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Preflight Interview: Charles Hobaugh

The STS-104 Crew Interviews with Charles Hobaugh, Pilot.

Q: Charlie, first, tell me why it is that you wanted to become an astronaut.

A: Well, it's always a kind of a childhood dream. You know, back in the age where we were launching to the moon and trying to continue on from there, it was just one of those, you know, wild, far-out things that you thought that somebody's got to do it, but, you know, it will probably never be me. But, it was really a dream that finally came true that I would be able to become an astronaut.

Was there anything in particular about the job that you think appealed to you?

Well, to me it was, it's basically the pinnacle of aviation. I…my dad got me interested in flying when I was a kid, when we were living in Alaska; he was actually a ship driver in the Coast Guard, but, as you know, in Alaska, there's probably more pilots per capita than any other state in the country, so he got interested in flying and took me up when I was a kid, flying around the glaciers and over some of the scenery in Juneau, and really got me interested in flying from there. And then, as I was in junior high and high school I always just marveled at the jets, you know, the military jets. I remember reading encyclopedias that my dad traded his motorcycle for at, you know, you start with A and work your way through Z, you know, just going through it, and the Air Force and airplanes, even though I didn't enter the Air Force, but just aircraft in general, always fascinated me. And so, I was just lucky to be able to step my way through, into the Marine Corps and flying, and then eventually end up here.

Let's get you to tell me what some of those steps are in your career. If you're a kid who's interested in flying, for you, what was the path that led to astronaut?

Well, I always wanted to find the best way to go through flying, and I started out flying before I was driving a car -- I soloed before I started driver's ed, basically, and, progressed from there. I used to work 40-hour weeks, I was a, started out cleaning out horse barns and, you know, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, dishwasher, you name it. You know, anything to make some money to start flying; you know, fly an hour a month, an hour a week, whatever, you know, we could afford, to get my pilot's license. And, I was flying from there. And, basically I had my private pilot's license in high school, and then, looking for a way to get into the military, to get the military flight training that is such a premium, you know, much better than you'd ever get in the civilian world. Plus you get the opportunities of flying airplanes you'd never get to fly before: my favorite airplane when I was growing up was the Harrier, which I later flew in the fleet, and it was a real exciting thing. I actually…a guy that flew the air show in Cleveland where I was going through high school ended up being my first CO, as we were talking about it one time, which I thought was pretty neat; it's a very small community. But going through the Naval Academy, [I] didn't have to pay to go to school -- you basically got paid to go to school -- you always knew what you were going to wear the next day, you didn't have to worry about where your meal was coming from, very disciplined environment, excellent for learning. I wouldn't have asked for anything different because it was a perfect environment for me. From there, I selected the Marine Corps based off of small service -- my father being in the Coast Guard I always observed that whenever we moved somewhere, he always knew somebody, and I think part of that was from being in a small service. So, Marine Corps and, you know, the few, the proud, the very motivated people I work with primarily, you know, all the way through the enlisted and officer ranks, everyone is motivated about their job. I just chose that. Also, I had a great-uncle on my mom's side that was a Marine Corps fighter ace in World War II, a Medal of Honor winner, who didn't really push me to go that way but it certainly was, you know, trying to follow the family trend. And then from there, going through flight training, and then into your fleet squadron, and then Test Pilot School and then on into here: it was just, you know, one path opening up to another.

Did you find encouragement within your fellow officers in the Marine Corps to try to become an astronaut?

Actually I had a very good friend when I was on the ship for eight months during the Gulf War, that had a, was applying to become an astronaut, and this, he hadn't gone through Test Pilot School, and neither had I, but he got me, you know, it was kind of one of those things that I'd like to do but it was like, well, you know, I don't know that we could get there at that point. But it was, you know, one of those things that, you know, as you see that, you know, the qualifications to become an astronaut are, at least on the pilot's side, flying tactical jets, you know, once you get to that point, you're partway there. And then as you get into Test Pilot School and finish that, then you're one step closer to meeting all your qualifications. It was, certainly, the thing I was looking for.

