Interview: Rick Husband
STS-107 Crew Interview with Rick Husband, commander.
Rick, [I] want to start off by asking you to if you would, give
me a brief overview of the STS-107 mission, and kind of explain
the goal of the mission.
mission will be a science research mission. We'll be up for 16 days.
We've got seven crewmembers. And we will be working dual shifts.
So, we'll be working around the clock, working on several different
types of experiments that will be in the Orbiter middeck, back in
the shuttle payload bay, and also in the Spacehab Research Double
Module. This is the first flight of the Research Double Module,
and it's been modified with a few extra components for air conditioning
and data and power to be able to power additional experiments and
get the data from the Spacehab to the Orbiter and then to the ground.
And, we'll be working on several different types of experiments
while we're up there doing some research on different things that
folks have gotten lined up for this particular flight.
there's a whole multitude of experiments on this flight. Can you
give us an idea of some of the areas or disciplines that this research
are very many varied areas that the different experiments will cover
on our flight. We've got some that are looking at human physiology.
We've got one that looks at respiration. We've got the ARMS experiment
(it stands for Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System). And it will
measure lung function and capacity and circulation. And we've got
four of our crew who are working on that experiment as subjects.
We've also got other experiments that are taking a look at osteoporosis
and formation of bone cells. And how the bone cells absorb calcium.
How calcium is lost from the bone cells, especially during microgravity.
We've also got some experiments that will be looking at the Earth.
The MEIDEX experiment, which stands for Mediterranean Israeli Dust
Experiment, is one that looks at dust aerosols in the atmosphere
to see if they can characterize where certain dust storms originate,
where they tend to go to, and then what effects, if any, they have
on the environment-as far as temperature, visibility in the atmosphere,
those types of things. We've also got some other experiments that
will be looking at the Sun to try and measure some data about the
Sun, the solar constant. And, we've also got two experiments that
are looking at the Earth's ozone, looking at the atmosphere, and
trying to characterize in a better way what the makeup of ozone
in the atmosphere is. We've also got additional experiments, one
very large experiment for combustion. We're taking a look at combustion
processes in microgravity. And the combustion processes that we
will be looking at are in a module called CM-2 (Combustion Module-2).
This combustion module is one that we'll be looking at, not only
at different combustion processes, but also how to extinguish fires
which will be useful here on Earth, and taking a look at how to
extinguish fires here on Earth. This module has a follow-on that
will be flown on the International Space Station. It'll be similar
to the one that we're flying, but a little bit different to be able
to be accommodated on the space station. And, they will continue
on with the research from what they find from our flight, what they
found from previous flights, they'll be able to continue on the
space station, with that experiment as well.
and speaking of them, I'm a little out of order here, but you just
made me think about something. Are there other experiments that
are, will be in conjunction with what's on the space station? And
can you give me an idea of those? Or maybe just experiments that
will be helpful for future experiments that will be like that on
the space station?
experiment in particular that is also being conducted on the space
station is one that looks at protein crystal growth. And there are
different types of protein crystals that they look at in these different
experiments. We've got one that looks at certain protein crystals.
We've got one that looks specifically at zeolite crystals. And those
are some experiments that are being conducted on ISS at the same
time that we're doing our research as well.
for someone who might ask and they may go down a list and compare
the list to what's happening on ISS, and say, "Well, they're doing
the same thing at the same time." Why is it necessary to be doing
some of the same experiments on two different spacecraft at the
reason we do some experiments on the shuttle and some experiments
on International Space Station is partly due to the duration of
the mission. In our case, being a 16-day mission, there are some
experiments that can be designed for shorter duration so that they
can send these up, they can get the results back, they can do some
analysis, and then they can turn around and try to go fly again.
On the space station, they may have some experiments that are designed
for a longer duration, to take a look at a process over a longer
period of time than what you can achieve on the shuttle. So, they
can design the experiment specifically to coincide with the flight
duration that they're looking at, whether it be a longer duration
on the International Space Station or a shorter duration on the
of the research on this mission, some people may think that it should
yield an immediate solution to a problem or prove a theory or not
prove a theory. But, that's really not always the case. Can you
kind of give us an idea of the role scientific research plays in
the problem-solving process of science or theory-proving or -disproving
research, the role that it plays in solving problems or proving
or disproving theories, is that initially you come up with an idea
or a theory or think of a way to try and do something, and then
you try and design an experiment that will either prove or disprove
the theory that you've developed. And depending on how complex the
theory is, it may take a very long time and several different types
of experiments to be able to get the kind of information that you
need to be able to say, definitively, that, "Yes, this is true."
