TIME Year in Space

Space: It Ain’t All Glamour

International space station
NASA

There's a lot of messy housekeeping when you're in orbit—and a lot of exciting work too

How did your pre-treated urine transfer rate work out this week? I’m sorry? You had no pre-treated urine transfer rate to worry about? Oh, then you must not be aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

It’s been a busy few days for the six crewmembers of the ISS—which pretty much describes all of their days. If there’s one point all astronauts mention about their time aloft, it’s the challenge of the schedule—the long, every-minute-accounted-for checklist of items that have to be completed every single day. Some of them are the glamour stuff of space travel—spacewalks, formation-flying with arriving vehicles, TV broadcasts to the folks back home. Some are a good deal more mundane, such as troubleshooting the stubbornly low flow rate in a system that is supposed to filter and recycle urine into ordinary drinking water.

Mission planners are not shy about revealing just how hard they make the astronauts work, as a glimpse at NASA’s ISS blog reveals. On May 22, the crew woke up to a list of 65 must-do items; three days later it was 67; the next day was a lighter day by comparison, with a scant 55.

A lot of what was done on those days was indeed very big stuff. On May 26, year-in-space marathoner Scott Kelly and crewmate Terry Virts oversaw the transfer of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) from one berthing site to another on the station—which is both much more important and much more difficult than it sounds. For one thing, the module weighs 11 tons. And like most station modules, it’s roughly the size of a school bus.

Relocating it meant three control centers had to work in tandem: Mission Control in Houston; the Mobile Servicing Systems Operations Center in Quebec, Canada, which oversees the work of the station’s robotic arm; and the station itself, with Kelly and Virts in charge. The goal was to decouple the PMM from the Unity module and movie it to the nearby Tranquility module—by remote control, while moving 17,135 mph (27, 576 k/h), at an altitude of 259 mi. (417 km).

But it was worth the effort. By 2017, two new commercial crew vehicles built by Boeing and SpaceX will begin flying to the station, freeing the U.S. from its reliance on the Russian Soyuz as the only way to get astronauts to space. That required reconfiguring the station to open up the best docking ports to receive crew—and that meant the PMM had to find somewhere else to live.

A lot of the other work that went on in the past few days involved the extensive biomedical tests that Kelly, his fellow one-year flier Misha Kornienko, and the other astronauts regularly undergo to study the human body’s fitness for long-term space flight. Kelly and Kornienko went through their paces in what will be a year’s worth of fine-motor skill tests, tapping at touch screens to determine how their reaction time and dexterity change over the course of their stay.

Kelly and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka worked with ultrasound equipment to help study how fluid shifting from the lower body to the head affects the shape of the eyeball and the condition of the optic nerve, both of which are thought to cause long-lasting—and perhaps permanent—changes in the vision of astronauts who have spent extended time in zero-g.

Next week, Kelly will undergo similar testing while wearing a CHIBIS lower body negative pressure suit, which pulls fluid back down from the head and reduces the pressure that causes the damage. And, yes, a more colloquial description for a CHIBIS lower body negative pressure suit is rubber vacuum pants—but if your vision depended on them, you’d be happy to put them on too.

Other work on the station involved echocardiograms, with crewmembers serving sometimes as Crew Medical Officers (CMOs) and sometimes as patients as they performed the scans on one another; experiments on convection, fluid physics and the effects of the space environment on various materials subjected to long-term exposure outside the station; and maintenance work on extravehicular activity (EVA) suits in preparation for spacewalks soon to come.

None of the work is easy, some of it is monotonous, and all of it just keeps coming. On the other hand, you get to perform it while weightless, with a view outside the office window that is pretty hard to beat. As workplaces go, you could do a lot worse.

TIME psychology

What the Josh Duggar Fiasco Can Teach Us About Pedophilia

It raises familiar questions with no easy answers

Want a challenge? Try feeling sorry for a pedophile—those guys (and they’re almost always guys) who lust for children, stalk children and may eventually molest or rape children. Even in prison they’re targets of violence from other inmates. When a murderer finds you morally repugnant, you know you’ve fallen far.

