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Coffee With Edward Lu! – An Astronaut

26 March 2008 32 Comments

Hi All,

Its my pleasure and honour to welcome Edward Lu, An Astronaut (Yes! Rub your eyes and read again! An Astronaut! An Astronaut!) for Coffee With Experts. I never even dreamt that I would be doing this one day!

Also special thanks to Varun for this intro & introducing me to the Ed Lu’s video which inspired me to put this interview.

Dr. Edward T. Lu is a former NASA Astronaut. He is former worldrecord holder for being in space for the longest duration (in a single mission – 184 days).

He has flown on almost all of the flying objects that might qualify to being inhabitable in our solar system outside earth, including the MIR, Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Space Station. (well excluding the Asteroids πŸ˜‰ -which probably doesnt qualify for inhabitable objects). He is younger than the rest of the world by 0.007 seconds due to time dilation (a phenomenon explained in Einstein’s Relativity theory where an object flying faster experiences slower time than others) and has accrued more Frequent flyer miles than most of fellow earthlings. (Yes! People who live on earth :-)) He is a Doctorate in both Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering. Dr. Ed Lu is now working at Google. Dr. Ed Lu is arguably the first blogger in space!. His blog about his Expedition 7 at the ISS can be accessed at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/crew/exp7/luletters/.

Other resources about Ed:


Ed went up to the space station just after the Columbia Disaster, when the time was running short and they had to get supplies into the ISS without the Space Shuttle. We at CWS are honoured to have interviewed our hero.

Ladies and Gentleman, Coffee With Dr. Ed Lu.

“It does not take Rocket Science to read the blog, but Rocket Scientist’s interview certainly makes CWS an interesting blog”

Coffee With Edward Lu! – An Astronaut

Me: Sundar Rajan G S
EL: Ed Lu

Me: Hi Ed! Welcome to CWS! How many ppl travelled with you to space? How long were you there?

EL: Two of us travelled. Yuri (Yuri Malenchenko) & I went to space for 6 months. From April 25 2003 to October 27th 2003

Me: What is the first change u notice there?
EL: Newton’s first law, which states that objects in motion will tend to remain in motion, and objects at rest will tend to remain at rest, is the very first thing you have to deal with. When flying across the module, you will continue in a straight line until you grab onto something or you hit the far wall. Similarly, if you are floating in the middle of a module and not moving, you will stay there until you push off some other objectMe: Oh you mean you actually fly! πŸ™‚
EL: Yes! The main difference between life up here and life down there is that things don’t drop to the floor here including yourself. Rather than walking around as we do on the ground, we fly around inside the station. It takes some practice getting used to it, but you get better rapidly.

Me: What is the work you do out there?
EL: I worked on an experiment that looks at how metal alloys crystallize as they cool. Meanwhile, over in the Russian Segment of the Space Station Yuri has worked on an experiment that looks at what are called plasma crystals. There are a whole host of other experiments up there, ranging from medical investigations with us as the subjects, to experiments on magnetized fluids, to ultraviolet observations of lightning storms.
Me: Readers, visit Ed’s blog (link at the top for more details)

Me: Ed, Lets talk about some of the day to day activities. How do you eat out there?
EL: We don’t have a real kitchen up here, but we do have a kitchen table. You might wonder of what use a table is if you can’t set anything down on it, but we have bungee straps and Velcro on the tabletop so you can keep your food containers, spoon, napkins, etc. from floating away. Of course there are no chairs around the table, what we do is float around the table while we prepare our meals and eat. There are a couple of handrails on the floor to slide your feet under to stabilize yourself. Ofcourse, You have to move fairly slowly when eating, or the food will literally fly right off your spoon (and onto the wall).

Me: What about the toilets and bathrooms in space?
EL: The toilet is operated by air pressure. A fan does the work that gravity does on the ground. Urine is sucked inside the toilet and is collected in a 20-liter container. Regarding the bath in space, We don’t have a shower up here (the water wouldn’t go down through the drain anyhow), so we wash using no-rinse soap and shampoo and a towel. It is the same stuff they use in hospitals for bedridden patients, and it works really well.

Me: What about sleeping in space?
EL: We get 16 sunrises/sunsets a day! So, to get to sleep at night (according to GMT) we have to cover the windows to keep it dark in here, so right after getting up one of the first thing to do is to uncover the windows.

Me: Do you do any exercises out there?
EL: Exercise up here is even more important than it is on the ground. On the ground you get a lot of exercise without even knowing it because your body is constantly working against the force of gravity. Up here, As far as your muscles and bones are concerned, life is just effortless. Since we hardly have to exert any effort to get around in space, we have to maintain our fitness levels by working out twice a day.

Me: How does earth look like from there?
EL: Whenever I get a chance, I spend time just observing the planet below. It turns out you can see a lot
more from up here than you might expect. First off, we aren’t as far away as some people think –
our orbit is only about 240 miles above the surface of the Earth. While this is high enough to see that the Earth is round (believe me, it is), we are still just barely skimming the surface when you consider that the diameter of the Earth is over 8000 miles.

Me: Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. Its indeed fascinating to see or rather hear about it.
Me: Dont get me wrong. I am playing a devils advocate here. We have so many problems on earth to solve. There is poverty, unemployment.. There is so much more *on earth* to be fixed.. which needs huge amounts of money! In this case, why are we spending huge amounts of money for space exploration.. What do we get out it!
EL: I often hear this from people who don’t know how much money is spent on space exploration. For example, in the United States the annual budget for the manned space program is about 7 billion dollars per year, or less than 1 percent of the total money spent on education in the United States (on the federal, local, and state levels). It is also less than 1 percent of the amount spent on social services. So my question back to you is, if we were to eliminate the spending on spaceflight, and add 1 percent to the amount we spend on either education or social services, would this eliminate our problems in those areas?
But I would argue that our society would be worse off. I think our balance of spending is about right (roughly 100 times more on social services).