Or, "No, it's not true." Additionally, whenever you're doing research,
and just trying to learn things about different processes-whether
it happens to be the respiration system in the human body and how
it reacts to microgravity, or how calcium is absorbed or shed from
the bones when you're in microgravity-those are [the] kinds of things
that you have to study over a fairly long period of time to make
sure that when you've got, say, one set of subjects, you need to
be able to compare the results to another set and another set and
another set to make sure that the results you get are repeatable.
To make sure that what you're seeing is actually true, and not just
something that's true for a particular person or a particular experiment
that you've designed.
of the experiments call for some of the crewmembers to be research
subjects themselves. What is that like, seeing that happen, first
of all? And are there parts of those experiments that call for preflight
and postflight experimentation, I guess?
are, several of us are participating in different types of experiments.
We've got four members of the crew-Laurel Clark, Dave Brown, Mike
Anderson, and Ilan Ramon-who are participating in experiments on
orbit that take a look at calcium absorption in the bloodstream,
taking a look at their respiratory systems, taking a look at kidney
function and also protein turnover in the body from what they eat.
And trying to see what kind of effects microgravity have on them
as a result. The rest of us on the crew-myself, Kalpana Chawla,
and Willie McCool-are participating in some experiments that aren't
quite as invasive while we're on orbit. Because with myself as a
Commander and Willie as a Pilot and Kalpana as the Flight Engineer,
they want to preserve the Orbiter crew that primarily is responsible
for flying the Orbiter to make sure that nothing happens to us in
the event that anything that would affect us being able to land
the shuttle. All the experiments that they do on subjects on these
spaceflights go through a very extensive safety review. And we're
very confident that there won't be any adverse effects. Mainly the
things that are being done to the payload crew are that we're taking
some blood samples, and then we're running those through a centrifuge
and doing some portable blood analysis with a portable blood analyzer
that we have on orbit. And we're also taking different samples of
calcium solutions and injecting those, as a tracer infusion, into
the payload crew and then taking a look at how the body turns that
over with the metabolism that we see in spaceflight.
as far as preflight and postflight, those things, what's--
to happen there?
On all of
these experiments, especially the ones that have to deal with human
subjects, they take baseline data from the subjects on the ground
before they launch; and they'll do that anywhere from 90 days prior
to launch, 60 days prior, 45 days, 30 days. And they'll have a whole
schedule set up as to what type of blood samples they need, what
type of information they need. And they'll keep a log of that so
that they can kind of track how these people deal with the different
experiments in the Earth environment. And then what they'll do is:
They've got a very set series of experiments and protocols that
they'll go through while they're on orbit, and then take a look
at that information to see what effects microgravity has on those
different processes. Then when we get back, we'll be doing postflight
data collection over a very long series of days, which goes all
the way out to 45 days after we've landed. And they will compare
how long it takes for the body to return to normal from what they
saw before they took off, and then what they saw after they've landed.
is going to be the first extended-duration mission since STS-90.
And it's going to be the first of your career. What are your thoughts
about being on such a long mission? Any concerns or just thoughts?
really looking forward to it. I think it's a great opportunity to
be able to go up and fly for 16 days, which is a longer than normal
duration for most of the shuttle flights. And, you know, most of
us get to fly maybe once every two, three, maybe four years. And
so, it's a great opportunity to be able to go up there and to be
able to work a mission like this that has so much importance for
so many people here on Earth, and to be able to spend that amount
of time working in that environment. In many cases, I know from
our first flight, it was a 10-day mission. And when it came, when
it was time to come home, we knew the mission was complete. But
we would've loved to have stayed up there for a few extra days.
In this particular case, we're going to get to stay for six extra
days compared to my first mission, which I think will be a tremendous
you mentioned about how the mission will impact a lot of people
around the world…a lot of the research comes from a lot of the places
around the world. And,--
you guys have visited those places, some of them. Can you talk a
little bit about what it means to you to be part of the mission
as it relates to that, doing some real good, you know for the global
say it's certainly a humbling experience when you realize how many
people work to put together a space mission like this. And to be
able to go to various places and visit the people who have worked
very hard on all of these experiments, developing them, going through
all the processes it takes to get them certified to fly on the shuttle.
