before we talk about the details of what you and your crewmates
are going to do on the mission that you're preparing to fly, I'd
like to learn a little bit about you first. Why did you want to
become an astronaut? Where in your life did the desire either
to fly or to be an explorer come from?
I think that
comes from my childhood. When I was a kid, I think I always liked
to do the things that were difficult, and I think as I got older,
those desires really, really peaked in me. So I always, sort of,
was the type of person that looked for a new challenge, and I
think being an astronaut is a very challenging job. It's certainly
exciting as well, and I think, even more important than those
two aspects of it, is its [importance] for our country. It's something
I'm really proud to be able to participate in. I think NASA does
a lot of great things. There are a lot of great people working
in the space program, and I feel really privileged to be able
to work with them.
say that you were a kid who always looked for the challenge, the
thing that you couldn't do, maybe; were there memorable people
or events that encouraged that kind of feeling in you?
I can't really
think of any people in specific. I guess if you're asking me do
I have any role models or someone who inspired me, I think I'm
inspired by people in the U.S. military. I think we have a lot
of folks, hundreds of thousands in the American military, that
really sacrifice a lot. Some have given the ultimate sacrifice,
and I think those are the people that really inspire me. A lot
of those folks, some I even knew, didn't really have the chance
to do things in life because of unfortunate circumstances that
happened to them. So whenever I think I'm working too hard, I
try to think of those people and it lets me push myself a little
course you're in the military yourself, in the United States Navy.
Talk about what made you decide to choose the Navy and the career
path through the Navy that has now led you to the Astronaut Corps.
I wanted to become a Navy pilot because I wanted to land high
performance jets on aircraft carriers, and the bottom line is
that the only place you can do that is the United States Navy.
So that's why I chose the Navy. When I was in college, I was in
the ROTC program, and that's how I got my commission. Once I graduated,
I went on to flight school in Pensacola. [I] learned how to fly
the T-34, which is a small propeller-driven airplane. Then [I]
went on to Texas where I learned to fly jets and got my initial
carrier qualifications. From there, I flew the F-14 Tomcat for
several years in a fighter squadron on the east coast, and following
my tour there, I went to Test Pilot School. After Test Pilot School,
while I was working as a test pilot in Patuxent River, Maryland,
I applied to the Astronaut Program and was fortunate enough to
get accepted, so here I am.
is your first flight assignment. Can you explain to those of us
who aren't astronauts and have never gotten a flight assignment
what it is like, after all the years of preparation, to get the
news that you're going to get to fly?
I like to
tell people, especially kids, that I've been going to school almost
continuously since I was in kindergarten, so it's obviously a
very long road to get here. Naturally I'd be very excited about
having this great opportunity to fly in space. It's also very
humbling, however, because there are certainly nine other pilots
in my class that could've been assigned [to] and flown this mission
just as well [as] I could. There are also a lot of other people
out there-a lot of people in the military-[who] are just as qualified
to be astronauts. It's unfortunate there are just a limited number
of slots for astronauts in the space program. So when I think
of that, I think of how lucky I am, and it's certainly a humbling
feeling as well.
all the other achievements and historical aspects of this flight,
there's the historical footnote, in that you, along with your
brother Mark, are the first set of twins to become astronauts,
and you're the one that gets to fly first. How does having someone
who is as close to you as a twin around, and being involved in
the same business, help you as you're training for your mission?
In the Astronaut
Office, we're all very busy, so, during work hours, I really don't
see him any more than I see any other individual, with the exception
of my fellow crewmembers. I don't see him any more than I see
anyone else. The instructors that work for NASA are very good,
so from a technical aspect, you really don't need anyone helping
you prepare for the mission. NASA does a very good job teaching
us how to fly the shuttle and teaching us how to accomplish the
mission, so I don't look to him or anyone else for any kind of
help in doing that. I think we have a great program here for that.
However, there is some overhead involved in a space shuttle mission.
