Sunday, September 7, 2008
Chess in Space
American astronaut Greg Chamitoff has found a very interesting way to spend his spare time aboard the International Space Station: playing a series of chess games versus the staff at Mission Control. Chamitoff was not able to bring a magnetic chess set with him, so he has countered the lack of gravity by attaching Velcro underneath his chess pieces. Dylan Loeb McLain of the New York Times notes that Chamitoff is not the first astronaut to play chess in space--and no, the game between Frank Poole and Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn't count: "In June 1970, the Soviet astronauts Andrian Nikolayev and Vitaly Sevastyanov, who were aboard the Soyuz 9 spacecraft, played a consultation game against the earthbound Viktor Gorbatko, another astronaut, and Nikolai P. Kamanin, a Soviet general who was the head of the astronaut training program. The game, played over the course of a few hours, ended in a draw."
Chamitoff crushed Mission Control in the first game, played at the rate of roughly one move per day, and he is currently playing six games at the same time--one against each Mission Control station. He came up with this idea not only because he enjoys chess but also because he thought that these games would increase camaraderie at Mission Control because the members of the flight control teams have to work together on their moves in order to try to beat him.
"Greg really has achieved his goal by getting us to realize that we can't beat him as a team unless we work together," said Heather Rarick, the lead flight director for Expedition 17. "This competition with the crew has been well received."