And then, going through the training and learning about the experiments
from these people, and understanding what it is they're trying to
achieve by doing these experiments, it's a great honor to be able
to be part of that process. And to be part of the process that involves
so many people around the world, whether it be people here around
the country, in the United States, people over in Europe, in Israel
with the Israeli payload that we're carrying up, and we've even
got some student experiments that come from Japan and various parts
of the world. So, it's really fun and exciting to think that so
many different people around the world are interested in doing that
kind of research, that kind of work, and that we get to be able
to take part in that as well.
touched on earlier about the mission being constructed into a dual-shift
mission…it calls for dual shift. Why is a dual shift necessary on
this mission? And what's the advantage of having a dual-shift mission?
a dual-shift mission on this particular flight, which means that
we've got half of the crew on a shift called the Red Shift. We've
got four people on that shift. And then, we've got the other three
people on what we call the Blue Shift. And our sleep schedules are
about 180 degrees out, so that we can have somebody up all the time
doing work on the experiments. And what that allows us to do is:
It allows us to get more experiment runs on some of the experiments.
Like the ARMS experiment has a cycle ergometer, like a stationary
bicycle, that the subjects get on and pedal and do some breathing
and doing that kind of research. If all of us were awake at the
same time with just one ergometer available, we wouldn't be able
to get as many science runs as if we split the shifts and got on
opposite ends of the clock and were able to run, say, two people
through on one shift and two people through on the next shift. So,
we get twice as much science that way from that particular experiment.
And, it's true for some of the other experiments as well. We can
just kind of keep things going around the clock.
no rendezvous or docking for this mission. But there's still a process
of getting to orbit and getting back to Earth.
you kind of give us an idea, talk us through what's going to happen
inside the Orbiter, what, duty-wise--
the way up, and for landing.
there are like three phases to the actual flying of a space shuttle
mission. The first phase being ascent, where the shuttle is like
a rocket and you launch from the launch pad, and 8½ minutes later
you get into orbit. Then you take the time to transition the Orbiter
from a rocket into an orbiter. So, we're configuring everything
inside, activating systems, activating payloads, opening up the
payload bay doors so that we can get cooling from the Freon loops
in those doors for all of the equipment inside. And, we deploy a
communications antenna, and we get everything set up so that we
can start doing the business at hand and the science that we have
set up for our mission. We'll be doing several different attitude
maneuvers, and adjusting where we're pointing, because we've got
some payloads that want to look at the Sun, some that want to look
at the Moon, some that want to look at the Earth, and others that
want to track specific locations on the ground. So, we get ourselves
all set up to operate as an orbiter for the bulk of the mission
during the 16 days we will be up. At the end of the mission what
we do is: We go ahead and we get the Orbiter ready to come in and
land. So, we're going to retract the communications antenna. We're
going to close the payload bay doors. We're going to get everything
ready to go, everything stowed away, everything back in its place
so that we can do a deorbit burn to slow us down a little bit, and
then come back down into the atmosphere and glide in for a landing
on a runway at the end of the mission.
Can you talk me through who's going to be where on the way up? Just
briefly talk about their specific duties for that duration, and
also the same on the way down.
Sure. On ascent,
I'll be in the left seat up front as the Commander. Willie McCool
will be in the right seat as the Pilot. In the middle, just behind
us, will be Kalpana Chawla. She'll be there as what we call MS-2
(Mission Specialist-2). And that's as the Flight Engineer. Behind
Willie will be Dave Brown. Right next to Kalpana as well. And he
will be assisting Willie kind of as a backup for Willie monitoring
all the systems. As the Commander, I'm kind of in charge of the
overall big picture, making sure that the trajectory of the Orbiter
is going well, that we're going the right direction, we're doing
what we're supposed to do. Willie's in charge of the main engines,
the hydraulics, the electrical systems, the thrusters. So, he's
a very busy person if things don't go exactly as planned. I'm taking
care of the air-conditioning system, the environmental control system,
the computers on board that control the vehicle. And during all
of this, Kalpana, as the Flight Engineer, she's got to be responsible
for both sides of the cockpit to be able to help us out with the
checklists. And, Dave, as Mission Specialist-1, he kind of keeps
a big picture view of what's going on and helps Willie, if Willie
has to work a certain procedure, anything like that, and also monitors
systems from a display that he has back there by his seat. Downstairs,
Mike Anderson and Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon will be riding in
the middeck. And they are there riding up into orbit. And once we
get to main engine cutoff, and we are on orbit, they will unstrap
and get out of their seats. Mike will come upstairs with a camera,
and he and Dave will take a picture of the external tank that we
have just jettisoned. And then, everybody kind of goes to work starting
to put the Orbiter in a configuration to be on orbit for the next
several days. Mike Anderson will be the, what we call, post-insertion
guru. And he's the one who's kind of going to be in charge of running
everything downstairs on the middeck and making sure everything
gets set up and squared away. Whereas I'll be running things on
the flight deck, and making sure we get everything squared away
up there. On entry, Dave and Laurel will swap seats. So, Dave will
be downstairs. Laurel will be sitting in the Mission Specialist-1
position, behind Willie. And so, she's…performing the same function
as Dave was, except this time for entry. She'll be keeping…track
of the systems, helping Willie out if there's a procedure that he
needs to work, monitoring the display that she has back there, and
also helping out Kalpana on the way in as we need to. We work as
a four-person team on the flight deck during ascent and entry. And
then, down on the middeck, getting ready to come home, Dave Brown
will be the deorbit prep guru. So, he's going to be in charge of
making sure we get everything squared away in the middeck. Everything's
stowed, everything's tied down, the seats are all in place, cooling
units for our suits. And Ilan and Mike will be helping him. Ilan
will be helping people get suited up. Mike will be helping with
the switches, and making sure everything is in its place. And then,
again, I'll be upstairs making sure we get everything done on the
flight deck that needs to be done to come in for entry and landing.
