The International Space Station is cluttered, and its décor consists mostly....
The International Space Station is cluttered, and its décor consists mostly of photos of engineers. The food is so boring that many astronauts lose weight, and there isn't a textured wall in sight.
No place seems less likely to interest Martha Stewart, the guru of gracious living. Yet she spent 20 minutes Monday quizzing the two U.S. astronauts living on the station about life there, for spots to air Tuesday and later this year on The Martha Stewart Show, her daily TV program.
"That is fantastic!" Stewart gushed as the astronauts showed off soybean sprouts. The seedlings were white and floppy, nothing like the sumptuous orchids featured in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.
In a telephone interview, Stewart said she has always been interested in astronomy and "the heavens" and grew more interested in the space station when the man she's dating was picked as the next space tourist. Billionaire Charles Simonyi, an architect of Microsoft's Word and Excel programs, paid Russia more than $20 million for a round-trip ride to the station and a stay aboard the orbiting lab.
Stewart said she plans to travel to the launch pad in Kazakhstan to watch Simonyi's rocket lift off in April. Simonyi is now in training in Russia.
"Suni, please take care of Charles while he's there," Stewart asked astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams, who joined the station crew in December. The interview was broadcast live on NASA's TV channel, which always airs any chat with astronauts in space in real time.
"We'll take care of him, don't you worry," Williams promised.
Williams is a Navy test pilot whose NASA biography lists strenuous hobbies such as bowhunting and triathlons. She is also a Martha Stewart fan who buys Stewart's books and occasionally watches her television show, said Williams' mother, Bonnie Pandya.
"It's really an honor and a privilege to be up here," Williams told Stewart during the chat. "But if you've got any tips for how we could fix up the place or make some better meals, we'd welcome that."
Williams didn't get any tips from Stewart that will be broadcast on air. Stewart noted later that there are limited options for spiffing up the station, whose interior is a jumble of computers and research gear.
"You can't hang curtains. Everything has to be tied down," she pointed out. "It could be, maybe, modernized a little bit and made a little more sleek inside."
Stewart was hoping to prepare some meals for Simonyi to take on his space flight, but Russian dietary and packaging rules got in the way. Luckily, Russian space officials had already approved some meals developed by French chef Alain Ducasse.
"There's a wonderful confit of duck, there's a puree of parsnip and celeriac, all kinds of elaborate desserts, and (Simonyi) is taking all of those things," she said.
The meals NASA provides are mostly dehydrated or freeze-dried and "don't look appetizing," Stewart said. She declined to criticize NASA's food, saying nutrition should be the agency's top priority.
"I know just as well as anybody that for five or six months, you can get along with a limited diet," says Stewart, who spent five months in federal prison for lying about a stock sale. "You just have to go with the flow, I'm sure."
Though Stewart herself may not be able to make life on the station more refined, her friend Simonyi will. She said he plans to inventory the objects aboard, which could help tame the clutter there.
"He wants to clean anything you have to clean," Stewart told the station crew.
Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria said the station crew, which also includes a Russian, will keep Simonyi busy. "We definitely have things for him to do," Lopez-Alegria said. "We'll sure pass along that you volunteered him to clean the filters."