I'd ask you to look back from here, across all those times -- who was it that you would consider the people who were or still are, the most significant influences in your life?

I could probably break that up into two separate groups. One, I think, my father and my family upbringing, you know, helping, encourage me to do the things that I wanted to. My dad was very good at that: he never pushed me to do one thing, but certainly he was cheering when he heard I wanted to go to an Academy -- as opposed to some out-of-state school that was going to cost a lot of money -- but also joining the Marine Corps, I think, he was happy with that decision, and then, I'd say the other group that influences me the most now, besides my peers and the people around here at JSC, I think, would be my own family and kids, because, certainly I think, you know, even though I'm an astronaut I think I'd have a real shallow life without my wife and kids.

STS-104 is going to be your first mission as a member of the flight crew. What's it like to get the word that you are going to fly in space?

Oh, it was kind of like winning the lottery…I didn't even realize, even at, the day that they were announcing our crew that I was part of that crew. It was kind of funny because I was running late, I had to, I'd forgot something at home around lunchtime and I had to, I had maybe an hour to run home, get it real quick, and come back, and, I was walking up the parking lot with someone else and they said, hey, they're announcing a crew; you know, did you hear anything? I'm like, yeah, right -- I didn't hear anything, you know; it'll be another couple of years, or whatever. But, as I walked up, the Chief of the Office normally tries to tell everyone ahead of time, and, they saw me walking up in the parking lot -- I actually got all the way into the conference room and sat down, you know, waiting to hear who got announced -- and they kind of pulled me out beforehand and said, and pulled me in the office and said, hey, how'd you like to be a part of this crew -- and, you know, I was extremely shocked…pleasantly, of course. But, it's quite a happy event.

Let's talk about the mission. First, if I could get you to summarize the goals of STS-104: what's this mission designed to do?

Well, quite simply, it's to deliver the third U.S. module to the station, assemble it, and, and check it out. We, in concert with the Increment 2 crew, will bring the payload up, take it out of the payload bay, attach it to the station, and then, put four more components, or High Pressure Gas Tanks, onto the airlock itself. Also there's a lot of internal checkout, and then also, the goal of our last EVA is to do a full-up utilization of the airlock for that EVA 3.

Let's, I think, first talk about the hardware itself, the major piece of which is named the Joint Airlock. Could you describe it for us and its major components, and what it does, and where it goes on the station -- the big picture.

Yes. Well, of course, you know, we have the Node that attaches the, basically the juncture between the Russian side and the beginning of the U.S. side, and on that we have six Common Berthing Mechanisms, which allow you to put modules, you know, kind of in a LEGO or building block type of approach. The airlock will actually go on the starboard-most, Common Berthing Mechanism. This, the module, from there, will have two compartments -- you basically have the interface that goes out to vacuum, which is called the crew lock, and then you have the internal component, which is a little larger diameter, where we normally do all the suiting up and the outfitting inside the equipment lock. There is a hatch between, that actually launches at the, equipment lock side, which will have to be reconfigured on orbit, that will give us the interface between the equipment lock and crew lock. So it goes from being on the starboard side to now in between the two cylinders. The crew lock, which is the part that we put everyone, or the two EV crewmembers to go outside, is pretty much like the shuttle airlock is right now, just without the connecting tunnels. And then the equipment lock, which can go to vacuum but most of the time will never, has most of the internal components for the post-EVA, the water refills, the gas refills, charging the batteries, doing all that, all those tasks, when we do any sort of campout or 10.2 ops prior to getting into the suits, to cleanse the nitrogen out of your system. That'll also be done in that cavity, also.

And you made reference to the High Pressure Gas Tanks that are really a part of your payload as well; describe what they are and the part that they play in the operation of the airlock.