talk a little bit about some of the experiments you're going to
be personally working with. We mentioned MEIDEX, the Mediterranean
Israeli Dust Experiment, before. Maybe a little bit more about what
that is and the purpose of it. And also I know you mentioned the
different attitude changes that the Orbiter has to take for some
of these experiments. Maybe kind of weave that into there, too.
stands for Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment. And that is the
payload that we're carrying that is sponsored by the Israeli Space
Agency. And this is a payload that is mounted on a rail, out in
the payload bay, back behind the Spacehab. And it's got two different
cameras. It's got a narrow field-of-view camera and a wide field-of-view
camera that if we orient the Orbiter looking down towards the Earth,
we can use the wide field-of-view camera to take a look at the swath
of the Earth that we're looking at, and we can use that, what the
objective of is: is to try and study dust storms in the Atlantic
and Mediterranean area, and also to characterize like sea surface
variations. And so, what they'll do is: they'll set us up for a
region of interest that we're supposed to look at for each pass.
And we get the Orbiter maneuvered in the appropriate position, we
open up the door to the canister that these cameras are mounted
in, and then we turn on some recorders to record the information
that we're seeing down there on the Earth. And we can use the wide
field-of-view camera to kind of make sure that we're looking in
the right place. And then, the narrow field-of-view camera is a
much greater magnification, and it gets much greater detail. So
we can use the wide field-of-view camera to focus in or zoom in
on the appropriate point of the dust storm that, say, is the heaviest
amount of activity. And we can control that from a laptop computer
inside the Orbiter cockpit. So, they're doing this to try and study
the sea surface variations, also dust, what they call aerosols,
like when the dust kind of gets and hangs in the air. They hope
to be able to characterize the size and composition of the dust
particles, where the dust storms originate from, and where they
tend to travel to. And then, they'll also have a small airplane
that has got instruments on board that should be flying in the same
area on some of the passes while we fly over. And what they'll be
able to do with those is to correlate the data after we've flown
to see what kind of measurements the airplane, actually flying around
in that dirt storm, gets versus what kind of information they predict
or think that they see from space, to see if they can actually calibrate
the space instrument itself. It also turns out that the way those
cameras are set up in the MEIDEX experiment, they also happen to
be just perfect for looking at some electromagnetic phenomenon in
thunderstorms called sprites and elves. They've got all these great
names for these electromagnetic pulses that come up out of thunderstorms
usually about the same time a lightning strike is going down to
the Earth. So, we'll be orienting the Orbiter vertically as we travel,
looking back towards some thunderstorms out in the distance. And
we'll be trying to adjust the attitude of the Orbiter to just the
right height to hopefully catch some of these electromagnetic pulses
on film and see what they can learn about them. This is something
that I guess is, there's a lot of interest that's been generated
all over the world about these sprites and elves, they call them.
Those are two different types of phenomenon. Another one is called
blue jets. And it's the kind of thing that you don't normally see
with the naked eye because whenever the lightning flashes, your
pupil tends to close down to adjust to that light. And these other
electromagnetic phenomenon, this, you know, lightning bolt that
goes up out the top of a thunderstorm is not as bright. So, you
tend not to see it because it's, your eye has adjusted to the brightness
of the lightning strike itself. So, they hope to be able to capture
some data about, about these things with the MEIDEX experiment as
well, so we kind of get two types of research when the original
idea was to just be able to look at dust aerosols in the atmosphere.
added bonus, I guess.