That universal loathing is on display again with public outrage around the news that reality TV star Josh Duggar, 27, of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, responded to allegations that he molested five underage girls when he was 15, saying that he “acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret.”

There is more unknown about these charges than known: How old were the girls? What did the molestation involve? These and other questions are critical to understanding both the psychology and the alleged criminality at play.

But let’s address the worst possibility—that the girls were not teens like Duggar, but much younger. That he was drawn to them as an adult pedophile is drawn to a child, and that under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist, he would be diagnosed with clinical pedophilia. What does that mean for him—and for society?

Pedophilia is thought to be a relatively rare condition, afflicting from 1% to 5% of men, and a vanishingly small number of women. Admittedly 1% to 5% is a wide range, but unlike people suffering from, say, depression or phobias, people with pedophilic stirrings are not likely to step forward for treatment. Pedophiles are sexually drawn to children exclusively and as a group, prey on same sex and opposite sex children more or less equally. The condition has nothing at all to do with homosexuality.

Psychologists stress that not all child molesters are pedophiles and not all pedophiles molest. Only about 10% of known child abusers are thought to be clinical pedophiles. In most non-pedophilic cases of child abuse, the crime is an act of violence, of rage, sometimes a result of trauma. Often molesters were themselves molested in childhood—anywhere from one third to three quarters of them—though the studies on which these findings are based are often called into question because they rely on trusting the abusers to tell the truth about their past.

What’s barely in dispute anymore is that true pedophilia is a disorder with physiological roots. Scans of pedophiles’ brains show less connective white matter than the brains of other people; other studies show that pedophiles have a greater tendency to be left-handed, that they score poorly on visual and spatial tests and that they may even be shorter, on average, than other males. All of this points either to the genes or prenatal womb environment, or both, meaning that pedophilia is innate, unchosen and as fixed as anyone else’s sexuality.

“None of us decides the sorts of people we’re going to be attracted to,” says Dr. Fred Berlin of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma, in Baltimore. “We discover that, and that’s true too of people who discover they’re attracted to children. This is not the result of a choice.”

That’s where treatment becomes hard, and where sympathy—if you’re inclined to feel it—may be warranted. In the days in which homosexuality was punished, gays and lesbians spent their entire lives either denying themselves a sexual outlet or doing so furtively and fearfully. That led to profound suffering—made all the worse because it was unjust suffering. In a sexual encounter with another consenting adult, no one generally gets hurt—and the laws in most countries have finally come around.

But there will be no such coming around in the case of pedophilia, nor should there be, because by definition a child incapable of consent will always be hurt by the act. That means therapy for pedophiles—with luck before they act, but certainly afterwards.

Part of this may involve libido-lowering drugs; part involves an abstinence strategy similar to what’s used in day-at-a-time groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. And part involves other kinds of group support, such as the website Virtuous Pedophiles, for people who recognize their disorder and are determined not to act on it. That can work.

“Virtuous pedophiles make the point that pedophilia is by no means synonymous with child molestation,” says Berlin. “Some people can control their urges on their own or with a group. Others who have those attractions with perhaps a higher degree of desire may need more intervention, including medicine.”

In one study of 300 patients Berlin treated, only 3% who fully complied with treatment re-offended within five years. Among men who receive no treatment, 18% re-offend within three years.

There are no good answers for pedophilia, only less bad ones. Fury at men who hurt children is not misplaced, but nor is appreciation for those who struggle with their disorder and keep it under control. No one would choose to leave a child alone with an untreated pedophile. But no one would choose to be that pedophile either.

Read next: Arkansas Police Destroy Record of Josh Duggar Investigation

TIME A Year In Space

Watch This Stunning Video of Astronauts Docking at the Space Station

It took six hours and 100,000 miles to get there

Commuting to work isn’t easy in space. After Scott Kelly, Gennady Padalka and Misha Kornienko blasted off from Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz spacecraft in the early morning hours of March 29, it took them six hours to reach the International Space Station.

