French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who had two stints in the International Space Station (ISS), says, “Space stations sometimes are like a prison with a really nice view if you don’t keep yourself busy out there.”
Mr Pesquet was in the ISS between November 2016 and June 2017, and from April to November 2021. He spoke about his time at the ISS during his talk on ‘From Space Stations to Permanent Bases’, at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru on October 11.
He said that crew members keep themselves engaged with a range of activities. Outlining his and fellow crew members’ weekly activities at the ISS, Mr Pesquet said that one needs to find some work-life balance even on the space station.
“We have very strict schedules at the space station. During the weekdays, we start at 7.30 in the morning. There is a conference between all the centers, and then everybody goes to work, followed by sports and physical training. We finish work around 7.30-8 in the evening. Then, it is your free time. Some people go to bed early, some people go to bed late, and then there is always somebody on the phone. You can call your friends and family, usually in the evening,” Mr Pesquet said.
The weekends are a mix of work and leisure time.
“On Saturdays, you clean the space station. In the morning, you vacuum and wipe all the surfaces. In the afternoon, you engage yourself with sports, and the rest of the day is free. On Sundays, you again make calls and do physical training. So, everybody does what they want. For me, it was taking pictures, but there are people who jot down details of their flight, or read, or watch movies. The good thing is we are busy all the time. When you are not busy, space stations sometimes look like a prison with a really nice view,” Mr Pesquet said.
Role of AI in space stations
Replying to a query from the audience on the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in space stations, Mr Pesquet said, “There is not much (role of AI) because the environment we live in is too complicated and too complex, as there are stuff everywhere. It really takes a human being to understand what is going on.”
Though NASA had developed a humanoid robot, named Robonaut, to perform some repetitive tasks, it added very little value.
“It added no value for the human being because there is a mess of things out there, a mess of cables everywhere. The added value from robots was not much. On the other hand, you have rovers and probes, which are 100 % automated but are still run by people on the ground. Right now, ISS is run by normal intelligence, or manned intelligence,” he added.