Dr. Donald R. Pettit, photo: NASA
Today’s recipient is really cool. He likes to travel – really far away at an incredibly fast speed. He’s an astronaut. Dr. Donald Pettit has made three space voyages, the most recent in 2012.
While whirling around the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, Pettit took a moment to figure out what his mailing address would be. He was aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in Low Earth Orbit with an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees (that’s apparently the angle of the ISS’s orbit plane in relation to the equator.) All this is happening at some 250 miles above Earth. Anyway, according to Pettit, his address would have been Node 2, Deck 5, ISS, LEO 51.603.
He explains that his zip code would be 51.603, the first three digits representing the orbital inclination and the last two digits identifying the ISS – as it is the third such space station at this orbital location. The first two were Salyut and Mir. The small bay where he sleeps is Node 2 which is located on Deck 5.
I thought this was pretty cool and decided to drop Pettit a handwritten letter in the mail. I also thought to ask him about possibly sending an actual letter to the space station. Wouldn’t that be amazing – and if they wrote me back they can finally use one of those spiffy Fisher pens that actually write in space!
I know what you’re thinking though, the postage to space has got to be astronomical!
I hope my letter finds you and your family well. I’m writing to you as part of a yearlong project I am doing to write a handwritten letter every day this year. You’re day 238.
I very much appreciate that you devised a postal nomenclature for your address while you were on your third mission back in 2012. I’m curious, does someone currently reside at Node 2, Deck 5, ISS, LEO 51.603? If not, what would be the appropriate address to send a letter to one of the astronauts currently living aboard the ISS – and would a letter even get delivered? I can imagine that the Progress resupply vehicles have strict weight restrictions, not to mention that food and supplies are certainly more important than my letter. But it would be really cool to send a letter to the ISS – and even more amazing to receive a response written with one of those fancy pens! Any chance you could help make this wish come true? It would be in good company – I’ve received responses from presidents Bush (43) and Carter.
With deep respect for you and your contributions to our space exploration and admiration for the view of our world that you gazed upon while in space.
A fellow Eagle Scout,