Six hours doesn’t seem like much—barely a flight from New York to London. But New York to London is a trip of only 3,459 miles (5,567 km). The Soyuz crew had to make four complete revolutions of the Earth–putting a cool 100,000 miles (161,000 km) on the odometer, in a high-speed chase that, at the end, turned into a delicate pas de deux.

NASA has now released the video footage of the final 15 minutes of that approach, shot from the cockpit of the Soyuz. The clip has been sped up here to just two and a half minutes, but even at that rate, it reveals what a precision job a rendezvous and docking is.

The spinning object in the foreground of the image is the Soyuz’s docking radar. The red light that flashes in the window midway through the clip is a reflection from the camera that is recording the approach. What you can’t see are the crewmembers, both in the Soyuz and aboard the station, who were responsible for the cosmic choreography. Their work has to speak for itself—and that work was remarkable.

TIME A Year In Space

Watch the SpaceX Dragon Leave the Space Station

A seemingly routine maneuver is a lot more complicated than it looks

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is easy in space, and that includes leaving it, as the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) will be reminded on Thursday morning, May 21, when the Dragon cargo vessel undocks and heads home—a maneuver TIME will live-stream via NASA beginning at 6:45 a.m. ET. Dragon, the 24-ft. (7.3 m) cargo vehicle built by SpaceX, arrived at the ISS on April 17 carrying 5,200 lbs (2,360 kg) of cargo. It is returning after a five-week stay, bringing home 3,100 (1,400 kg) different lbs. of stuff—some of it trash, but a lot of it scientific samples that are part of the extensive biomedical studies being conducted on astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Misha Kornienko as they spend a marathon year in space.

No spacecraft leaving the ISS can simply cast off and go. Ever since the long-ago joint mission of Gemini VI and Gemini VII, 50 years ago this December, when the two manned spacecraft maneuvered to within inches of each other, NASA has appreciated the delicate dance involved when any two orbiting objects come anywhere near each other. Moving along at a matching 17,500 mph (28,160 k/g), the ships are effectively motionless relative to each other. If one adds even the tiniest bit of speed that the other one doesn’t match—going to, say 17,505 mph—the result can be a fender bender.

For that reason, the Dragon departure will be a process that will consume a whole morning’s work. Before 7 a.m., the station’s 58 ft. (17.6 m) robotic arm will grapple the Dragon, which will decouple from its berth on the station’s Harmony module. The arm will carry the Dragon as far from the station as it can, and Kelly, who will be controlling the operation from aboard, will give the signal for its release at 7:04 a.m. Over the course of the next four hours and 45 minutes, the Dragon will fire its thrusters three separate times, edging further away from the station until, at 11:49 a.m., it reaches the precise spot in its orbit to begin a reentry burn that will carry it to a Pacific splashdown at 12:42 p.m.

The station has been serviced by milk runs like these many times in the 15 years it has been continually occupied and there will be a lot more to come in the decade or so of service it has left to it. It’s a measure of the complexity of the up and down trips that they take so much planning and such deft execution; it’s a measure of the people doing the executing that the maneuvers can actually, after a time, seem routine.

TIME space

The Story of Hubble’s First Photo — 25 Years Later

On the right is part of the first image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) Wide Field/Planetary Camera. It is shown with a ground-based picture from Las Campanas, Chile, Observatory of the same region of the sky.
Ground Image: E. Persson (Las Campanas Observatory, Chile)/Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Hubble Image: NASA, ESA, and STScI On the right is part of the first image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) Wide Field/Planetary Camera. It is shown with a ground-based picture from Las Campanas, Chile, Observatory of the same region of the sky.

There were a lot of reasons that first picture was so unremarkable

It ain’t much, is it? For all of the jaw-dropping, eye-popping, gobsmacking images the Hubble Space Telescope has sent home over the years, the smudgy, black and white picture above right is in some ways the most important. That’s because it’s the first picture the telescope took, on May 20, 1990—a quarter century ago.