the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment. What is that? What's
the purpose of it? And what's your, what will you be doing--
that stands for Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment, and this
is the second time that it has flown. And, what this experiment
does is measures ozone by looking through the atmosphere. So, if
you imagine my hand as the Earth, normally previous ozone experiments
have looked straight down and measured the total amount of ozone
from wherever the measuring instrument is to the surface. The SOLSE
instrument will be mounted in the payload bay of the Orbiter so
that we'll be looking at the atmosphere kind of at an angle, parallel
to the Earth's surface. And it can measure the amount of ozone at
different altitudes. And, that'll be some information that they
haven't been able to determine before. All they've been able to
do previously is measure just the total amount from [the] surface
to up wherever the instrument happens to be. In this particular
case, they'll be able to measure concentrations at different heights
in the atmosphere and get an idea of how the ozone is distributed
within the atmosphere. So, we'll be operating that payload from
a laptop that's inside the Orbiter cockpit. And, we'll be opening
a door, and that will expose this sensor that takes data of light
as it comes through the Earth's atmosphere. And based on the light
and the information that they gather from that, they can then determine
the amount of ozone at the different layers in the atmosphere based
on the light readings that they get.
there another experiment that you're going to be working with that
you're particularly excited about? Looking forward to working with?
are other experiments. There are several other experiments that
I'm working on. I'm working on, like I said, the SOLSE and the MEIDEX.
I'm also working on OSTEO and ERISTO, and those are both osteoporosis
experiments. And, those are some experiments that will take a look
at how bone cells form in microgravity, how the bones reject calcium
in microgravity, and the great thing about this is that they'll
be able to have several different cultures of material that can
simulate actual human bone and simulate the growth process that
they see in microgravity. In microgravity, the human body tends
to lose calcium at a much greater rate than you do on Earth. So,
it's like you see an accelerated process of osteoporosis. And so,
it gives people the opportunity to study that process in a short
period of time, and find ways to try and prevent the loss of calcium,
which will help people here on Earth and it'll also help people
in space on long-duration missions for folks whenever they're flying
on the space station for a long period of time, or if they're traveling,
say, to Mars for a long-duration mission. If we can figure out how
to stop or slow down that accelerated loss of calcium in the bones,
that would be a great benefit, both to people who are traveling
in space and people here on Earth. So, I think that's going to be
a really good experiment for benefits both to humans here and the
ones who travel in space. I'm also participating as a blood taker,
phlebotomist, is the fancy word for that,--
the PhAB4 experiment (it stands for physiology and biochemistry).
Myself and Willie McCool as well as all four of the payload crew
- Dave Brown, Laurel Clark, Mike Anderson, and Ilan Ramon - we've
all been trained to take blood. And so, Willie and I will be helping
out with the payload crew during the different times of the mission
that they have to have blood samples taken. Willie and I have been
trained to be able to take blood and analyze the blood and centrifuge
the samples and put them away. So, we'll be very busy helping those
folks out with their experiments as well.
talked a little bit, there's some student experiments that are being
flown on the mission. Why is it important to fly student experiments
on missions? What's the benefit of doing that?
I think the
benefit and the importance of flying student experiments on these
missions is that it gives schoolchildren a chance to learn and understand
what the process is, first of all, of trying to fly something in
space to do an experiment; secondly, it gets them to sit down and
think about how they would like to package an experiment, how they
would like to carry an experiment out, it gets them excited and
interested in science and the scientific process and the way you
go about trying to learn things, learn new things about processes
and different things that we encounter in everyday life. And, it
gives them an opportunity to feel more a part of a particular mission
and the space program in general. Because I know that the space
program serves as a great inspiration for kids, and is a very good
thing to help them get interested in science and technology and
those types of things so that it motivates them when they're in
school to study hard and work hard and do the best they can. And
also to hopefully achieve their dreams, whether that happens to
be in a technical field or in a nontechnical field, it gives them
the opportunity to really become a part of something and get excited
You talked about safety before briefly. If we can revisit that for
a second and just, as Commander, you obviously have to feel comfortable
that there have been measures taken to ensure the crew's safety.