Typically you have guests that come to view the launch, and he
can help with some of that administrative stuff that can take
up a lot of people's time. It's obviously nice to have someone
who's very familiar with the space program to help with those
kinds of things.
the fact that you got a flight assignment before him mean that
you've won the sibling rivalry?
We are competitive
people and have been competitive our whole lives, in sports and,
as a kid, in things that we have done, from the time I was in
high school in New Jersey. However, we don't seem to be very competitive
amongst ourselves. We certainly encourage each other to do our
best, but, if one person is better at certain things than others,
it's really not a big deal to us. So I don't think I've really
won anything in that respect.
now assigned to a shuttle mission that's being pulled together
on relatively short notice, as far as shuttle missions go, for
an early servicing trip to the Hubble Space Telescope. Summarize
for us, first, your role on this flight and what it's like for
you to be a part of this particular shuttle flight.
My role is
the Pilot of the mission, and the Pilot's job…well, first
of all, "Pilot" is sort of a misnomer for people who
know about airplanes. We're more of the copilot, and the Commander
actually does most of the hands-on flying of the vehicle. He is
the Commander of the mission, so he's certainly the person in
charge. The Pilot does a little bit of flying, but his primary
job is to assist the Commander in the operation of the vehicle
and performing the mission. The Pilot's main job in the space
shuttle, I think, is on ascent and entry because he has most of
the orbiter systems that are critical to those phases of flight
on his side of the cockpit. He has to be the system expert on
those systems and be able to operate them effectively. Once we
get on orbit, the Pilot assists the Commander with the rendezvous
of Hubble, the grapple of the telescope, and then assists in monitoring
all the EVA operations we do. There are many other things that
occur while we're on orbit. Then, once we're done and the Hubble
is fixed and sent on its way, we prepare to come home, and the
Pilot plays a critical [role] in that phase of flight as well.
was early this year that you got the word you would be a part
of this mission. Since the mission was flying earlier than had
originally been planned, four spacewalkers had already been assigned.
What was it like for you to step into a mission in progress, if
you will, where there were four spacewalkers who had already begun
training and for you and Curt Brown and Jean-François Clervoy
to get up to speed with them?
Well, I think,
first of all, it's really critical to our training that the spacewalkers
had already been involved in training for those spacewalks before
we got assigned to the flight. However, I think our transition
into the crew was pretty seamless. I thought there would be more
hurdles to overcome in that, but I think we've really done a great
job getting ready for this mission. I certainly think we will
be thoroughly prepared when the time comes, and I don't think
it's anything that people should ever look back on and say, "You
know, it's not something that could be performed well, integrating
a crew at six months prior to flight." I think it's certainly
something that's very doable, and I'd love to do it again.
help us set the stage for understanding what you and your crewmates
are going to be doing, let's talk for a moment about the mission
of Hubble itself. What is it that the Hubble Space Telescope can
do that many other telescopes on the ground or already in orbit
I am not
a scientist. I'm a Navy test pilot. I usually leave the Hubble
questions to some of the physicists we have on board. However,
I think the thing that's really important about the Hubble Space
Telescope is [that] it's above the atmosphere of Earth and, by
being above the atmosphere of our planet, has much, much better
resolution than telescopes that we have here on the ground. That's
why we can get these spectacular pictures from it.
the non-astronomer, for the layman, how do you characterize the
value of those pictures that we've seen and the data that's been
brought back and presumably will continue to be brought back after
you folks are finished with your job?
