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Ask the Crew: STS-113

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Question No. 1Jim Wetherbee's Reply

From: Jim Bolden, Little Hocking, Ohio, Age: 46
To: Commander Jim Wetherbee

Question: As you look at the Earth from space, what impresses you the most?

Wetherbee: Right now we're floating over the Pacific Ocean and the first impression you get is this is really a water planet. There's not very much land on the Earth. I think the thing that most impresses me is the nighttime side of the planet where you see the top of the atmosphere actually glowing. Out over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on a moonless night, thousands of miles away from any man-made light source, you can see the top of the atmosphere glowing as the atoms of oxygen give off photons, as they cool on the nighttime side of the Earth.

IMAGE: Commander Jim Wetherbee
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Question No. 2Jim Wetherbee's Reply

From: Ryan Rutherford, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Age: 21
To: Commander Jim Wetherbee

Question: Early on in the mission, I saw a television view from the cargo bay of Endeavour showing the Moon behind the tail moving in the background. Is it noticeably brighter during a full Moon while experiencing darkness in orbit?

Wetherbee: It is noticeably brighter as you see the moon outside of the atmosphere without any of the light attenuation. The moon does look noticeably brighter. You also get a false impression that you're actually a lot closer to the moon, because as viewed against the blackness of space it looks so bright and clear, you would think that you're actually closer. Of course, you're only about 200 miles closer to an object that's 250,000 miles away.

IMAGE: Commander Jim Wetherbee
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Question No. 3Jim Wetherbee's Reply

From: Bianca Williams, Millis, Mass., Age: 5
To: Commander Jim Wetherbee

Question: Is flying the shuttle the same as flying a plane?

Wetherbee: It is exactly like flying some of the newer airplanes these days. Mostly, we fly by computer control. When we do take over the shuttle and fly it manually, it's like a highly maneuverable jet fighter airplane. It's a very well designed airplane designed by some of the best engineers in the country -- very maneuverable, very precise and just a dream to fly. The only difference between this and a newer fighter airplane is that we have no engines, and so we must be very careful when we're landing.

IMAGE: Commander Jim Wetherbee
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Question No. 4John Herrington's Reply

From: Marcy Frumker, Highland Heights, Ohio, Age: 46
To: Mission Specialist John Herrington

Question: What was it like to ride in the cart during your spacewalk?

Herrington: That's a great question, because I was surprised how fast it would move and how easy it was to move down the rails. When we practiced in the pool, I never really had a sense for just how fast the CETA cart would move. The first time I stepped on the brake, after the parking brake was set, the cart leaped a little bit, and I thought I was going to come out of the foot restraint. That would have been bad. But it was a lot of fun to drive and I look forward to doing it again sometime.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist John Herrington
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Question No. 5John Herrington's Reply

From: Maegan Martin, Castle Rock, Colo., Age: 10
To: Mission Specialist John Herrington

Question: How does it feel to be a Native American making history?

Herrington: That's a great question because I never looked at it as making history. I'm really just honored and humbled that there are many people that do, but I really feel privileged that I'm part of the team that makes space flight a reality. So, I'm just real happy to be here and I enjoy it when I do. And I'm real thankful that there are a lot of really smart people on the Earth that work really hard to make Endeavour and all of the space shuttles fly.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist John Herrington
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Question No. 6John Herrington's Reply

From: June Smith, Ames, Iowa, Age: 39
To: Mission Specialist John Herrington

Question: I am also Native American. And I have never dreamed of being in space, and I cannot imagine what you are experiencing. It takes my breath away to think about what is going through your mind as you are concentrating on your mission. It is near the time of your walk in space, is the experience before, during and after the walk anything like you dreamed it would be? Please describe.

Herrington: It's really hard to put into words, but I'm going to try. It was a fabulous experience to leave the airlock for the first time and get a glimpse of the station. One of the things that a friend had told me, when you first do a spacewalk is you get a perspective that one time you're underneath the space station, and the next time you're on top of the space station. And there were numerous times I experienced that when I was working on the truss. One time I would feel that I was beneath the space station, and the next minute I was on top of it. Your mind just does these flips.

It was a lot of fun because I was able to control it after awhile. One minute I'd say, 'I'm on top of the space station,' and there I'd be. So it was real exciting. After, I was really tired. There's a lot of hard work and it's physically demanding especially for the hands working against the suit. It's a lot of pressure to work against. I really enjoyed it.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist John Herrington
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Question No. 7John Herrington's Reply

From: Jonathan, Atlanta, Ga., Age: 15
To: Mission Specialist John Herrington

Question: Where are the CETA carts located on the trusses? Are they on the inside of the truss or the outside? How big are they?

Herrington: It's a great question. The CETA carts, there's two, CETA 1 and CETA 2, and we installed CETA 2. CETA stands for Crew [and] Equipment Translation Aid. That's the mount on the front part of the truss, or the forward-facing part of the truss, called Face 1. They're, I'd say, roughly about 600 pounds and about 4 by 6 feet -- about the size of a card table. Great question. Thanks!

IMAGE: Mission Specialist John Herrington
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Question No. 8Michael Lopez-Alegria's Reply

From: Dan Bell, Naperville, Ill., Age: 9
To: Mission Specialist Michael Lopez-Alegria

Question: I was there at the first launch date, but when it didn't go off, I was disappointed! I was wondering if your ears pop when you go up into space like they do on an airplane? And if they do, is it worse than an airplane? Have a good flight and hope you get back safely.

Lopez-Alegria: First, Dan, thanks for wishing us well. We hope we get back safely also, and sooner rather than later would be great. As far as our ears popping, no, they don't pop. The reason is, because in an airplane as you're climbing the pressure inside the airplane is actually decreasing -- not as fast as the pressure outside the airplane, but it does decrease. In the shuttle, we maintain the same pressure inside as there is at sea level when we launch, so because there are no changes in cabin pressure we don't feel our ears pop at all.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist Michael Lopez-Alegria
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Question No. 9Michael Lopez-Alegria's Reply

From: William McKay, Groton, Mass., Age: 8
To: Mission Specialist Michael Lopez-Alegria

Question: What is your favorite food to eat on the shuttle?

Lopez-Alegria: This is a really hard question to answer, William, because as you know probably, there are all kinds of delectible treats up here, but I settled today. I decided after much deliberation that my favorite food was peanut butter, for a lot of reasons. First, it tastes really good, and secondly, it is easy to spread and not make a mess with; and that's very important. So my favorite, my answer is peanut butter.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist Michael Lopez-Alegria
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Question No. 10Michael Lopez-Alegria's Reply

From: Luis Humberto Pérez Leyva, Guadalajara, Mexico, Age: 17
To: Mission Specialist Michael Lopez-Alegria

Question: Can you see the oil slick from the wrecked tanker in the Galician coast (Spain) from space?

Lopez-Alegria: Well, Luis, the answer is, probably, although we haven't been able to yet, and the reason is that when we fly over a piece of Earth and look at it, in order for us to be able to see it, two things have to happen. One is that the path has to occur during our awake hours, and the second is that it has to occur during daylight. So far we have passed over Spain during our awake hours but not daylight. However, tomorrow it looks like we may get a chance to see it just as the Sun is setting in the Galician region of Spain. So I will definitely be looking. Thanks for your question.

IMAGE: Mission Specialist Michael Lopez-Alegria
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Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 12/07/2002
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