The subject of this first-ever cosmic screen grab was the binary star HD96755 in the open cluster NGC 3532, about 1,300 light years away. HD96755 is the vaguely snowman-shaped object at the top of the image; the smaller one, below it and to the right, was a stellar bystander that simply photo-bombed the image. NASA released the picture along with a second one, top left, taken of the same objects by a ground-based telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to show that the $2.5 billion Hubble could do a better job. Which it did. A little.

There were a lot of reasons that first picture was so unremarkable—and they had little to do with Hubble’s famously warped mirror, a flaw that engineers would discover only slowly and that NASA would not confirm and announce until nearly a month later. Rather, the initial shot of HD96755 was intended simply what’s known as a first light test.

“First light implies that the light goes all the way through the optics and makes its way to the detectors,” says Dave Leckrone, who was a Hubble deputy project scientist at the time and was the senior project scientist from later in 1990 to 2009. “It’s only when that happens that you can say first light has been achieved.”

That flushing of the pipes typically happens away from the eyes of the press, since first light images are notoriously lousy. In the case of Hubble, the disappointment would be even keener, because the telescope had been so highly touted for so long that anything less than a full-color glimpse into the very heart of the universe was bound to disappoint.

But an overzealous public affairs officer invited the media to be present at the Goddard Space Center when Hubble first opened its eyes, and the press obliged, filling the visitors’ center where a viewing screen was in place. “The astronomers groaned when the media was invited,” recalls Leckrone. “And everyone was a little perplexed and uncomfortable when the image came in because it was so out of focus. Someone said ‘Is that the way it’s supposed to look?'”

NASA didn’t help matters by releasing the picture with the boast that it was 50% sharper than what the Chilean telescope could do. That was a decidedly minor accomplishment that seemed all the worse since it required an exposure 10 times as long—30 seconds for the telescope in space compared to just three seconds for the one on the ground.

Hubble engineers promised the pictures would get better as they calibrated the telescope’s instruments, and they had a lot of tricks to try—including adjusting 24 pressure pads that lined the back of the primary mirror to compensate for any change in shape caused by going from the 1 g of Earth to the zero g of space. But nothing the space agency tried worked and it would not be until December of 1993 that the space shuttle Columbia would ride to the rescue, bringing Hubble a set of corrective optics that would restore its vision to what it was supposed to be.

Those three and a half years seemed like a long time to wait back then. But they turned out to be nothing compared to 25 years worth of images that have resulted—and the dazzling look they’ve given us billions of years into the universe’s past.

TIME health

How Anti-Vaxxers Are Hurting People of Faith

Hurts for a second, helps for a long time
Bloomberg; Bloomberg via Getty Images Hurts for a second, helps for a long time

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A defensible vaccine opt-out is being threatened by a frivolous one

Science and religion have not always gotten along—especially when it comes to medicine. If you believe your body is a temple and your faith can keep you well, you don’t take kindly to doctors telling you how to look after yourself and your family. If you believe faith is fine but it’s medicine that saves lives, you frown on people who endanger themselves—and their children—by resisting scientific progress.

When it comes to vaccines, however, both camps—with the help of lawmakers—had reached a workable truce. All states require children to be vaccinated to attend school, and all states also provide exemptions for the small share of kids who, for legitimate medical reasons, can’t be vaccinated. All states but Mississippi and West Virginia have also allowed parents with religious objections to opt out of the vaccination rules.

It’s undeniable that that can put their kids at risk. By definition, the child who is vaccinated against polio will not contract the disease and the child who’s not vaccinated possibly could. But that possibility can be a remote one, thanks to what’s known as herd immunity. As long as about 95% of a population is vaccinated against a particular disease, it’s exceedingly difficult for a virus to find enough holes in that herd to reach the few people who aren’t protected. And since religious opt-outs had been relatively rare, the system worked.