Well, the airlock is…has a unique capability of a U.S. segment, module, to be able to provide make-up gas for nitrogen and oxygen that none of the others have. Most of our make-up oxygen or nitrogen, or air, will be coming from either the Russian Progress or from a shuttle when it comes back and docks. What the gas tanks allow us to do, in addition to make-up gas for EVAs, which is its primary purpose, and also for charging suits and that sort of thing, is to provide nitrogen and oxygen to the U.S. Lab for experiments and also for any kind of contingency where if we had a problem with one of the Russian components in providing oxygen or nitrogen, well then we could provide it through the airlock itself. Those tanks also, even though we bring them up and attach [them], they're pretty much a permanent fixture, even though they could be taken off and replaced. They can be recharged by the shuttle when it docks, for both the nitrogen and oxygen side.

And, in fact, they're [intended] to do that.

That's correct, yes. The nitrogen is pretty much [an] equalization of pressure as it comes across; the oxygen, on the other hand, there's a pump that takes the oxygen which is at a lower pressure from the shuttle and then pumps it up to a higher pressure to go into the tanks. So, the shuttle basically becomes a tanker for the station when it shows up.

Now, the International Space Station, as it's configured right now, does have the capability to allow space walks to be conducted; how is this going to change things?

Well the biggest benefit is that, of course, the Joint Airlock, as it's called, allows you to conduct either Orlan- or EMU-based or, you know, in simple terms a Russian or U.S. spacesuit-type space walk from that vessel itself. In addition, there is a Russian-built vacuum pump which allows us to evacuate a lot of the gas out of the airlock itself so that we lose a minimal amount of air every time we depress. The way we do space walks out of the shuttle right now, of course, we take and vent all that air overboard, so it's a lot of consumable that's lost for each depress cycle. The shuttle itself, we take it down to 10.2 normally, so we go from a 14.7 or normal atmosphere down to a 10.2 psi, so we lose a lot of gas there. And then the airlock itself, that's all taken to a vacuum, even though that's a smaller cavity, just by venting overboard also. The advantage of this airlock is that we use minimal gas for each cycle, which helps us in preventing from having to bring extra gas up to make up for EVAs. It gives us more capability over the long term.

And in comparison to operations with the shuttle's airlock, are there going to be differences that we'll notice in doing space walks with the use of this new component on the station, say in terms of the way it's pressurized and depressurized, or the amount of time that has to be spent prebreathing to prepare to go to do a space walk?

Well, that's a pretty good question. One capability that has been almost, I won't say designed but is perfectly tailored for this airlock is [an] exercise prebreathe. As you know there's many ways to…you have to cleanse the nitrogen out of your system -- it's just like divers, when they come up from the bottom, they have concerns about getting "the bends." There's the same concern for space walkers, because they go down to basically a 4, 4.2 psi, suit from a 14.7. So they need to have that time to be able to cleanse that compressed nitrogen gas out of their system so that they don't have that possibility of getting "the bends." One way of doing that is through camping out inside the airlock, which is a very painstaking process -- we do that now in the shuttle, but you can do a similar type of thing in the airlock, even though you'd be cut off from the rest of the station. A preferred way of doing that cleansing of the nitrogen, though, is through an exercise-type protocol where you go on 100% oxygen, you do some exercise to get the blood circulating, to get all that compressed gas out of your system, you stay on the mask for a given period of time, depress down to 10.2, and then start suiting up, go into 100% oxygen and then repress. So, it's a much quicker, cleaner, more efficient, and much safer way of doing business as opposed to either doing a campout, a four-hour in-suit prebreathe where you're going to get kind of fatigued…you know, there's just, you know, no good way of doing it other than that. So, the airlock is going to be perfectly tailored for that.

In order for you and your crewmates to deliver the airlock, you've first got to bring the shuttle and the station together on orbit. Take us with you -- talk us through what's planned to occur on that day, as the shuttle rendezvous' with and docks to the International Space Station, and tell me, as you go, what you're going to be doing.

