May 15, 2012
If my family and friends were to write me a letter, what address would they use? When I type my name on one of my stories, what address should I give?
It occurred to me that Space Station is a place as deserving of an address as other frontier stations like McMurdo Base or the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Base in Antarctica. These places have formal addresses, complete with zip codes. Even Navy ships have addresses. With the future development of commercial spaceships, I could realistically contemplate someone sending me a letter. So what address would they use? Do they need a zip code? Do you affix an “airmail stamp” or do we create a new category of “rocket mail” stamps? If Space Station were to have an address, instead of writing letters to Santa Claus asking for stuff, kids could write letters to astronauts asking questions about science and engineering.
My sleep station, a coffin-sized box, is located in the fifth deck space of Node 2. From an Earth-based perspective, I pop out of my sleep station as if I were coming out of the floor. I am thus situated on the International Space Station (ISS) in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees (the angle of our orbit plane to the equator) and an average altitude of 400 kilometers. It occurred to me that my address should be: Node 2, Deck 5, ISS, LEO 51.603. The first three digits of your space zip code would be your orbital inclination and the last two a designator for your particular space station, with ISS being the third in this location (after the Salyut series and Mir). This zip code nomenclature should suffice, at least until there are more than 99 different space stations in orbit.