But that’s all changed, thanks to what’s known as the philosophical or personal belief exemption, an expansion of the no-vax loophole allowing parents to refuse vaccinations for pretty much any reason at all—they don’t like the state telling them what to do, or they can’t be bothered by all those trips to the doctor, or they’ve read something on the Internet that about how vaccines are a mortal health peril, despite the fact that that virtually every medical authority on the planet assures them that that’s not so. Call it a personal belief and you get a free pass. This has done very bad things to the herd.

Many states like Colorado and California, which have easy opt-out rules, have fallen below the 95% compliance levels needed to keep their populations healthy, and recent outbreaks of measles in New York City, mumps in Columbus, Ohio, and whooping cough in California directly correlate with poor vaccination levels. A multistate measles outbreak in the southwest that is only now subsiding was similarly linked linked to a single infected person who visited Disneyland and spread the virus among unvaccinated visitors there.

Meantime, states with high vaccination rates are experiencing few of these problems. Most notable among them are Mississippi and West Virginia, which have neither religious nor philosophical opt-outs and thus have first-in-the-nation vaccine compliance levels of 99.9%.

Now some states are pushing back. As TIME reported, the California state Senate has just advanced a bill to eliminate both philosophical and religious exemptions, leaving only demonstrated medical problems as a reason for parents to refuse vaccines. Legislators who opposed the bill objected to eliminating the religious exemption, and their argument does have merit. Not only does the new bill raise First Amendment issues, statistics also make it clear that it’s not the faith community that’s causing most of the trouble. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, states that have a personal belief exemption have 2.54 times the vaccine refusal rate of states that have only the faith exemption. Left to themselves, the religious refuseniks would not be causing too much of a problem

But California legislators know the population they’re dealing with. Anti-vaxxers are like water, flowing to the nearest handy opening. Close off the personal belief portal, and they’ll just slosh over to the religious side, claiming a sudden spiritual epiphany that excuses them from vaccinating. The only way to keep kids safe is to close both exit routes.

The victims in all this are the truly devout. Lawmakers have long made clear that not all religious objections to medical procedures will be tolerated, particularly when it comes to the welfare of minors. Parents who cite religious beliefs in refusing to treat a child for, say, leukemia will likely lose that child to the state, which will provide the necessary care.

In the case of vaccines, however, there is—or was—a workaround. With the thinning of the herd, however, religious practices have to come second to saving the lives and health of babies. People of faith may resent the states, but if blame is to be laid, it belongs to the anti-vaxxers. They’re a crowd that’s always excelled at making avoidable messes, and they’ve just added one more to their long and growing list of them.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME A Year In Space

Exclusive: Space Station Astronauts Talk Loneliness, Missing the Weather and Their Crazy Work Schedule

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts speak live from the space station

The first six weeks of Scott Kelly’s marathon year aboard the International Space Station (ISS) haven’t been easy. There was the reacclimation to zero-gravity, the failure of a Russian cargo ship carrying needed supplies, the cancellation of singer Sarah Brightman’s planned visit—to say nothing of the constant, minute-by-minute work schedule that is the stuff of any day aboard the station.

Kelly and astronaut Terry Virts discussed those things and more in one of at least four video chats TIME will conduct with the ISS during our exclusive Year in Space coverage. Phoning the station is not easy. It takes days of planning and at least an hour of sound checks before the uplink is made, and then long delays as questions and answers are relayed back and forth. It makes ordinary conversation a challenge.

Still, even in the 14 minutes the connection lasted—during which the station passed over Canada, the Great Lakes, Minneapolis, Denver, and Southern California—Kelly and Virts were surprisingly open, sharing their feelings about both the camaraderie and the sublime loneliness of being where they are. Kelly especially must be mindful of those feelings as he faces 10 more months of circling the Earth, while his family and friends and everything he knows lie 250 miles below him.

“It’s one thing I think about every single day,” he said.

And then, like any other astronaut, he put that aside and went back to his work.