Because you [will] be working with some potentially dangerous elements
and in some potentially dangerous situations. Can you talk a little
bit about NASA and safety as it pertains to this mission?
is a very, very important aspect of everything that we do. And,
the nature of what we do has a certain level of risk associated
with it. Certainly whenever we launch, the amount of energy that's
being expended during launch and ascent is a mind-boggling amount
of energy that's being released. And, it's got to be released in
a very controlled fashion. And, safety is a very important thing
in that we have to take a look at the small portions of every process
to make sure that they're being done in a safe way and in a technically
sound way to try and minimize the risks. You can't eliminate risk
in anything you do. But, what you try and do is: you take a good,
smart look at it and try to minimize those risks to maximize your
chances for success. We do that not only for ascent, but also for
everything that we do, even inside the Orbiter with the experiments
that we're doing. We have a Combustion Module where we will be lighting
some fires and studying the different characteristics and the aspects
of these different flames. And when I say that we're lighting fires,
it's not some roaring blaze or anything. It's a mixture of gas in
a combustion chamber that is very well sealed and it has some cameras
that can look in there and see these small flames. And, they're
very small. And they are able to look at those and measure data,
measure the characteristics of those flames. But, that is something
that you'd think, you know, you certainly don't want a fire raging
on your spacecraft. So, this thing is in a special container, very
safe, and set so that it's designed to be a safe system for people
to work with. All of the other experiments, whether it happens to
be the fact that we're taking blood from somebody on orbit or the
fact that we're doing some tracer infusions, we go through a lot
of training before we go and launch to make sure that we're very
competent at doing those things. And to make sure that we've had
the opportunity to see all the different things that might happen
when we go up on this mission and actually execute these experiments.
So, in every thing we do, we've got a very fine safety organization
that takes a look at everything. Each of the payloads has to go
through a safety review and be approved to fly on a flight. And
so, it's a very, very meticulous process, but one that pays benefits
in the long run because we want to try and protect our investment
so that we can go and fly these missions and then bring the equipment
home, and then go and fly them again. So, it plays a very important
role in the success of each and every mission.
Spacehab Research Double Module. Can you talk a little bit about
what advantage it's going to lend to this mission? Its use and just
a little bit about basically what it is.
Spacehab Research Double Module is a double Spacehab module that
has had some additional equipment added in to the aft portion of
the module. And, that primarily adds up to some environmental control
systems that will remove moisture from the air back in the Spacehab.
The other Spacehab modules, the Logistics Double Modules that go
up and deliver supplies to space station, they don't have that humidity-removal
system in there, and so the Orbiter is responsible for removing
all the humidity. And, with this additional equipment back there,
they figure that it will take some of the load off of the Orbiter
and be able to better control the environment back there for people
to work in. And, they've also added in some additional power capability
and some additional data-handling capability in the module so that
it can accommodate more experiments and power more experiments as
a result. And then, ship that data to the Orbiter to then be sent
to the ground or recorded on board. So, it's a module that is much
more specifically designed to be an on-orbit laboratory in the back
of the Orbiter payload bay.
you maybe give a brief overview of what FREESTAR is and how it's
going to be used on the mission?
a carrier. It's kind of a big piece of iron that's bolted into the
back of the Orbiter payload bay, behind the Spacehab. I don't know
if it's actually made of iron or not. Some big piece of metal. And,
it's a structural member that you can bolt payloads onto. And so,
it's onto the FREESTAR that the MEIDEX experiment canister, the
SOLSE-2 experiment canister are bolted onto, and we've also got
a SOLCON experiment, which is an experiment that looks at the Sun
and measures the solar constant, and several other experiments that
are bolted on there. So, it's kind of like a rack that you can bolt
experiments onto. They provide power to those experiments the way
that the FREESTAR interfaces with the Orbiter power system. And
then, they also provide commanding capability, either from the ground
or from inside the Orbiter to be able to send commands to the payloads,
either to open a door, to start a process, to stop a process, those
different kinds of things. And, FREESTAR is sponsored by Goddard
Space Flight Center, and they're the ones that are in charge of
managing which experiments are going to be on the FREESTAR, how
they get incorporated, testing those experiments and making sure
that they will work with the Orbiter, and ensuring that the procedures
and the data is handled for their customers.
And how does the ability to have this payload, this piece of equipment,
exposed to space beneficial to these experiments? Could these experiments
be done without them being outside? I guess, how is that beneficial?
for these particular experiments to be outside, in the vacuum of
space, because they're either looking at the Sun or they're looking
at the Earth or at the Earth's atmosphere. And so, you want to have
an unencumbered view of those things, and being able to put them
right out there in the payload bay is the best way to be able to
do that. If you tried to put them inside the Orbiter, then you'd
have the windows that you have to look through that might cut down
on some of the light frequency or some of the information that they're
looking for from the particular subjects that they're trying to
look at. So, being out there in the payload bay is probably the
best place for these particular experiments to be.
I'd like to talk a little bit about you and your background. If
you were to think back growing up about your interest, what intrigued,
what was it about those things that made Rick Husband NASA material?
the time I was about four years old, I wanted to be an astronaut.
