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Ask the Crew: STS-110

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Question #1 Steve Smith's Reply

From: Katie Kearney, Mahwah, N.J., Age: 11
To: Mission Specialist Steve Smith

Question: What do you miss most about Earth while you are in space?

Smith: Of course, for each one of us the answer is different, but probably near the top of the list for many of us is just not seeing our family and friends for awhile. Even on a 12-day shuttle mission with a seven-day quarantine, it's a little hard not seeing your family and friends for three weeks. And having just been with some gentlemen who haven't seen their families for about four months, we can say that's really true for them.

Also, I think [we miss] the daily things that are special in our lives, like being able to exercise by going for a jog, or going for a swim. We do get exercise in space, but its on a stationary bicycle in a crowded area, so it's not quite as interesting, I think, as being able to maybe go for a run or a swim.

Some of us like to read a newspaper every day. And even though we get mail on the space shuttle by e-mail, there's something about just being able to sit down and read the paper that's nice to have on Earth.

And then, probably the next one we always talk about, is what foods we miss. There's really good food on the shuttle and on space station, but there's still not things like salad, pizza or tacos or things like that, so when Atlantis lands tomorrow, we've been talking about what we'd like to get when we're able to get to a restaurant for the first time.

So that was for Katie Kearney in New Jersey.

Mission Specialist Steve Smith
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Question #2 Steve Smith's Reply

From: Danny Skarka, Novato, Calif., Age: 44
To: Mission Specialist Steve Smith

Question: My question is about EVA tethering. If you have a long distance to translate to, how do you handle the tether? I have not seen astronauts teather and untether aong the way. How do you keep the tethers from becoming entangled?

Smith: Really, [there are] two techniques to tether. The Russians traditionally do actually use a hand-over-hand technique where, in each hand, they have about a 3-foot-long tether . Each of those tethers has a hook at each end. And of course, one end of each tether is attached to the spacesuit, and the other hooks are free to go hand-over-hand. So that's how the Russians have traditionally tethered. When Dan Bursch and Carl Walz did their spacewalks with Yury Onufrienko out of the International Space Station using the Russian spacesuits, they did that hand-over-hand technique.

When the Americans go out in our spacesuits, we use a long tether that's about 40 feet long, and it actually has a reel on the end of it. On one end it is connected to us, and the other end is connected to the space station. And as we translate away from that anchor point, the tether actually reels itself out, and you can go, as I said, up to about 40 feet away, and as you translate back to that anchor point, the tether takes itself back up.

In terms of keeping them untangled, that is probably one of the top five rules of spacewalking, is to always watch your safety tether, so it doesn't either get wrapped up around some equipment or around your legs. We found that, on the space station, it's a real challenge to do that at night, because often it's hard to see where the tether goes, because it's so dark up there. That's not as true on a shuttle-based EVA, when you've got the bright lights shining up, for example, on the Hubble Space Telescope.

That was an answer for Danny Skarka in Novato, California.

Mission Specialist Steve Smith
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Question #3 Steve Smith's Reply

From: Joey Stroud, Mountain View, Calif., Age: 6
To: Mission Specialist Steve Smith

Question: I heard about the train you are installing on the space station. I was wondering how it will stay on the tracks since there is no gravity.

Smith: What a great question from someone who's only six! Unlike trains on Earth, the wheels on the train on the space station are designed such that they have hooks on them, and there are several rollers on each of the four corners of the train that's in space. So that's a really good question -- it would float off the tracks if there weren't wheels, basically, on both sides of the rail. So it's actually captive. And at the ends of the rails, we actually have stops, so that it doesn't just roll off the end.

So that was a good question from a six-year-old, Joey Stroud, in Mountain View, California.

Mission Specialist Steve Smith
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Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/24/2002
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