Donnie Williams, West Monroe, Louisiana
To: Commander James Halsell, Jr.
How does the upgrade of
Atlantis, such as the MEDS, make your tasks as commander different
from previous shuttle missions?
The tasks and the responsibilities
remain the same. The electronic display system simply makes it easier
for us, and it's probably safer for us to do our job. The electronic
system, as compared to the old mechanical instrument system, presents
more information in a clearer fashion, so it allows us to integrate
more information at any point in time. The exciting part of this
system is, now that we have it on board, we simply have to make
additional software changes in the future to add some true innovations,
and that's in work at the current time. We look forward to that
also. And also its maintainability. The old mechanical instruments
were just getting pretty old and hard to maintain, and with the
new electronic system, that's no longer an issue.
Richard Jensen, Dalton Gardens, Idaho, age 50
To: Mission Specialist Susan Helms
If one were to cut themselves,
how does bleeding compare to here on earth? Is healing/coagulation
of the blood affected by the absence of gravity?
Let me reference this back
to my previous mission, where we performed a great number of medical
experiments. Some of those experiments involved drawing blood from
the astronauts to preserve for return to Earth, so they could analyze
how the body changed in microgravity. While we were performing those
experiments, we were able to see exactly the phenomenon that this
question refers to, and that is bleeding, because of the IVs that
we needed to install. I'd like to tell Richard that what we did
see was, as we removed the catheter from the arm, we did see, if
there was still bleeding occurring, the blood form as a small ball
on the skin that would continue to just grow. Of course, it doesn't
drop of dribble because of the apparent lack of gravity. We also
noticed that the flow of the blood through changed because people's
veins ended up being a little more flat up here than they are on
Earth, and we noticed a definite difference between practicing on
different people and then coming up here and seeing how microgravity
and the fluid shift affected their ability to have their blood drawn.
It's a very interesting question, and I'm glad he asked. It just
goes to show that the human body is an amazing instrument, and it
manages to adapt to a wide range of extreme environments, microgravity
being one of them. But the adaptation takes place very systematically,
and it seems to happen without much trouble.
Ken Fox, Glendale, California, age 14
To: Pilot Scott Horowitz
I want to fly U.S. Air Force
fighter planes when I grow up, and I wanted to know if it is harder
to fly the shuttle than a fighter plane?
First of all, that's an
excellent choice to want to fly fighters in the United States Air
Force, and the question is, "Is flying the shuttle harder?" Well,
once we're on orbit, actually, it's very easy to fly because the
orbiter just basically keeps going by itself, and we just have to
supply the attitudes. The actual ascent, I would say, is a little
more difficult simply because it happens so fast and the speeds
are so great. And landing the space shuttle is much tougher than
any fighter I've ever flown.
Jaap van der Waal, Assen, Drenthe, The Netherlands, age 46
To: Pilot Scott Horowitz
What does a crew member
feel when the space shuttle is launched?
When the shuttle is launched,
six seconds prior, the main engines light, producing about a million
and a half pounds of thrust. That shakes the vehicle, and you feel
like a tremendous amount of force is being delivered to you and
the vehicle. But it's nothing compared to when the solid rocket
boosters light, and now you have over seven million pounds of thrust
pushing you into orbit. The ride is exhilarating, and the acceleration
is pretty awesome. I would say that the feelings are exhilaration
and that of the tremendous force. So, you're pretty much hanging
on for the ride that eight and a half minutes to space.