And, it was about that time when the Mercury program started up.
And so, I saw those things on the TV, and it just really excited
me. It really grabbed my interest. And, seeing those rockets and
learning about the astronauts, and seeing what they were doing,
and then the models that came out in the stores and you could build
the plastic models, and I remember building a Gemini model that
I put together. And just, I thought everything about that was so
fascinating. And in following that all the way through, from Mercury
to Gemini to Apollo, watching the Moon landings and everything,
it was just so incredibly adventurous and exciting to me that I
just thought, "There is no doubt in my mind that that's what I want
to do when I grow up." And at the same time, I was very interested
in airplanes and flying. And, you know, I'd be out in my backyard
playing. And, any time I heard any kind of an airplane, you know,
it's like, stop what you're doing and take a look and see, "Where's
that airplane? What kind is it? Where is it going? How high is it?
How fast is it going?" And so, it's the kind of thing that has just
been such a part of my life in what I wanted to do when I grew up.
And so, as I grew up I became interested in math and science, and
went to college at Texas Tech University, and had the good fortunate
of being able to join Air Force ROTC and get a pilot's slot. While
I was at school at Texas Tech was about the time that they were
hiring the first bunch of shuttle astronauts. So, I sent a letter
off to NASA asking them, what kind of requirements were necessary
to become an astronaut? So, I got a package back, and it told about
the Pilots and the Mission Specialists and the requirements that
were necessary. And so, that kind of laid the pathway for what I
needed to do if I wanted to be a Pilot-astronaut. So, I joined the
Air Force, went through pilot training, got to go fly fighters.
I flew F-4s, operationally. And then, I went through Test Pilot
School. And, after Test Pilot School, finished a masters in engineering
and started applying to the space program. And, I applied four different
two different times, and then was hired after the second interview.
And so, it was the achievement of a lifelong dream and a goal. And,
it's very humbling, I'd say, and exciting at the same time to be
able to actually go and do the kind of thing that I'd wanted to
do, and the thing that I had looked forward to doing for such a
good. Were you actually able, when you were a kid, looking up, were
you able to automatically recognize what type of plane that you
were looking at?
You know, I think it probably went down to just basic categories,
like jets and props and things like that.
So, as I got
older and learned more about airplanes, I got to where I could recognize
a few different types.
Outside of your time with NASA, what's been your most enjoyable
time or experience in life?
Well, I think
apart from NASA, the most enjoyable part of my life has been my
time with my family. And, if you think about, probably the pinnacle
or the most exciting or memorable events, I would say probably my
marriage and then the birth of our two children, and being there
with my wife, and just the awesome experience of seeing a baby come
into the world. And just being so overwhelmed with God's goodness
in blessing us with two wonderful children.
of your hobbies is singing. Was that something that you had as a
kid? Or, is this recent? Tell me about that?
been singing for a long time. Whenever I was growing up going to
church, I sang in church choir as a real little kid. And then, I
sang in choir in school, elementary, junior high, and high school.
I sang in a barbershop quartet for several years with different
groups of guys. And, when I went off to college, I was majoring
in engineering but still was very interested in music because it
was just such an enjoyable part of my life. I just really love music,
and I love singing. And so, while I was taking engineering courses,
I was also a member of the Texas Tech Choir, with all these other
music majors and everything. And so, I was very fortunate to be
able to be in that choir. And, it served as a tremendous outlet
for me, to kind of broaden my horizons and my experience in the
different types of music that we sang. And then after college I
primarily have spent my time singing in church choir. And sometimes
in community choirs, depending on where we lived at the time. And,
I continue to sing in a church choir today. So, it's something that
I really, really enjoy.
the experience like? What does it do for you? Is it therapeutic?
Or, is it--
able to sing, especially when you're singing a song just from the
standpoint of if it's something that you really think is a beautiful
song and you can really belt it out, or sing it with the kind of
precision that's necessary to sing, just depending on the type of
song it is. It, first of all, I think gives you a feeling of teamwork
with the other members of the choir. It also gives you a feeling
of almost release, in my particular case, because, it's, I'd say,
very relaxing. And then, especially with some of the songs that
we sing in church, just being able to sing a song to tell God how
much I love Him, it just feels great. It really does. And I think
it's probably almost as good as exercising.
let's see here. Your first mission was STS-96, the very first shuttle
docking to the ISS. What experience do you remember most, if there
is just one, about that mission, I mean because it's obviously something
that will stick out in your mind forever.
really hard to come up with just one experience from a space shuttle
mission that sticks in your mind the most. I can think of several.
