Evolving Traditions Aboard the International Space Station

By Keith Cowing
December 15, 2003
Filed under

American Astronaut Ed Lu eats Mexican food in the Russian Service Module while Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Yuri Gagarin, and a Russian icon look on. [enlarge]

On 12 December 2003, Expedition 8 Astronaut Michael Foale commented from the International Space Station on a story which appeared on SpaceRef and NASA Watch:

“I’d like to tell the team in Houston a little bit of story if you are ready to hear. I got an email today pointing out that Keith Cowing, the author – or the editor of NASA Watch introduced a story entitled “Why is there money on the International Space Station?“. And I’d sort of like to address that because many of you I know there at the console have told me that when we take video inside the Russian segment you have seen icons and other kinds of interesting items – I mean Russian icons of the virgin Mary and others – and Tsiolkovsky and Gagarin on the walls of the Service Module.

Three or four weeks ago I gave a little tour of the Node and I showed you behind a panel some of the pictures of some very famous people who have been key to spaceflight over the last hundred years including some more (current) people who are dear to us in our hearts and died.

Astronauts Brent Jett (L) and Bill Shepherd (R) ring the ISS Ship’s bell during the STS-97 mission [enlarge].

And what I tried to show in those videos from the U.S. segment that there are some traditions that are building up on the International Space Station that are making it a special place and on the U.S. side we have already got some traditions that have been going on since Bill Shepard started his onboard log and he brought his bell up to the station. And I think it is a tremendous tradition from the United States Navy.

And in turn on the Russian side, there’s a number of traditions including the icons I mentioned, and indeed, a U.S. dollar bill. When I was on Mir (garbled) and also Sahsa Kaleri, there was also a dollar bill there. At that time we used to use the dollar bill to ask a favor of the other person – for example, to watch a movie by saying “may I buy entrance to the movie please?” And you would present the bill to the other person. This tradition was introduced to me by Vasily Tsibliyev who is now head of the Star City cosmonaut training center when he brought me a dollar asking to watch a movie in the Spektr module – which we subsequently lost.

Today, on board the International Space station, we also have the tradition of a dollar in this module that we use to ask each other some find of favor. I should ad that actually, in defense of the dollar there is also a Euro on board as well as a 50 ruble note. And we look forward to the day when we have Yen and Canadian currency.”

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.