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Ask the Crew: STS-109

Send a question to MCC or the CrewPAGE: 1 2 3
Question #11 Rick Linnehan's Reply

From: Craig A. Nussbaum, Canyon Country, Calif., Age: 36
To: Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan

Question: How does the real thing compare to training in the underwater chamber?

Linnehan: Well, Craig, hi. This is Rick. We just got in from our third space walk tonight, and the main thing I notice when I come in is that I'm not wet. Usually, when we train in the NBL -- which is called the Neutral Buoyancy Lab -- it's a huge swimming pool, probably the biggest swimming pool in the world, I think, as far as I know. We train in mockups of the suits similar to what we wore outside, but we're supported by a bunch of people in scuba equipment who help us and service the equipment and move us around, and try to simulate what happens in space. It's so realistic that, the first time I was out there, I kept looking around, expecting to see divers' faces pop up everywhere, but that never happened, luckily.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan
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Question #12 Rick Linnehan's Reply

Note: While answering Internet questions, Pilot Duane Carey asked Linnehan a few questions of his own.

Carey: Okay Rick. You did a great job out there today, and you mentioned how you got a good look at Columbia from outside. Now, I know that this is your third flight on Columbia and this is perhaps the record for flying aboard the oldest spaceship, the oldest space orbiter that we have. What was it like being on the outside finally when you were crammed inside for two missions?

Linnehan: A lot more space! There was just an incredible sense of "Wow, I can't believe I'm here. First, I turn around and there's the Hubble Space Telescope. And I turn around the other direction, and I'm looking in the windows that I just looked out of maybe an hour or so ago. And there's all my friends and crewmates in there looking back. It's kind of a surreal experience, especially being part of this Hubble crew, getting to work on probably the most important scientific instrument ever created.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan
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Question #13 Rick Linnehan's Reply

Note: While answering Internet questions, Pilot Duane Carey asked Linnehan a few questions of his own.

Carey: You know, what was interesting to me, Rick, was watching you guys outside. The few times I was out at the NBL watching you guys work on the equipment, I was wondering how accurate the training equipment is compared to when you're out there on Hubble. Did Hubble throw you any surprises that you hadn't seen in training, or that the trainers and the scenario builders for simulators and such hadn't thought of?

Linnehan: Well, first, Digger, I've got to tell you that the people involved in Hubble -- the trainers, the people who made the mockups and all the replicas of Hubble and such that we worked with -- did an amazing job, so much so that it's kind of like I don't know sometimes when I'm out there. I can flash back and feel like I'm in the water or out in space. It's that good. There are changes, of course, in space. Today we had some peculiarities -- the cables were a bit stiffer and colder -- and so, yeah, when you're out there some things are affected by the cold and vacuum that normally wouldn't be when you're training.

Carey: Well, Rick, I've got to tell you and the folks back home... Rick and I have been out riding motorcycles a few times together, and I knew the first time I went riding with Rick and it was kind of a cold day and he didn't have a windshield, and I was fully bundled up with my big windshield and he was hanging in there for, what was it, about a five-hour ride? I knew if he could hack that, that space would be no problem. That's all for the Digger show today. I hope you enjoyed our guest!

Linnehan: He almost didn't let me say goodbye, but so long, everyone!

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan
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Question #14 MIchael Massimino 's Reply

From: Tom Dowling, New York, N.Y.
To: Mission Specialist Michael Massimino

Question: First, great work to all aboard and at MCC. I am the Webmaster at the New York City Fire Department, and we all here at FDNY take pride in your accomplishments. We are posting updates to our the Internet sites to keep our uniformed and civilian members current with your activities. We are also thrilled to know one of our own is onboard. Michael Massimino is the son of the late Mario Massimino, retired manager and chief inspector from our Bureau of Fire Prevention. Michael, do you have any messages for the members here at the FDNY? All the best to the crew, the MCC and all the staff supporting these vital missions and programs.

