the holiday season.
The stockings are personalized with their names, including Cyrillic font, and holiday scenes drawn by Tad Young, an administrative associate who retired from Wyle. For the cosmonauts, Wyle physician, Dr. Ashot Sargsyan, ensures proper translation of the names into a Russian font.
“We haven’t fabricated a chimney module yet, but we’re working on it,” said Vander Ark. “For now, they can hang stockings by the Quest Airlock where Santa can make his entry to the Space Station. We’ve added Velcro to the tree and stockings for easy deploy anywhere onboard they want to place it.”
Wyle, a privately held company, is a leading provider of high tech aerospace engineering and information technology services to the federal government on long-term outsourcing contracts. The company also provides test and evaluation of aircraft, weapon systems, networks, and other government assets; and other engineering services to the aerospace, defense, and nuclear power industries.