OK. Well, first off, one change that's been done to our flight that, we won't be the first ones to do this, but it will be one of the earlier flights to also integrate this capability is our end state at insertion is actually lower-it's 122 miles as opposed to, you know, the 160, 170 that had been done in the past. What that enables us to do is if we have a day-for-day slip, we don't, we always have a Flight Day 3 rendezvous, which is real important for us - we're critical on consumables for cryo, so one thing we want to make sure is that we can always make that Flight Day 3 rendezvous, and that lower orbit allows us to phase with the station much more efficiently, either whether we launch at the perfect opportunity or a day later if need be. But from there, Steve and I will be working together, coordinating the phasing burns on the orbital maneuvering system engines, to raise our orbit up to the station, to make the midcourse or the corrective burns, and then all the way through midcourse insertion and that. Basically a standard rendezvous profile. We'll also be the third one to do a V-bar arrival. My job on rendezvous day is I'll be in the forward seat doing most of the midcourse burns, helping Steve earlier on with some of the earlier burns and the navigation, making sure we're getting the star trackers, the radars, all that stuff's working properly, and also using our computer system for giving us a…it's a predictive flight path of where we're going. So I'll be monitoring all of that stuff. I'll also be tracking the timeline, Steve will be doing the flying from the back after we've done the last series of burns, and flying the manual phase all the way through, coming up underneath the station and closing, transitioning to out in front of the station, then closing from out in front of the station on in. And we do what's called a V-bar docking, which is along the velocity vector of the station, right out front so it's good to be an exciting day, you know, right off, you know, early on…not a lot of free time, we'll go right into the docking.

If you're spending a lot of that in the Commander's seat, are you going to be in a perfect position not to see the station as you approach it?

I'll have a synthetic image through a camera view up front with me in addition to being able to kind of peek back and see every now and then. But, I'll primarily be monitoring the timeline, the systems, making sure all the procedural callouts are done correctly, configuring the autopilot and what we call the post-contact thrusting in close to make sure that that's enabled…a lot of those tasks to make sure everything is configured correctly. We've got Jim Reilly, who'll be shooting [the] handheld laser which will be backing up our other laser system, which is called a TCS which I'll be manipulating; we'll always make sure those two are correlated properly, that we have agreement. You always [have] to have two things in agreement to feel good about what you're seeing. Janet will be doing the cameras and also working the docking system with Mike who will be also aiding me in the sensors and the procedures, making sure we're tracking everything correctly. In addition, we hope to get some good, 3-D IMAX footage coming in, and Mike will be manipulating that.

In the first couple of hours after docking, you all, you five and the three station crewmembers, are all going to be busy going through what the timeline calls a "dry run" of the airlock installation. Tell me why you're doing that now -- you trained with them on the ground to do this; how does doing it together in orbit, how's that going to make it better or easier for you all to do it for real?

Well, as you know…a lot of time will have elapsed from the last time we got to work with Jim, Susan, and Yury to the time we get on orbit. So, it's really critical to kind of take a step back and make sure we all understand everything that everybody's going to be doing. The person, you know, the step-for-step procedural things that are going to be coming up. Certainly they've seen it, they know it; we've done it, we know it; but we'd like to always just make sure we get together, you know, talk about it, make sure there are no questions, nothing's changed. You know, in three months' period of time there may be something that changes slightly that we want to make sure that they're aware of; we're also going to be keeping in touch with them while they're on orbit; any changes that occur during the next few months. But it's always important to get together, get a face-to-face and make sure everybody understands exactly what they're doing. So, and that's something that has been encouraged from both sides.

Is this just a matter of sitting down and talking through it?

