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In the film 'Gravity', astronauts can be seen having casual chat with mission control. Do astronauts do that in real life? Do they have any specific policy that states what can be communicated over radio?

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Not quite "banter," but here's an example of an astronaut (Harrison Schmidt) communicating non-mission information: dump.com/apolloastronaut –  James Kingsbery May 2 at 13:03

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If you listen to live (or recorded) ISS to ground conversations you will find that the astronauts are human, and have perfectly normal conversations when not specifically running through mission checklists etc.

These conversations include banter, birthday wishes, conversations about the weather (yep - seriously) and any manner of normal topics.

I couldn't find any examples of swearing or offensive language, so there is probably a directive to avoid cursing on air (that is just a guess of mine though)

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I would imagine there is a directive to avoid cursing since schools often listen to the ISS communications as part of astronaut and space studies. –  called2voyage May 2 at 11:58
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So you're saying something in the film Gravity was accurate?! LIES!!!! –  Cameron MacFarland May 2 at 12:50
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Swearing, or any form of colourful language (unless one is a habitual user of such) usually spring from unexpected events. Speaking on the radio is typically over a microphone with a PTT - which requires conscious action (+: pretty much precluding other events that may make one erupt into expletives –  Everyone May 2 at 14:43
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There have been recorded incidents in which colorful language has been transmitted over the air. Pretty much all of them involve an inadvertent hot mike. One of the more famous ones would be from Apollo 16, in which CDR John Young was complaining to LMP Charlie Duke about the digestive consequences of their flight's menu. Video (warning -- language, obviously): youtube.com/watch?v=Uuv6TVv0r44 –  Tristan May 2 at 16:10
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@Tristan The audio in that video has been edited, though the gist of the conversation is accurate. The NASA transcript shows exactly what was said: scroll down to 128:50:37 (or, you know, just search for "farts"). –  David Richerby May 2 at 23:16

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