I think it's
really not very hard to understand the value of the pictures that
Hubble has given us. They've certainly let us see further into
our universe than we ever have before. [I] think that kind of
sheds new light on who we are as a species and our place in the
big scheme of things in this very large universe.
is a part of a program, one of four components of NASA's Great
Observatories program, [and has] already been followed to orbit
by the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and, just recently, the Chandra
X-ray Observatory. An infrared telescope's on the way. Four telescopes
looking in four different parts of the spectrum of light. What
is the value, or perhaps the necessity, of having telescopes that
can look at those different pieces of the spectrum?
all different spectrums of light and radio waves and x-rays, and,
from each piece of those, we can learn something different about
our universe. I think the Chandra X-ray telescope will really
open up new discoveries, just like the Hubble did.
continue the work that it's been doing, Hubble is about to receive
its third on-orbit service call. This one is earlier than was
originally planned due to the failure of some gyroscopes on board-that's
what's prompted you folks to be going when you're going. What
is it that the gyroscopes do? Why has their failure prompted NASA
to take the unusual step of flying a mission earlier than scheduled?
As you can
understand, to take those really incredible pictures that Hubble
takes requires very precise pointing. The telescope has to be
able to point at a very small area in the sky and maintain that
very precisely as [it] is flying around the Earth at seventeen
thousand miles an hour. I recently read somewhere that the pointing
required of Hubble is similar to [if] you were standing in Washington,
D.C. and pointing [a] laser pointer at a dime in New York City.
That's how precisely Hubble has to point, and to do that takes
these gyroscopes. There are six of them on Hubble, and it needs
three to do science. Currently it has three remaining, so if it
has one more failure of one of these gyroscopes, it won't be able
to perform any science. That's why we need to go up there as soon
as possible and fix it, because it's such a very high-value asset.
do that, on the third day of your flight, you and your crewmates
are going to approach the giant telescope and snatch it out of
orbit and plop it down in the shuttle's payload bay. Talk us through
the procedures of that day: rendezvous with, and grappling and
berthing of Hubble, and if you would, highlight what you will
be doing as a part of that team of seven people.
with Hubble actually starts when the solid rocket motors light,
and over the next three days we slowly catch up with the telescope.
On the third day we do some engine burns, and some of them are
using the orbiter maneuvering system engines, the larger reaction
jets on the vehicle, to adjust our orbit to either catch up or
adjust our phasing or our height in relation to the telescope.
Then, [for] some of the burns, we use the smaller reaction control
jets, of which there are forty-four. We use those to do the orbital
adjustment burns. Once we get very close to the telescope, the
Commander will start flying the vehicle manually. Prior to that,
we've kind of traded off on who performs some of the burns, but,
as we get closer, I jump in the Commander's seat. I'll perform
the last few rendezvous burns. Curt will get in the back of the
vehicle, preparing to fly the orbiter manually. We'll come up
from below Hubble and slowly decrease our closure rate until we're
traveling at a very slow closure and to close proximity. Then
we'll stop the orbiter right when Hubble is practically in the
payload bay. From that point, Jean-François Clervoy, who's
the robot arm operator, will maneuver the arm close to Hubble
and then close in for final capture of Hubble's grapple fixture.
At that point we'll take the Hubble, and we'll put it on a platform
in the payload bay that provides data, allows us to see the health
of the Hubble, provides power, and allows us to rotate it so,
later on the EVA, crewmembers can work on the telescope.
make the rendezvous sound like a relatively painless and simple
thing, and yet both the telescope and you will be moving at seventeen
thousand, five hundred miles an hour. Can you give us some sense
of what goes into trying to put together the ballet, if you will,
that brings those two orbiting pieces to the same point at the
a very complex task. It involves a lot of different procedures.
It involves a lot of people on the ground that design the flights,
involves a lot of people that monitor what we're doing on the
vehicle to perform this. So it's very critical that we conduct
these burns very precisely because if we didn't, we wouldn't be
able to catch up. We could overshoot the vehicle [or] undershoot
it. Whether we would be able to recover from that or not is hard
to say, so it's a very precise task that we do. However, we're
very well trained to do it. We have great people on the ground
that are monitoring what we're doing in the vehicle, making sure
everything's OK prior to us performing these burns. So it's certainly
something I think we'll pull off flawlessly.
schedule says that on Flight Day 4 Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld will kick off the first of four scheduled spacewalks on this flight.
The rest of the crew will have jobs to do inside Discovery while
they're outside and likewise when Mike and Claude do their spacewalks.
