Matthew Coleman, Bournemouth, Dorset, U.K., Age: 32
To: Pilot Willie McCool
I saw you take off live. What g-forces do you endure, and how long
are you subjected to them?
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.
Robert Smathers, Albuquerque, N.M.,
To: Pilot Willie McCool
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?
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.
Cross, Williamsburg, Va., Age: 7
To: Mission Specialist David Brown
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.
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.