A whole new destination for adventuresome tourists opened up today with Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight into space. While we congratulate Richard Branson on fulfilling his dream, we also wonder if we need to brush up on our space travel terms.
For those adventurers looking for the ultimate thrill ride, here are some of the terms you might need to know.
Acronyms. NASA has a reputation for using acronyms ad nauseum. Here are a few samples – POD (payload operations director, SUM (speaker microphone unit), and MUM (mass memory unit manager). For even more strings of letters from NASA, click here.
Astronaut. NASA’s name for the pilots. “Astro” refers to space travelers. ‘Naut” is the Greek word for sailor.
Command Module. The compartment of a spacecraft that carries the crew, communications equipment and controls.
Deep Yogurt. Trouble.
Downlink/Uplink. Downlink - a radio signal sent from a spacecraft to Earth. Uplink – a radio signal sent from Earth to a spacecraft.
Gravity. The force by which a planet or other body draws objects toward its center. The force of gravity keeps the planets in orbit around the sun. Click here for more information on gravity.
Houston. Shorthand for The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA’s center for human spaceflight training, research, and flight control.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem.” This phrase from Apollo 13 goes down in history as an ironic understatement to describe an unforeseen problem.
Puffy Head Bird Legs. Remember hanging upside down and feeling the blood rushing to your head? Then you know what the astronauts experience in space. “Puffy head bird legs” describes the sensation of having a large, puffy head atop thin legs.
Screw the Pooch. An embarrassing blunder or mistake. This phrase has been traced back to NASA and the US Navy.
Some Words. Words that offer advice or instructions from ground control. “We have some words for you about the signal light issue.”
Local time for events that happen aboard the spacecraft (the time on Earth minus the elapsed time between Earth and the spacecraft).
Unity Module. The international space station.
Zero Gravity. Weightlessness experienced in space due to an apparent absence of gravity. Actually, even in space g-forces are never exactly zero, just very small.
Dean and Draper
If you are thinking about a space flight, we hope these terms will be useful. When you have questions about your insurance, we have solid answers and welcome your call.
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