Astronaut plays aboard the space station: NPR


When NASA astronaut Cady Coleman soared through space, to the International Space Station orbiting approximately 200 miles above Earth, she brought music with her – music with several famous pedigrees.

As well as bringing his personal flute, Coleman brought a pennywhistle from Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains, an old Irish flute from Matt Malloy from The Chieftains and an Ian Anderson flute from Jethro Tull.

In an Earth-space interview, All things Considered host Melissa Block asks what it’s like to play the flute and experience weightlessness.

“It’s really different,” Coleman says. “I had a great time in our Cupola – it’s a module that has windows all around. I float in there and play with my eyes closed. What’s really funny for me is that I will suddenly run into something that [I] had no idea was so close. It’s good to float around and not know exactly where you are, but to continue to create your own little world with music.”

Coleman says the acoustics depend on the module, but she prefers the cupola because no one can hear it in other parts of the large space station. Commander Scott Kelly says this interview was only the second time he’s seen or heard Coleman perform.

Kelly is the brother-in-law of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head last month. Given that he’s so far away, Block asks how that adds to the difficulty of helping his family deal with the trauma of the incident.

“You know, I think it would be difficult to be anywhere – being in an isolated environment presents its own particular challenges,” Kelly says. “We have phone and email. There is the ability to communicate, to be able to support my brother and Gabby in person. But I understand that this is my place and I have a job to do, so I get okay.”

Block asks Kelly if he has a different take on the shooting.

“If you asked me the question right when it happened, I probably would have said yes,” Kelly said. “But I think now, after time has passed, I would probably say no. My life has certainly changed here since the accident. I used to, in my free time, look out the window and [take] Earth pictures. Now I spend more of my free time on the phone and with email and following the news than before this tragedy.”

Kelly is due back on earth next month. Her twin brother Mark Kelly – the husband of MP Giffords – is due to order his own shuttle flight in April.

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