Space serenade: Astronaut has four flutes in orbit
Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 8:01 pm
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Musical astronaut Catherine Coleman has plenty of flutes to pick from aboard the International Space Station.
One is her own. Two belong to members of the Irish group, The Chieftains. And one belongs to the flutist with the Jethro Tull band.
“A pretty well-rounded spectrum, and I am having a great time up here with them,” Coleman said.
On Wednesday, she played a couple of tunes for radio and TV interviewers.
Space station commander Scott Kelly, meanwhile, said his twin brother made the right decision in returning to shuttle training.
Astronaut Mark Kelly officially resumed training this week after taking a leave of nearly a month to care for his wounded wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He will be in charge of the April flight of Endeavour.
At the space station, Coleman is the only flutist among the six-member crew. So while she prefers creating music with other people, she puts flute music on in the background and plays along whenever she has spare time.
The penny whistle she took up belongs to the Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney. There’s also an old Irish flute from the Chieftains’ Matt Molloy and a flute belonging to Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull.
Coleman said part of her astronaut job is to share “how amazing it is up here and relate to different groups of people.”
“I relate to flute players, and I just wanted them to understand what a cool place it was and how many possibilities there were to play music up here on the space station,” she said.
Coleman said it’s different playing in weightlessness: She finds herself bumping into objects as she plays, floating, with her eyes closed.
The acoustics, she said, vary from room to room. The chambers that are padded with cloth bags absorb the sound and aren’t nearly as bright sounding as, for example, the space station’s window-enclosed observation deck.
Coleman, 50, who has a doctorate in polymer science and engineering, considers herself an amateur musician. She said it’s been “pretty neat” creating her “own little world with music” in orbit. She hopes to team up with the Chieftains and Tull flutists for a space-to-ground concert before she returns to Earth in May. She’s been on the space station since just before Christmas.
NASA, meanwhile, is checking for any damage to shuttle Discovery on the launch pad. A measuring gauge came apart during repair work Tuesday night and may have struck the shuttle’s fuel tank. Discovery is supposed to blast off Feb. 24 for the space station after a delay of nearly four months.
Published in The Messenger 2.10.11