Well, we do a little bit of a rehearsal. And, Susan, Jim, and Yury will be working the station arm. You know, the station arm isn't even there yet, so it's real important that the station arm gets up there, it works properly, they've had a chance to operate it, you know, the real deal, not just the, you know, the simulator, and make sure everything works as published. But, we'll also be doing the same thing and making sure we're comfortable. Every time we even rehearse in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab or the Virtual Reality Lab, one of the EVAs, we always talk through it ahead of time to make sure everybody does it. It seems repetitive, but it prevents there from being any question in there. We're doing so many different things and so many different aspects of training, you always want to bring everybody right back into the focus at that point, which is, of course, that event, and in this case it would be the EVA.

You're going to take the talk and the rehearsal and bring, put [them] into practice the next day for the first of the space walks planned for this mission. First off, give me the cast: who's going to be doing what?

Well, it's one of the difficult things about a lot of the EVAs that have been done on all the station builds is that you're not always "hatches open" with the station, so you really are cut off from the other group. So, we were talking about docking day -- we get together, once we open the hatches we have a handshake, safety brief, go through and talk about the rehearsal for the next day; the hatches get closed after that and it's the three Increment crewmembers and the five shuttle crewmembers. Mike and Jim will be doing the EVA. I'll be the IV, or the in-vehicle person, which is basically the choreographer or the QA checker of things they're doing. They are very experienced, know what they're doing, are very good at keeping me informed of what's going on; I'll also be backing, I'm basically backing them up and making sure everything's tracking properly and then, coming up with any sort of contingency as need be if things don't go perfectly. Steve and Janet are working arm operations the whole time that Mike and Jim are outside. So, there's the three of us inside all doing, three separate or, you know, they're working together, Steve's also helping me, where need be, but the three of us are very busy trying to keep track of what they're doing, track the timeline, making sure all the joint events, the assembly ops procedures, are tracking along properly. Susan and Jim are working the station arm, and Yury is doing in-vehicle operations on the station side and also tracking the timeline there as the overall coordinator. So, it's a very shorthanded type of event, one that I think we're very comfortable with, but everyone is being utilized fully during that whole period of time.

OK. With everybody in their places, we know who's doing what, talk me through the events of that first space walk and what is going to happen in the plans to take this Joint Airlock out of your payload bay and install it on the side of the space station.

Sure. OK. Yes, one thing, of course, that you have to do is when the equipment's launched, it has all the thermal covers and protecting around it…we also have to bring out some of the tools that are…I shouldn't say "tools" really, the pieces of hardware that attach onto the airlock itself…they couldn't be launched in place because of interference problems with the payload bay doors, for example, little things like that, so they have these on-orbit configurable attachment points for the…basically the High Pressure Gas Tanks that have to be configured. We've got a keep-alive heater since there's water lines in the airlock itself that is attached to the shuttle, and the shuttle provides it the power to keep the shell warm enough during its captive time on orbit until it's brought out and attached to the station, so that cabling system needs to be taken off. Also there's protective hardware around the Common Berthing Mechanism to make sure the seal is kept pristine and that there's no thermal concerns there, also. It's…a lot of reconfiguring from basically the launch configuration to the pull out of the bay. Then what we do is we get the station arm, since the shuttle arm is too short to take the airlock out of the bay and attach it onto the station, the station arm will be performing its first, you know, true test, which is to pull this module out of our bay and attach it to the station. Once it gets there, if there's a problem with the Space Vision System, which allows the arm to know the precise positioning of the module for the connecting itself, if there's a problem there then Mike and Jim can come up and basically be the eyes or the ground control approach to get that module in the right position so that they can start the mating itself. So, there's that built-in, contingency just in case that Space Vision System doesn't work as advertised. Once the airlock is connected, then, we go back and connect up that heater cable again, this time to the station instead of the shuttle, so that there's less concern about the water freezing up again. And we have a couple of backups for that, in case that's a problem, but that's the prime way of doing that. Once the airlock is mated on that first day, Jim also is configuring the…foot restraints that they use for attaching the gas tanks for EVA #2. So it's a, not only safing, you know, getting the airlock out of the bay, you know, getting it configured to get out of the bay, taking it out of the bay, attaching it to the station, and then configuring for the next day's event -- or the next EVA's event, it's not the next day's.

