Doug Wheelock, Doug, Shannon discussed on The Indicator from Planet Money
This message comes from npr sponsor workday in today's changing world. Fast decisions need to be smart decisions. That's why workday delivers quick insights to help your finance team plan for what's next workday. The finance hr and planning system more at workday dot com. This message comes from npr. Sponsor fund rise making investing in private real estate as easy as investing in stocks bonds or mutual funds build a more diversified portfolio today at fundraise f. u. n. d. r. i s. e. dot com slash indicator the life of an astronaut. It sounds so awesome so adventurous astronaut. Doug wheelock says though most of the time it's actually pretty routine regimented. You wake up have breakfast do a bunch of scientific experiments and then you eat lunch. Then more experiments exercise dinner and go to sleep and of course there are no shops or movie theaters are banks or anything like that. So the economy aboard the international space station is all about trade. The interesting thing is with food. Of course the russians food supply is much different than our food supply. The russians is. Doug really loved the us deserts which were like brownies and cakes. And he's freeze dried packets and the american astronauts really loved the russian soups. Apparently the borscht is excellent. Excellent is a relative term. Of course doug says that aboard the space station. Most of the food is actually pretty bland. But every three months a big event would happen. Doug and his crew would get a shipment from earth and the resupply missions were a big deal remember. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to send a shuttle to the space station. So when those shipments actually came says doug it was a very special moment and in those shipments would be like personal items letters from home loved ones. Yeah who cares. There was also this precious commodity just before they closed the hatch on the launch pad. They would throw like a bag of fresh fruit like oranges. Lemons apples vegetables as well aboard the space station. Duck says produce was like platinum. Yeah and when the shipments would right he says everybody would get together and the excitement was electric. We'd all get in the the node one. Which is our kitchen area and flowed all the fruit and vegetables. Okay so it's like christmas morning. But doug says everybody would only get one or two pieces of produce. Just wasn't that much of it and so here's where the trade comes in. Doug knew that the russians loved onions. They're great for flavoring food but doug loved fruit above everything else at. I'd say like mad. I would take an orange over this onion any day. You know fyodor. Your chicken was mike. Commander said hey fyodor What a trade an onion for do of a like an extra orangey goes all. You don't want your onion douglas's that orange trade legendary in his mind still because for doug that orange was not just a snack. It was a connection to earth. It was like his companion was funny. I had i at one point. I kind of laughed. Because i i felt like tom. Hanks and castaway with wilson. The volleyball hung onto like one orange for like it seemed like probably three weeks at a became sort of by crewmate. Of course the space station economy was not just about food though services. Were also a big part of it and different people aboard. The space station had different things. They could contribute because they had such different backgrounds. There were scientists engineers pilots so skill sets seriously skill sets became part of our commerce as well. Dug for instance has an engineering background and he says for him one of his least favorite parts of life aboard the space station. Where all the scientific experiments they had to do. Whatever their background. This was just part of what they did. Every day and the space station would typically be running more than a hundred experiments at any given moment scientific research about food plants medicines. It's just a full day and it's also part of the mission of the space station. But for doug honestly it was kind of a slog sometimes the way out of it economics doug discovered this a couple of weeks in his mission when one of the scientists aboard. The space station told him that there was a big problem she said. Hey the party's broken. I mean that does sound like a big problem. I feel panicked at least not what you wanna hear aboard a space station. That's for sure. No but doug background was in engineering. So he understands systems and he says fixing things comes really naturally to him and the scientists. This woman named shannon knew this about doug shannon looked at me. She said if you fix the party. I'll do all of your science for the rest of the day and i'm thinking that is a deal and a half. I'll take that deal. So i got my by tool bill called houston and said you know houston. We have a problem. The party's broken. Doug says actually the toilet broke quite a bit and whenever it happened whenever the toilet broke doug's economic value pretty much shot to infinity. I figured out that if you're out in space and you can fix the potty you're like lord of the universe but the real commodity on the space station's as doug was earth itself because he says when you see the whole planet against this backdrop of outerspace every day it just changes the way that you value things it just this raging ball of life in this vast desert of darkness. You know that takes root like very very quickly and it's like wow there's my planet everything ever known you know every word ever spoken. You know everybody. I've ever loved is down there and i'm not there and so that's when it really kind of strikes. You is When i talk to students and young children we talk about our favorite planet and things and i said pluto was my favorite planet. I said but then i went to space and now earth is my favorite planet. Thanks says when you're in space you start to crave all things earth and human evidence of life becomes the currency for example. Doug says you just want to see talk to other humans. Even if you don't know them you want to drop in on other astronauts video chats and see their families and talk to their friends. You don't care. Yeah because in space humans are a precious commodity and i asked if there was ever bartering around this like hey you can join video chat with my family for an apple indexes. Actually everybody needs human interaction so much. They don't really trade it because it becomes sacred and when you get back to earth doug says your idea of what's valuable is changed for ever. You know birds singing the wind blowing through the trees the smell of somebody grilling out know the the laughter of children. You know all these beautiful beautiful things that we see and we hear and we smell on earth are all gone and instead you have the sterile sound of fans running in the sterile smell of computer hardware like sort of like warm plastic kind of smell you know and when i first got back i would just like stand outside and kind of close by. Just listen you know. It's completely changed my whole perspective especially especially rain. I am just fascinated by rain now. I just i the smell of it the sound of it. I sometimes go out when a light rain. I've just kind of like take my dog for a walk in the rain. You know and just feel against your skin. A took for granted before you know. This episode of indicator was produced by dave blanchard and fact checked by sam tie. The indicator is edited by paddy hirsch and is a production of npr..