Follow TIME’s coverage of the yearlong mission at time.com/space

TIME politics

Oh, Brother: Jeb Bush and the Problem With Siblings

Psst, look behind you: George and Jeb in 2006
Jim Watson—Getty Images Psst, look behind you: George and Jeb in 2006

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

The comparisons are inevitable when you're running for a job your sib once held

Welcome to the NFL, Jeb Bush. It’s nasty out there on the presidential campaign trail, isn’t it? You shake hands you really don’t want to shake, make speeches you really don’t want to make, and get asked all kinds of questions you really don’t want to answer. And if you’re feeling especially picked on, well, you’re right.

That, like it or not, is part of a contest you’ve been involved in a whole lot longer than you’ve been a sort-of, kind-of, not-quite-announced presidential candidate. It’s the siblings war, and as with any other person with a brother or sister who ever ratted you out to mom or clobbered you in the playroom, it’s a battle you’ve been fighting for as long as you can remember.

The problem you’re facing at the moment—as every news outlet in the country has delighted in reminding you—concerns the Iraq war, which started and unraveled on your big brother George W.’s watch. Last Saturday, you taped a segment for Fox News—hardly an unfriendly outlet for a Republican—and Megan Kelly asked you if, knowing what you know now, you’d have authorized the 2003 invasion. You answered with three words I bet you’d really like not to have said: “I would have.”

Never mind that you later backtracked, saying you’d misheard the question and thought Kelly was asking you what you’d have done if you’d only had the flawed intelligence that was available at the time. And never mind that the rest of your answer to Kelly seems to support that. “I would have,” you said in full, “and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would have just about everybody that was confronted with the intelligence that they got.”

But that didn’t stop Politico from asking “Will Iraq take down another Bush?” That didn’t stop the New York Times from declaring, “Brother’s Past Proves Tricky for Jeb Bush.” And it won’t stop virtually every other sentient person on the planet from connecting you to George W.—for better and for worse.

That’s the way it is with sibs. Part of the problem is the glib association people outside the family make about brothers and sisters. Teachers, camp counselors, coaches, all assume that if your big sib was good in math or sports you will be too—and if you’re not, they’ll want to know why. And if the same big sib was a lousy student or a behavioral handful you have to overcome the assumption that you’ll be the same.

But a much bigger problem is the dynamic that unfolds within the sibling brood itself. Think of a family as a corporation. Mom and Dad are co-CEO’s and the kids are the products. George W. was the first one to come down the assembly line, and like any sole product in any start-up company, he was the exclusive focus of the bosses’ time, money, energy and attention. By the time you came along, those early resources had gone into the ledger as what the MBAs call sunk costs—investments that can never be gotten back. So if the company has to choose between Bush Son V.1 (that’s George) and Bush Son V.2 (that’s you), it’s usually not even close.

That’s at least part of the reason that even though George had the rep of the dilettante and layabout and you were thought of as The Serious One, he got the first shot at the presidential cookie jar and you’ve now got to work with the crumbs that are left. That’s at least part of the reason too that in 2013 even your Mom, who surely loves you like a son, was dismissive of your presidential prospects, telling Matt Lauer that you’re “by far the best-qualified man,” but that, “there are other people out there that are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes.” That couldn’t have felt good.

You made the inevitable comparisons to your big brother much worse by going into the same line of work he and your father did. Family psychologists call this—straightforwardly enough—identifying. Your big brother or big sister gets all kinds of family attention for, say, starring in school plays, so you start going to auditions too. The problem is, the goodies start to get spread a little thin. No matter how many starring roles you land, you’ll still get only 50% of the parental applause for being the family’s performer. Better then to choose a different route—what the psychologists call de-identifying—play sports or join the chess club and get 100% of the laurels for those achievements.

But the most powerful—if least quantifiable—sibling dynamic you’re struggling with now is the business of love, loyalty and guilt. Take that nasty moment on May 13, when you were at a Reno, Nev. town hall and a 19-year-old college student said to you, “Your brother created ISIS.” Did you need that headache? No you did not.