And before we get to the next EVA, as you've described, the real heavy lifting part of this operation is being done by the station's new robot arm, operated by the Expedition crew on board. How are the unique capabilities of this second Canadarm being put to use in this operation?

Well, one of the biggest things I think, in addition to having an additional degree of freedom over the shuttle arm, it also has the actual reach limits that we need, or the ability to reach that the shuttle arm can't do in some of these later builds. So, the arm is more capable that way. One area that it's kind of short on right now where we also provide help is with camera views. We're actually providing, Steve and Janet, you know, Steve primarily in this case, is basically the eyes for the station. They have to provide a camera view, and since they can't control it from their side we basically ship it over to [them]. We're providing them a camera view and also we provide a backup solution for the Space Vision System errors that is generated for positioning of the airlock. So, the station arm has very unique capabilities, but until we get more and more of the station on line with additional external cameras, then they're almost dependent on us for some of those things. Also, on the robotics side, this will be the first time that we do both arms -- shuttle and station -- moving together at the same time, which is really a big challenge. There's always that concern that we understand very well about making sure the arms don't collide at any point. So, that's a very orchestrated, well-understood, thing, yet it's something that they always have to be thinking about…which has probably not been a concern in the past.

You've alluded to this a couple of times; let me try to get you to focus on it for a moment. From where you will be during the space walk, on the flight deck of Atlantis, you won't be able to see virtually any of what's going on.

Yes.

And inside the station, the crew that's operating the station arm won't be able to see anything of what's going on. How do you…what's the plan for being able to visualize what's going on and make these intricate movements?

Yes. Well, it's really the payload bay cameras, the station and shuttle arm cameras themselves. There's elbow joint cameras -- the station arm has two each, the shuttle's has one -- you also have the end effector cameras, and we have one unique capability that Atlantis has with the EV crewmembers is their helmet cameras. So the helmet cameras [are] really where, when Mike and Jim are outside, that's probably the easiest way for me to be able to monitor and QA what they're doing is being able to manipulate their cameras so, I think, in some of the previous flights you've seen that used, and it is really a unique capability. It allows you to see some things that you've never seen before. So, we'll watch those.

And, these cameras -- I'm sorry -- and these camera views are going to be shipped over to the station to assist Susan and Jim and Yury as well.

The helmet cameras will not, but the payload bay cameras of course will. Those we can send them a couple [of] different channels, but it's primarily, again, the payload bay cameras or the Space Vision System solution that we'll be sending to the station.

For the two days after this first space walk is completed you've all got a lot of work scheduled to do inside the shuttle/station complex. Tell me about the kinds of jobs -- the specific jobs, too -- that are involved here, and how these activities fit into the overall plan of airlock installation.

There's a…as you mentioned, there's an awful lot to do. You basically take two pressure vessels and mate [them] together, and there should be a tight pressure seal. But one of the most important things we do right off the bat is to check that seal and make sure there's no leaks. Also, we've never had any, we won't have had any insight into the pressure integrity of the airlock, even though it's, of course, been tested on the ground prior to going, but to ensure that there's been no leaks developed -- which again should not ever happen -- during the launch and orbit ops up to that point, so we'll tap into the airlock also and make sure that the pressure's good, and then we'll test interface by interface. Also there's a lot of reconfiguring; negative pressure relief valves that are on the airlock will be taken out and replaced with ventilation valves and positive pressure relief valve-type things. So, there's a lot of reconfiguring of that. There's electrical hookups, there's water hookups, there's data hookups that all go through what's called a vestibule area, which is the juncture between the Node, which we're connecting up against, and the airlock itself. So there's a lot of connections that are mated up, making sure that there's integrity on all those, that we don't bend any pins, we don't lose any of that data or there's no leaks in the water system, that the gas lines that we're hooking up are pressure-tight, and so, there's a lot of that done. Also, again that hatch that is on the, basically on the outside portion of the airlock, will be moved to the interior portion, so that hatch is basically taken off and rotated 180° and put onto a different interface. So, that's also part of the checkout. There's, like you said, a lot of different things that'll be going on, and it'll be a pretty busy but exciting time.