And, some of them have to do more with the people. You know, I would
say probably one of the greatest benefits from my first flight was
being able to become a member of a crew. We had a seven-person crew
on that flight as well, and it was just great getting to know all
the different people on the crew and work with them. And again,
that's another example of a tremendous amount of satisfaction from
a team pulling together and really achieving something great. And,
as far as the mission itself, you know, being able to go up there
for the first time and experience floating for a long duration was
really fantastic! Looking out the window at the beautiful views
was incredible! It was just an awesome and awe-inspiring experience,
being able to see the beauty of the Earth and the contrast of colors
down there. And then from a Pilot point of view, when you go and
do a rendezvous and docking with the space station, usually the
Commander is at the controls for the rendezvous and docking and
there's other people on the crew who are helping out as part of
the rendezvous team. And then for the undocking, usually the Pilot
gets to undock and fly around the space station. And so, this was
my first opportunity to actually be at the controls of the Orbiter.
And so, when we got to undock from the space station, we had the
opportunity to be able to do 2½ revolutions of the space station
while I was flying the Orbiter. And during that time, got to let
each of the crewmembers come up and, whenever I wanted to make an
input on the controls, I'd let them. I'd say, "Okay, give me an
up, give me a right, give me a left," you know, or whatever.
So they would
have the opportunity also to fire some of the jets and see what
it sounds like and what it feels like. And so, to be able to share
that with the rest of the crew was a great thing. And, just to see
the excitement in everybody's face. And, I remember during that
one time, when we were doing that fly-around, about somewhere in
the middle of it, I'd just finally turned around and looked at everybody
and said, "This is so much fun!" You know, because you work so hard,
and you're always so serious about everything that you've got to
learn. Because there's so many things to keep track of, and we always
have a tendency to focus on the malfunctions and what you're going
to do if you have some type of a malfunction, or how you're going
to react and everything. And so, it's very serious all the time.
But, it was just great to be able to, at that one point, you know,
just let it out and say, "You know, this is a blast!" And so, that
amongst many other things on the flight, were a real thrill. And
it just makes me look that much more forward to going up again on
STS-107, then, there are several first-time fliers. And a few one-time
fliers. Yourself being one. How has the closeness in experience
helped bring the crew together? And also helped you prepare for
your role as a first-time Commander with the rest of the crew?
first of all, I would say a great honor that we all get to fly together
on this mission. And, we have a great team of people. We have had
a few launch slips times when the launch date has slipped further
and further away. But, we've taken great advantage of those, and
the Astronaut Office has been very helpful in helping us take advantage
of those. One of the things that we got to go do as a crew was to
go and attend a course that is sponsored by the National Outdoor
Leadership School. And, this was a course where we went up to Wyoming,
and as a crew the seven of us went out into the mountains in Wyoming
with two instructors from the National Outdoor Leadership School,
which is called NOLS. So, us and our two instructors, we all went
out into the mountains and we backpacked with 50-, 60-pound packs
for nine nights and 10 days out there. And we got to see some incredible
scenery. We got to learn a lot about how each of us, as individuals,
deal with the kind of situations that they put us into. It's a physical
challenge with the backpacks and the walking up and down. And, it's
also a challenge learning how to keep track of all of your equipment
personally. And then learning to work together, pulling together
and learning more about each other. So that when you come back,
you have just about gotten to the point where you know each other
very, very well, and you know each other's strengths and weaknesses,
and so you can maximize that during the rest of your training flow.
And so, we've had a great amount of time from the time we went to
NOLS to the time that we are now going to go and launch, and from
what we learned in that course, we've been able to apply in our
training, in our working together. And, we all, I think, understand
each other probably as well as a crew does when they come back from
a space mission. So, I think we've got that as a very large plus
in our column, where we are going up with seven people, only three
of us having flown one mission each before. So, I think it's going
to be a very rewarding flight, first of all, with all of us going
up and putting this mission together with the help of so many great
people here on the ground. And then, being able to execute the mission
and come back, and just experience the satisfaction of saying, "We
were able to do it." You know, we joke around sometimes saying that,
"Before Jerry Ross flew his last mission where he flew on his seventh
mission, he had six flights to his credit." And we said, you know,
"Our crew only had half that amount of flight experience. And now
he's got more than twice the flight experience that our crew has.
But, after our flight, we will have caught up with him and then
some." So, we've got some great folks. Very, very good, professional
and disciplined people, all with great sense of humor and all people
who work very hard and work together well. And, we're really looking
forward to going to fly on this mission.