Massimino: My answer, Mr. Dowling, is first I am really thrilled to have gotten this note here on orbit. Just wonderful to know that some people at the fire department are thinking about us, and that you took the time to write this note. I'm really thrilled to get it.

My father, as mentioned in your note, died a few years ago, and unfortunately he couldn't be here to see the launch in person. But I wanted to do something to commemorate his memory and kind of bring something of his with me. When I talked to my mom about this, she said, "You know what's meant the most to him and to us was the fire department." So onboard with me in my personal kit, I have my father's fire department pin. And that's really a treasured possession of mine and something that I'm flying not only for my dad but in honor of all the folks at the New York City Fire Department.

IMAGE: A Fire Department of New York cap rest atop a console at Mission Control Center during STS-108.
In the Shuttle Flight Control Room of the Johnson Space Center's Mission Control Center, New York City's heroes of September 11 were honored during the STS-108 mission.

Growing up with the fire department being such a big part of our lives when I was a kid growing up in New York, it really made an impression on me of the wonderful work that they do, and how important the work is that they do at the fire department. Some of my best memories are going to work with my dad and visiting the fire stations, and meeting his friends and his colleagues. The memory of my dad and those memories of growing up with the fire department are still with me today.

They are my heroes. The people of the New York City Fire Department are my heroes. They were when I was kid growing up, and they still are today. They are an inspiration to me here on this flight and every day. I really want to thank them for thinking about us and writing this note, and really hope I get a chance to keep in touch with them in the years to come as well.

So, Mr. Dowling, thank you very much for this note and best wishes to everyone at the FDNY.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Michael Massimino
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Question #15 Nancy Currie's Reply
From: Nigel Middleton, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, Age: 45
To:
Mission Specialist Nancy Currie

Question: When the shuttle takes off, we see the amount of vibration on film. How do you cope with this when trying to view the instruments and press buttons without losing focus?

Currie: That is actually an excellent question. We have a whole suite of simulators that we train in prior to the mission. And, Nigel, actually the one thing that we really don't train quite exactly for is the intense vibration, especially at first stage, when you're on the solid rocket boosters. Probably the biggest surprise on my first mission -- this is my fourth mission as a flight engineer -- and that was really a surprise to me that it took a little bit of effort to concentrate on the forward displays, so I could assist the pilot and commander in watching over the systems. I wear glasses now, and it's even a little worse when you wear glasses because they start bouncing around too. So you can probably see in the camera views that are typically located behind us looking forward, that it is shake, rattle and roll in first stage. Then it gets quite smooth after the solid rocket boosters are away from the vehicle. Second stage is actually quite smooth, except for the constant acceleration and the g-forces building up.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Nancy Currie
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* The audio was recorded as Nancy Currie answered questions 15 and 16.
Question #16 Nancy Currie's Reply

Note: While answering Internet questions, Pilot Duane Carey asked Nancy a question of his own.

Carey: Hey, Nancy, if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you a quick question. There is something that we practiced numerous times in the simulator. Yet it surprised me when we finally did it in space. Especially after we were up here awhile and got adapted to zero-g. After about three days in orbit we did a rare and rather large OMS burn. Something happened that kind of surprised me. Do you remember that particular incident?

Currie: Well, Digger. I think what was amusing to the crew up here was to watch the flying MS 2 [Mission Specialist 2 Nancy Currie] on the flight deck during any of the OMS burns, especially, during a two-engine OMS burn. MS 2 was from my position just hovering over C3 here in the center panel, as you can see behind me, to being plastered against the aft walls and the aft windows. Jim Newman really helped out. He planted his feet right behind me and pushed me back forward. It's amazing that, even after just a few days in space, that acceleration from the OMS engine lighting up really caught me by surprise.