Describe for us what your responsibilities are going to be during
the days that your crewmates are outside of the orbiter and whether
or not the tasks that you're going to be doing are different from
one EVA to another.
[is] a very complicated task. It's kind of unnatural for people
to be going out into the void of space in a spacesuit to perform
certain functions out there. So it is very critical, and it really
requires a team effort, not only from the people that are doing
the spacewalks but the people inside the vehicle and the folks
on the ground. So our primary job is to monitor things, making
sure that everything is going the way it's supposed to, always
keeping people's eyes looking out the window. But there are other
things we need to do. We need to maneuver the orbiter. Twice an
orbit we have to do a maneuver, and those are for reasons concerning
the Hubble telescope. Curt and I will trade off on performing
those maneuvers. There's also systems maintenance that just goes
along with flying a spaceship in space. Just because we [have]
people outside doesn't mean everything needs to stop in the vehicle,
so we'll have things to do, with regards to orbiter upkeep and
maintenance. Then, there is the photo documentation that's required
of the telescope, and that's certainly a pretty big task. It's
one of my responsibilities on orbit to make sure we get all the
photo documentation required for the people that work on the Hubble
on the ground and the engineers at Goddard. So a lot of our time
is spent doing that. As far as do things change from day to day,
not really. We have, obviously, different people inside helping
us on different days because the EVA guys are swapping out, but,
most of it, from my perspective, is pretty much the same.
the subject of photo documentation-more specifically, on the subject
of looking at that giant telescope-you've got two crewmates who
have seen it up close and personal before, and you're going to
spend several days taking pictures of it. They've described it
to us and to others as quite a beautiful thing to see. What have
they told you about just seeing the Hubble?
I had one
astronaut who had done an EVA on Hubble tell me that, the first
time I see the telescope, it will be absolutely breathtaking.
It's kind of hard to imagine people saying that about a telescope,
but it's very large - the size of a school bus - and, apparently,
from what he says, a very beautiful sight, especially when you
look at it superimposed over the backdrop of the Earth. And pointed
up at the heavens, it's something you certainly will remember
for the rest of your life.
the spacewalks concluded and planned improvements to Hubble that
have been executed, it'll be time to send it back on its mission.
Talk us, as you did before, through the plan for what you folks
do on the day that you conclude your operations with Hubble.
On that day,
Jean-François, our robot arm operator will grab the Hubble
again with the robot arm, and we will position it out over the
payload bay. When the time comes and the ground's ready and the
space telescope is all checked out and ready to be sent on its
way, he'll release it with the robot arm. Then, we will perform
another series of burns that will allow us to drop below the Hubble,
and we'll go out ahead of it and fly away above it as we separate
it's just that simple? A couple of jet pulses, and you watch it
simple. [It's] actually a little more complicated. [It] takes
us several hours to perform a lot of procedures that need to be
checked and double-checked, just to make sure everything's perfect.
But, in the big picture, that's sort of how it looks.
that point it's home and the conclusion of your first space shuttle
flight as you folks head for a landing in Florida. When people
ask you about, not just what you're doing on this mission but
why you're doing it, can you [tell me how] you [will] explain
to people how the [completion of the] mission that you and your
crewmates are about to embark upon is going to further the objectives
of space exploration?
I think the
Hubble telescope is very important to scientists all around the
world, and it's also important to the American public at large
because it really has shed new insight, I think, into our place
in the universe. So, from a specific mission standpoint, I think
it's very important that NASA flies to the Hubble, repairs it,
does maintenance that was planned even before it was put on orbit,
and allows it to go on and continue to do its science for a long
period of time. I think the other thing that makes our mission,
or any space mission, so important is just the complexity and
having the capabilities of putting people in space. It's a very
difficult task to do that and to do it safely, but NASA does it
well. I think it's something that is important for us to do, and
it's something we need to do for our future and for our children's
future. So I'm very proud and humble to be a part of it.