You could have answered that charge by disavowing your brother—a simple, “Yeah, can you believe the mess he made?” would have done it. Certainly that’s the way any Democrat would go, as well as some Republicans trying to get a little distance from the serial messes of your brother’s two terms. But you can’t do that—not if you want to feel comfortable at the Kennebunkport Thanksgiving table next fall.

So you hedge and you elaborate and you decline to answer hypothetical questions—even if they’re fair and entirely predictable questions. And you sometimes get sick of it all and say, as you also did in Reno, “First and foremost, I am proud to be George W.’s brother. I can’t deny the fact that I love my family.”

No one doubts that that second statement is true. As for the first one? Well, only you know. But get used to the questions, get used to the problems, because they’re not going away. Presidencies are short; campaigns are even shorter. But the wonderful, awful, loving, vexing job of being a sib is forever.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME A Year In Space

What Sarah Brightman’s ‘Postponed’ Mission Says About Space Tourism

Not so fast: Brightman at a March press event announcing her now-postponed mission
Dave J Hogan; Getty Images Not so fast: Brightman at a March press event announcing her now-postponed mission

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

You need more than international fame and a very fat wallet to fly

Here’s betting you’d like to fly in space—almost everybody does. Here’s betting you’ll never actually do it—almost no one does. Those two facts are more than casually connected. The news today that Sarah Brightman—the internationally celebrated soprano who paid $52 million to spend 10 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS)—has backed out of the mission helps illustrate why.

Space flight has never been a safe or easy or, most of the time, even terribly fun thing to do. The training is brutal, the rockets are dangerous, the spacecraft are cramped, the living conditions are spartan, and as for the one thing you think you’d enjoy the most—the weightlessness? Odds are you’d spend a fair bit of your time aloft doing little but throwing up—which you could jolly well do back home.

MORE: See The Trailer For TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

Astronauts and cosmonauts know this, and so do the people who train them to fly. There’s a reason the Americans and Soviets chose test pilots in the early days of their space programs. There’s a reason too that, during the shuttle era, even astronauts who were going to fly as mission specialists—meaning they would not be piloting the spacecraft—did themselves a favor if they were licensed pilots too. If you’ve got the ice-water blood necessary to take a plane aloft and not lose your marbles when an engine quits, or the weather turns surly, or the ground’s rushing up at you fast and you’ve got exactly three seconds to get things under control before you come to a very messy end, you’re likelier to have the cool to handle yourself when a stack of engines generating 7.3 million lbs. (3.4 million kg) of thrust ignite underneath your back and hurl you to space at an eventual speed of 17,500 mph (28,200 k/h).

The late Jack Swigert, command module pilot for Apollo 13—a man who clearly knew what it felt like when everything falls to pieces around you—once reflected on why lunar astronauts never spoke terribly lyrically about their journeys, often describing what they saw with off-the-shelf adjectives like “awe-inspiring” or “incredible.” The explanation, he said, is that you can either go to the moon, or you can appreciate the going, but not both. The very thing that qualifies you to make the trip—a coolness, a detachment in the face of the deadly and improbable place you find yourself—disqualifies you to describe it in terribly resonant terms. So fighter jocks fly and poets stay home and they both do what they do best.

But that has all changed in the last decade—or at least there has been an attempt to change it. We live in the era of space tourism, of the citizen astronaut, of the multi-millionaire buying a seat on a Russian Soyuz rocket for mid-eight figures, or plunking down a quarter of a million dollars for a quarter of an hour popgun flight on Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo. We chatter about the one-way trip to Mars and the inflatable hotel in Earth orbit and Jeff Bezos doing who knows what with his secretive Blue Origins aerospace company, which promises that it’s “opening the promise of space to all,” though to date it’s gotten nowhere close.