Carey: As it did me. As soon as the engines lit, Scooter [Commander Scott Altman] and I were watching our instruments. But out of the corner of my eye I could see Nancy one instance. In the next instance, she was gone. That's all for today.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Nancy Currie
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* The audio was recorded as Nancy Currie answered questions 15 and 16.
Question #17 Duane Carey's Reply

From: Kefren Hunter, Carterville, Illinois, Age: 8
To: Pilot Duane Carey

Question: I noticed you have a pretty cool watch from the pictures on NASA TV. Do you need a special kind of watch to fly in space? What kind of watch do you have, and do all astronauts have the same watch?

Carey: Well, this is a pretty special watch. It's made by Omega. NASA actually gives us a choice of a few different kinds of watches to fly in space, and I chose this one because it has a lot of features that I like. It's not my watch, and I'll have to give it back when I'm done with the mission. What makes it handy to fly in space, Kefren, is the fact that there are several timers. With just one watch I can see what time it is at the Cape. I can see what time it is for Mission Elapsed Time on the mission. I can what the Greenwich Mean Time is. I've also got several timers and alarms I can set up, and a lot of our tasks in space are tied to certain times. We have to accomplish them at certain times. So I can set alarms on my watch to remind me to do the next job that I'm scheduled to do. So, it's a very handy watch to fly in space. Yeah, it looks real fancy and everything, and I really like it. But after the mission I'm going to give it back. Thanks a lot.

Image: STS-109 Pilot Duane Carey
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Question #18 Nancy Currie's Reply

From: Marcelo, Bronx, New York, Age: 26
To: Nancy Currie

Question: As I understand it, prior to your final approach with the Hubble, you have to "turn off" the reaction jets on the shuttle to prevent any blasting onto the satellite. How are you able to fine-tune your approach to Hubble without those jets?

Currie: Marcelo, that's a really good question. In fact, we use a term onboard the shuttle called 'low-z.' What that does is enable certain jets to not fire, specifically not to plume the spacecraft. We don't want to plume the spacecraft arrays and cause any tumbling, or put any additional rates on the spacecraft. Sure enough, when we made the Hubble approach, Scooter [Scott Altman], our commander, was flying manually. He did a fantastic job. When it was all stable and ready for me to maneuver the arm, we determined that between ourselves, and then I maneuvered the arm over and grappled it. He made it really easy for me, because he just did a fantastic job with the rendezvous.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Nancy Currie
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Question #19 Nancy Currie's Reply

Note: While answering Internet questions, Pilot Duane Carey asked Nancy a question of his own.

Carey: You know, Nancy, while I've got you here, I couldn't help but notice during our training that you have a peculiar philosophy in training. Nancy likes to practice, and then she likes to practice, and then she likes to practice and then she keeps practicing until she gets to orbit. And then I think she even practices in her sleep before she actually does something. What is your philosophy on accomplishing difficult tasks like this mission?

Currie: Well, Digger [Pilot Duane Carey's nickname], I guess you said it best. You can't have enough practice. You could always learn. We have two folks on this flight, Digger and Mike Massimino, who are rookies. They are no longer rookies. But what they learned to accrue is a new way of looking at things. 'D's' [Carey's] got a really unique way of looking at things. We've learned a lot from Digger this flight!

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Nancy Currie
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Question #20 Nancy Currie's Reply

Note: While answering Internet questions, Pilot Duane Carey asked Nancy a question of his own.

Carey: We've done a lot of difficult things together on this flight, but we have a couple of more big ones, don't we?

Currie: You bet. It's not over 'til it's over, and we know that. The three of us on the flight deck and Rick [Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan] will be riding along with us [for landing]. He's just a tremendous help as MS 1 [Mission Specialist 1] for the entry. We all know we got a big day coming up and we're going to keep focused on that. It's not over 'til wheel stop.

Carey: Okay, Nancy. Thanks a lot. That's it for the Internet questions for tonight.

Image: STS-109 Mission Specialist Nancy Currie
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Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 05/11/2006
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