Me: That clears a lot of doubts. Can you share links to some of the photos.
EL: Sure, All the photos are from NASA and are public. Here are the links:


Readers, A special thanks to Ed for these queries. He is a very busy man and he answered some of the questions. And the rest of the questions were so frequently asked to him that he blogged about them. With his permission, some answers taken directly from blog.Dream come true is something I cant say here. Coz, I didnt even dream about taking an interview of such a great man! πŸ™‚ I am indeed proud of my blog today!

Originally found at: http://coffeewithsundar.com
Subscribe here: http://coffeewithsundar.com/feed
If you havent subscribed till now, it is high time you do.. πŸ™‚ Special thanks to Ed & Varun once again. It was Varun who downloaded the video talk (at Google). He only asked me to watch it. I was really impressed by the video and mailed Ed Lu, who was kind enough to reply back.




  • Varun said:

    Way to go Sundar! Way to go CWS.

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Thanks varun..

  • Pawan said:

    Going great guns man.. keep it up!!

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Thanks a lot man!

  • Pradeep said:

    Really appreciate the work that are involved with

  • hema said:

    Great work Sundar. You are really getting a good cross section of people for interviewing

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Thanks a lot maam

  • Harsha said:

    Awesome man…. Really interesting to know the life is space.. Probably u can have a 2nd round of interview… πŸ˜‰ Gr8 work da… πŸ™‚

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Thanks a lot kano.. I wish i could do another interview.. but People like Ed are tooo too busy

  • Sumit said:

    An Astronaut, still rubbing my eyes :). Thanks for the article Sundar.

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    thanks a lot sumit..

  • Ganapathy said:

    Awesome interview!! Really interesting to know how life is, in space from a person who has experienced it himself.. a very interesting and inspiring one.. given a chance, i now want to go to space..!

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Gannu.. Even I want to see u in space.. πŸ™‚ And tell me how to study organic chemistry there.. πŸ™‚

  • shikhanshu said:

    its about time you took this as a full time profession and switched from internet to television… u r going major man… i wonder who’s next to be interviewed!

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    @ Shikanshu,

    Thanks a lot for your comments..

    One day, I am sure.. CWS is going to be a great hit!

    The next list of people to be interviewed can be seen on the right hand side top.. πŸ™‚

  • ABC said:

    I guess in a formal and professional blog where formal interviews are going on, the “professional” ethics ought to be followed. Personal conversations could preferably kept “personal” or “private”, and not posted in “public”.

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    @ ABC,

    I am sorry for the slight lapse… This will not happen again.. We will keep our personal conversations to ourselves..

    I have deleted the comments..

  • mahendra said:

    Awesome…thanks a lot for very last but one question.

  • Ramchander said:

    Great work Sundar…Informal discussions with great people really is interesting….btw i m a big space enthu and have gud collections of videos…keep going man…

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Hi Mahendra,
    I know lots of ppl ask that question.. thats y I asked…

    Hi Ramchander,
    Great to knw tht yo are a space enthu.. I hope u enjoyed the discussion..

  • Adarsh said:

    A great interview……

  • Swaraj Kanwar said:

    Hey budd!!

    Fantastic work budd! Respect to Ya!!
    Would love to read your interview with “James Hetfield” Lead of “The Metallica”


  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    Hi Swaraj,

    I am sure CWS will reach heights.. It will certainly interview them one day. πŸ™‚

  • Hiren said:

    Great interview Sundar..
    Sometimes it is better to look things from other end of the table…

    Final yr meta, NIT Trichy

    plz update me for further interviews

  • Rajat Madan said:

    good job bro!!

    Its great to see people from my college doing such an awesome work…keep it up man..

  • mohit BIndra said:

    hi sunder,

    This is my 1st reply to this site…….real applause to you sunder…for your inordinate blogs and interviews.
    Basically it’s tough to see a guy taking interviews of prof. and scientists on a coffee……..gr8 keep it up and most importantly your significant approach towards modern institutions is marvelous……and can you have more on space basically how a indian can get into BIG organizations like NASA and ISRO etc….
    I hope more to come…….thanx

  • Ana said:

    What a great interview, congratulations!
    How did u manage to get in touch with him? I’d love to do a piece on him for a newspaper here in Chile!!!!

  • Liang Xi Downey said:

    Dear Ed,

    It is great to see an astronaut now working on power meters. All this lead to the future of technology: convergence via system engineering!

    I work for a smart power router technology company. Our box integrates renewable energy, onsite battery storage with the utility grid providing the uninterruptable power to the load most efficiently. In our solution, clean energy such as wind or solar gets used first, utility power fills in the gap as a back-up. Since renewable energy cannot replace the coal fired utility power over night, an integrated play that leverages whatever the amount a facility can afford from clean energy to help peak shaving and reducing demand is critical to the industry’s adoption of renewable energy.

    I have a question about Google’s power meter. It would be nice for a consumer to see how much power his/her appliance is consuming is from the green source. Can the Google meter measure that the power usage to this granular level?

    Best Regards,

    Liang Downey
    313 310 5775 cell

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    airbnb voucher…

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