The Orbital Olympics: The Alternative Olympic Games
Astronauts working at the International Space Station (ISS) from the middle of July onwards are planning to hold their own version of the Olympic Games in space. This orbital sporting event has been specially arranged to mark the occasion.
Sunita (Suni) Williams, a NASA astronaut, Akihiko Hoshide, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut and Yuri Malenchenko, a Russian cosmonaut, are set to launch for the ISS on 14 July. The early part of their four-month stint in space will coincide with the dates for the London Olympic Games – 27 July to 12 August.
The astronauts will celebrate the event by expending some of their pent-up energy. Plans regarding which orbital events they will stage, given their limitations in both space and equipment, are not yet finalised. However, one of the team has said that it would be good to do anything that would encourage their physical fitness.
Sunita is no stranger to ‘sport in space’, as five years ago she completed the equivalent of the Boston marathon in 4 hrs. 24 min, running along on the ISS’s own treadmill, while orbiting the Earth at around 17,500 miles per hour. So on this occasion Sunita is hopeful that the astronauts will be including team sports in their orbital games and not a marathon as she is doubtful she will be in condition to complete one.
Hoshide explained that they thought it would be a fun activity to do while in orbit. He said that as this huge sports event, the Olympics, is taking place during their period at the ISS, the team were discussing holding their very own event on board to celebrate and he was looking forward to it.
This will not be the first occasion that astronauts at the ISS have had an orbital sports event. In 2010, when the Winter Olympics were underway in Vancouver, the space shuttle Endeavour was docked at the ISS. Its astronauts joined those from the ISS, making eleven of them in total, recreating the sporting event while in orbit and attempting weightless figure skating, space skiing and the zero-G luge.
They transmitted the whole thing back to Mission Control who entered into the mood by radioing them a message saying: “You are officially the only folks who are able to get more hang time than Shaun White,” referring to the US twice Olympic gold medallist snowboarder.
So, for those despairing at lack of a ticket to the London Olympic Games: Watch out for the Orbital Olympics.