Brightman, in parlaying great wealth and existing fame to a chance to fly to the ISS, was attempting one of the most hair-raising space feats of all. With the shuttle grounded, the only way to get to the space station is Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, a three-person pod so tiny that passengers fly in a semi-fetal position, lying on their backs with their knees drawn up to their chests. At best they stay that way for six hours after liftoff, assuming they launch at the right moment to chase down the station in just four orbits. But, launch at a different moment and it can take as long as two days to execute the same rendezvous.

On both the way up and the way down, the crew can pull more than 4 g’s, and that’s only if everything goes well. In 2008, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and astronaut Peggy Whitson were coming home aboard a Soyuz when the rear part of the spacecraft—the service module—failed to separate as it was supposed to. That sent them on what’s called a ballistic reentry of 30 degrees, causing them to pull a tortuous 8 g’s. The near-fatal plunge took 23 minutes to unfold. Even the best Soyuz reentry has been described by astronaut Scott Kelly, who is aboard the ISS for a marathon one-year stay and had been looking forward to Brightman’s visit, “like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel—that’s on fire.”

Brightman didn’t even begin her training until Jan. 19, according to sources at Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, which would have given her less than eight months to get ready for her early September launch—a fraction of the years of preparation a professional astronaut may put in before flying. And she had skipped out on the training altogether after April 22, according to the same sources. A request for comment from Brightman’s team has not been returned.

Space Adventures, the Virginia-based space tourism company that serves as travel agent for trips to the ISS, did put out a statement announcing that Brightman was “postponing her plans to launch” due to “personal family reasons.” But the odds are good that that postponement will become—or already is—a cancellation. There may well be family problems responsible for the scrub. Or maybe Brightman just got a clear-eyed look at what she was doing and gave a thought to the lost crew of Challenger in 1986, the lost crew of Columbia in 2003, the lost crew of Soyuz 11 (three cosmonauts who died during reentry in 1971 when their spacecraft sprang a pressure leak), the lost crew of Apollo 1 (three astronauts who died in a launch pad fire in 1967) and reckoned that maybe, just maybe, space isn’t for dilettantes.

There’s no shame in not being fit to fly in space; that describes the overwhelming majority of us. And there’s no harm in working toward the day when space really is something for everybody, when tourists can go and settlers can go and adventurers can go—all traveling with the right machines and the right training and the right sense of humility and respect. “Space tourism,” for now, is a deadly oxymoron. If Brightman chose not to go because she recognized that, she showed a particular kind of candor and courage that deserves its own applause.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME A Year In Space

Singer Sarah Brightman Is Not Going to Space (for Now)

Sarah Brightman during training in Star City Russia
Roscosmos Sarah Brightman during training in Star City, Russia

After just a few months of training, Brightman has dropped out

Singer Sarah Brightman announced Wednesday that she is postponing her trip to space.

Her $52 million, 10-day trip aboard the International Space Station will be pushed back due to personal family reasons, according to a statement posted to her Facebook page. She had stopped training on April 22, two people familiar with her training schedule tell TIME.

“Since 2012, Sarah has shared her story of a lifelong dream to fly to space. Her international fame as the world’s best-selling soprano has enabled her message to circle the globe, inspiring others to pursue their own dreams,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd in the statement. “We’ve seen firsthand her dedication to every aspect of her spaceflight training and to date, has passed all of her training and medical tests. We applaud her determination and we’ll continue to support her as she pursues a future spaceflight opportunity.”

Whether what’s being described as a postponement is actually a cancellation is impossible to know right now. Brightman did not even begin her training until Jan. 19, according to Roscosmos, which would have given her less than eight months at best to get ready for a Sept. 1 launch. That’s significantly less time than professional astronauts need to become mission-ready—even without the loss of the last two weeks. It will be up to Roscosmos and Space Adventures to determine if, given all this, they will ever consider it prudent to allow Brightman to fly.

American astronaut Scott Kelly, who is currently in the midst of a yearlong mission aboard the space station, told TIME he was looking forward to Brightman coming aboard.

—With reporting by Jonathan D. Woods / Houston

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