Houston, it’s your move
Crew, mission controls play interstellar chess game

BY TODD HALVORSON • FLORIDA TODAY • July 11, 2008

CAPE CANAVERAL — Pawn to Queen 4.

That was the opening move in a game of space-to-ground chess being played by the crew of the International Space Station and specialists in Mission Control Centers around the globe.

U.S. astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, a flight engineer ferried to the outpost aboard shuttle Discovery in early June, made the first move in what is believed to be an unprecedented match.

“There is a chess board now set up in the (U.S.) Harmony module,” said Pat Ryan, a mission commentator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“The crew is playing white. The ground is playing black. There is a computer spreadsheet set up in the (station’s computer) system in which the crew members on orbit are keeping track of all the moves.”

The Queen’s Pawn Opening executed by Chamitoff was considered in the 19th and early 20th centuries to be a bit of an unusual opening move. But it now is one of the most popular openings in the game of chess.

NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston countered with mirror-image move — Pawn to Queen 4.

That set the stage for a back-and-forth battle that is engaging flight controllers at:

– The Payload Operations Control Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
– The Russian Federal Space Agency’s Mission Control Center in Korolev, outside Moscow.
– The European Space Agency’s Columbus Mission Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, Germany.
– The Kibo Mission Control Center at Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, just north of Tokyo.
– The ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France.

Ryan called the match “a new challenge between the crew and control teams on the ground.”

“We’ll keep track and let you know how long it takes for the game to play out,” he said.

Here is the full article.

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