After a couple of days preparing the inside of the airlock, it'll be time to go back outside and continue the outfitting work there. Another, a second space walk, again from the shuttle airlock, and, again with the station's arm playing a big part.

Right.

If you would, tell us what's on tap for the second space walk.

Well, this time, what we do is, Mike and Jim of course come out of the shuttle airlock. Mike starts by going right to the gas tanks and getting them ready to come out. Susan will have already grappled on to our first tank, and what we want to do is get nitrogen and oxygen to the airlock in that EVA. So we have two nitrogen gas tanks and two oxygen gas tanks in the payload bay, and we'll take one of each of [them] out and put [them] up on the airlock. Jim will go up and get everything configured on the airlock side, and once he's in position, and he's got a few things configured for making sure the guidepost is there and the foot restraints, where they'll be able to mate that tank onto the airlock, then we'll release the tank, the station arm will bring it up, and then, Janet will actually bring Mike up to the airlock so that he's in position to help attach that tank. The tank comes up, gets close in to position, and then Mike and Jim actually, physically, take the tank and mate it onto the station itself, or to the airlock itself. Once that mating is complete they hard dock it, and then Mike needs to attach a gas line onto the airlock and then we do an integrity check to make sure that there's no leaks in the lines, and then from there, we hopefully have a good system for that. And then they do the same thing for another tank, so we get two tanks on that EVA and then, on EVA 3, we'll do the next two.

Between EVAs 2 and 3 there's another day's work inside; what's scheduled for that time?

That is really going to be getting that station airlock ready to use for that EVA 3. So, it's making sure all the little bits and pieces, all the little things that can get you in trouble if you don't find [them], are in place and they're ready to go. We'll do, basically, a rehearsal with what little time we have to make sure that everything is there. We'll…all the systems should be checked out at that point, we'll be going through and making sure everything is in place, and taking some of our equipment, our EMUs, from the shuttle airlock over to the station side and getting them set up.

Because, as you say, the third space walk is intended to be the first ever to come out of the International Space Station's new Joint Airlock.

That's correct.

Is the reasoning behind that simply to give it a shakedown? To make sure it works?

That's the primary reason. We want to make sure that it's delivered, you know, in a pristine condition, that everything's set up, that, you know, we will have trained on this airlock, hopefully more than anyone…we understand it pretty well, and we'd be the, you know, it's a downplayed thing but, you know, we'd be the first ones to check out all the systems and use [them]. And there's also that, there's been talk of Yury coming in and working with us also so that he can see everything in operation, even though he [has] also gone through full checkout on the whole airlock. But it is a chance to go through and make sure that everything is up and up to speed and working as it should be at that time.

Then, tell us what is, first of all, what's to be done during the third space walk, and second, are there any significant differences that those of us who watch you might notice about this space walk by virtue of the fact of where it's beginning, that it's coming from the station rather than the shuttle?

I almost think of it, it may be somewhat transparent but certainly this gives us, again, that additional capability that we didn't have before of preserving those gases and also going through a quicker, leaner way of doing that purging of the nitrogen out of your system. It's a much, again, a much safer way of doing things than the way we've been doing it in the past. It is a great module for what it's intended for. You know, it's point design, where, you know, the shuttle thing, we have this ability to go out of its airlock, but, you know, the ISS airlock itself, of course, its prime purpose in life and the thing it's point designed for is doing that EVA so, I think, from the outside point of view it may be transparent but, certainly from an operational standpoint it's much more capable. Also, for EVA 3, most of the work is being done there right around the airlock, so you're going out, instead of having to transit up and down all the time, you're going out right where, you know, the business end of the operation's going to occur, which is right there on that airlock. Mike, of course, will still have to go down into the shuttle bay for the tanks, but Jim will be right there where he needs to be to do his work.

