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Ask the Crew: STS-101

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Question #1James Halsell's Reply

From: Donnie Williams, West Monroe, Louisiana
To:
Commander James Halsell, Jr.

Question: How does the upgrade of Atlantis, such as the MEDS, make your tasks as commander different from previous shuttle missions?

Halsell: 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.

Commander James Halsell
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Question #2Susan Helm's Reply

From: Richard Jensen, Dalton Gardens, Idaho, age 50
To: Mission Specialist Susan Helms

Question: 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?

Helms: 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.

Mission Specialist Susan Helms
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Question #3Scott Horowitz's Reply

From: Ken Fox, Glendale, California, age 14
To: Pilot Scott Horowitz

Question: 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?

Horowitz: 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.

Pilot Scott Horowitz
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Question #4Scott Horowitz's Reply

From: Jaap van der Waal, Assen, Drenthe, The Netherlands, age 46
To: Pilot Scott Horowitz

Question: What does a crew member feel when the space shuttle is launched?

Horowitz: 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.

Pilot Scott Horowitz
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Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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