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Ask the Crew: STS-107

Search the archives of previous Ask the Expert questions.PAGE: 1
Question No. 1Willie McCool's Reply

From: Matthew Coleman, Bournemouth, Dorset, U.K., Age: 32
To: Pilot Willie McCool

Question: I saw you take off live. What g-forces do you endure, and how long are you subjected to them?

McCool: Matthew, the gs initially are not so much the main thing that we sense. Primarily during first stage, it's the vibrations. The gs do, though, eventually build up to about 2.5. At the two-minute point, they start to tail off as the solid rocket boosters run out of propellant, and so we feel a deceleration from two-and-a-half down to 1 g, which we perceive actually as coming to a stop. So it's kind of an eerie feeling. Shortly after the solid rocket boosters separate, we begin to re-accelerate, and the gs gradually build up. They get up to a peak of 3 gs after seven-and-a-half minutes, and then will sustain the 3 gs until main engines cut off at eight-and-a-half minutes. The sensation of the gs is through the chest because we're laying on our back, rather than from head to toe. So it's kind of like a bear standing on your chest, and for that last minute, it's rather fatiguing and difficult to -- for example -- to twist your head left and right or to reach for a checklist or a switch. And the final g sensation that we feel is the most sensational. It's going from the 3 gs instantaneously to zero g floating sensation when the main engines cut off.

IMAGE: Pilot Willie McCool
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Question No. 2Willie McCool's Reply

From: Robert Smathers, Albuquerque, N.M., Age: 31
To: Pilot Willie McCool

Question: With two different shifts being utilized this mission, is it difficult to sleep when the crewmembers on the other shift are moving around and talking as they do their work?

McCool: Thus far, I would say that really hasn't been a problem. We've been on orbit for four plus days. We've had five sleep periods for our shift. We sleep in bunks -- enclosed bunks -- stacked four-high up against the starboard wall of the middeck, and they're isolated. They have sliding doors on the side that you can climb into and build yourself a zero-g sleeping cocoon. I think the issue for sleep is more of adjusting to the zero g floating in your bed sensation rather than the 1 g laying in a bed sensation. So, for me personally, I found it a little bit unsettling and difficult to sleep the first day or two primarily because I was floating. And in a small, dark cocoon, you tend to get vertigo as you're floating, and it's not necessarily a comfortable feeling. Last night and the night before were the first nights of the mission where I actually slept thoroughly and quite well, so it's taken about two or three days for my body to adapt and to be able to sleep on orbit.

IMAGE: Pilot Willie McCool
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Question No. 3David Brown's Reply

From: Sydney Cross, Williamsburg, Va., Age: 7
To: Mission Specialist David Brown

Question: I remember you when you came to William and Mary. I was the one holding up a pink umbrella. I have a few questions to ask you.

Can you read books in space? Since you are a doctor, do you take care of the other astronauts up in space with you if they get a stomachache or any kind of sickness? Thank you very much.

Brown: Well, Sydney, it was certainly good that you had your pink umbrella that day when I was at William and Mary, because it rained a lot, and we were both there to welcome the new freshman class as they started their school year. In fact, I think that's one of the reasons why I've been able to go to space is that, not only did I work hard in school, but I feel fortunate to have had a very good education. As far as reading books, we're pretty busy here on the shuttle for our short flights, so we don't have a lot of time to do it, but the astronauts who've been on Mir and on the space station talk about how reading books is just one of their great pleasures, since they're up there for a such long time, and they really enjoy doing it. So yes, you can.

As far as being a doctor, there's actually two doctors on this flight, myself and Laurel Clark. And it does help having had that medical background, if somebody doesn't feel well or if there's a problem. But the most important thing here in space is that we all look after each other as a crew, and if someone needs something or doesn't feel well, I think everyone looks after all the other people here on the shuttle.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist David Brown
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Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 03/17/2005
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