And the jobs on the third EVA are the two remaining high pressure tanks?

That's the prime purpose of EVA 3 is to get the last two tanks on there, and, there's also a lot of cleanup work that needs to be done, some of the thermal coverings and the SVS targets that were over the gas tank locations will be pulled out and replaced or, you know, pulled out and put into the airlock at that point. There's a torquing down of some handrails that aren't able to be launched in position that are going to have to occur, and Jim will do that with a power grip tool. There's a few things like that, you know, a lot of thermal coverings that may need to go on, and that sort of thing. Still a busy EVA, but it's basically to get those last two tanks on there.

And the day after that third EVA, your work there is done, as they say, and you're scheduled to wrap up a whole week's worth of docked operations. Once the hatches between the shuttle and station are closed for the final time, describe for us what it is that happens that day, and, as you undock and fly around, which is something that you're going to [do], you're going to get to play a big part in.

Yes. It's kind of the Pilot job in that case. The Commander brings it in and docks it, and the Pilot gets to separate and fly away. So, I guess it's, in that case it's like, you know, somebody gets the landing, somebody gets the takeoff, as an equivalent in aviation. So, you know, I'll play the part in that, with, of course, Steve and the rest of the crew. We'll separate out, once, we'll undock, we'll separate out, and, depending on how much prop we have, we'll be able to do a flyaround of the station, which is right around 450 feet from the CG to CG. We'll do, however many loops, of course, we have prop for, and then, we'll do a final separation burn, say goodbye to the station at that point. It's a real important thing, I think, for everyone to, for Pilots to get to do. Terry Wilcutt had a real good perspective on it -- it's basically the thing that gives you the confidence and when you're a Commander, at that, you know, when you get that opportunity -- if you get that opportunity, I guess, is probably a better way to say it -- that you have the confidence in how the shuttle flies on orbit to be able to do that docking, and there'll be no doubt in your mind that you'll be able to do it without any problem.

Not that it's way too late to try to teach me orbital mechanics, but is it hard to just fly a circle around a moving space station?

There are some orbital mechanics that play into it, but it's something we train for -- a lot -- so, we have a bunch of different simulators that we'll work, both the operation itself and then any kind of failures that occur so we're always very well trained for this. And then, of course, if something goes wrong or it's not going as expected, you can, there's any point on there, you can kind of, you know, call a bingo or separate out and clear away from station so it's a very safe op, operation, but it's something that's valuable to do.

The completion of your mission also marks the completion of Phase 2 of the International Space Station program, the "some assembly still required" phase, and, it will mark the start of the scientific research phase. Tell me, from your perspective, how you think the science that's going to be conducted on the International Space Station is going to be of value, whether here on Earth or going somewhere else, and how you feel about being a part of making that happen.

Well, I'm honored, of course, to be a part in making it happen. I feel more like a space construction worker more than a scientist at this point. I mean, we're getting the station, our primary purpose, of course, is getting the station to a point where it can do these kind of things. And, then we got all, you know, the Mission Specialists that are really smart guys -- not just us operator/pilots -- that, really know a lot of the science, like the back of their hand. Of course, all the spin-offs that come from NASA or from the space flight program are a part of that, and this is just an extension of that. It's a better environment, it's a long-term environment over what we've done in shuttle, which can benefit the medical sciences, material sciences, Earth sciences, space sciences, and, and the whole gamut.

Crew Interviews
Image: Charles Hobaugh.
Click on the image to hear Pilot Charles Hobaugh's greeting (WAV file 395 Kb).
 

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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