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Preflight Interview: Linda Godwin

The STS-108 Crew Interviews with Linda Godwin, mission specialist.

The STS-108 Crew Interviews with Linda Godwin, Mission Specialist 1 on this flight to the International Space Station. Linda, your mission is designated UF-1, for Utilization Flight-1-what does that mean as far as the space station program goes? What in a nutshell are you, is it that you're going to do on this mission?

As you said, UF is Utilization Flight. That got put in the manifest, you know, in the whole station construction manifest, quite some time ago because they felt at this point in the construction that it was time to turn the corner a little bit and have some emphasis on utilizing what we have built up there until now. Now, as it's turned out, by this point in time some other flights have also taken up some science and some racks of equipment, but I think nevertheless UF-1 is still kind of the focal point for saying this is now the transition time between enough major construction that we have a self-sustaining, self-sufficient station up there, and so we're kind of ready to bridge on to the next stage of using it for the purpose of why we built it. So we are taking up science, we are taking up a lot of supplies. And so not only are our astronaut crews up there on the ISS maintainers and builders of station, now they've become researchers as well. And so that's just a change, kind of, in the attitude, I think, of how we're using the station, so there's still more building and things to do next year to improve upon what's up there, make the, you know, add more power capability so we can get more modules, but this has been a big year in terms of adding robotic capability, you know, adding more living space, and now finally to where we're adding more science.

For you, this is your fourth shuttle mission, and it's coming more than five years after your last one, which is one of the early visits to the Mir space station. After a few years like that, off in management, what's it been like for you to go through a training flow to get ready for another trip?

Well, it has been a while. Of course, you know, in the Astronaut Office we're never totally out of training, we always keep our hand in it, some of it. But after five years [things] have changed and so it's been good to get back into the flow and relearn a lot of things. I've been much more involved in the rendezvous training for this mission than I was on the rendezvous that we trained to do to go to Mir, so that's been, you know, something I've really enjoyed doing. And we didn't have robotic, we didn't use the shuttle robot arm before, so this has been, you know, a training flow to get ready for that. But the sense of going to a place, you know, that's already there in Earth orbit, it feels the same, and the fact that we're talking about transfer operations-we had that before-so there's been some similarity but a lot of new stuff. And, as you said, you know, there's a lot of relearning to get back in the flow.

Tell me how it is that you got to be an astronaut anyway. What did you do to acquire the skills that were necessary to become "astronaut material"?

It's not something I knew I'd be doing back when you have to make a lot of decisions about where's my education going, where's my career going. But I did grow up with a really big interest in math and science; I liked it. [I] grew up watching a lot of the coverage of the early U.S. space program, you know, all the way back starting with Mercury and then through Gemini and Apollo and of course going to the moon as the part of, the main part of the Apollo program. So that made me interested in NASA, but I never thought it was something I could do, but I imagine that it fueled an interest in the science that I had already. So I chose to go into physics and math when I went to college, and to go onto graduate school, and I was really already, you know, two-thirds or so of the way through a Ph.D. before NASA announced they were hiring shuttle astronauts, kind of a new category of science astronauts called Mission Specialists, and the first time they were hiring women. And I was fortunate enough to have chosen some educational routes that put me in a position where I could at least have a shot at it, so that's when I really began to think about applying still never really thinking I'd make it-you know, I tell people if I can get here, you know, all of you guys out there have a shot at it, too. But, that's really I think watching the early programs and having an interest in science and math I came the purely civilian route to get here, so that's kind of what channeled me in. And if you want to work for the government you fill out the required paperwork and go through all the hoops, and if you're lucky, fortunate, your timing's right, you get down here to talk to the selection committee and get a shot at being an astronaut.

Were there then or are there still now, certain people that you look at and recognize as being pretty significant influences in your life?

It's always kind of tough to single out a few, 'cause I know for everybody there's a lot of people. I mean, certainly my parents always assumed I would go to college, you know, so they were there to promote education, and you-gotta-do-that-it's-really-important, I had some good math and science teachers, you know, going through, and somehow instead of turning me off they made it seem interesting. And my high school science teacher's come to all my shuttle launches so far, so I've kept some contacts in there and my graduate school adviser the same thing. So there were some people there, you know, that I saw-the education process, I think, is really important, and teachers and educators there play a big role in how their students turn out.

You look at a shuttle flight crew and all, put all the members together, they possess a pretty wide range of talents that are needed to complete a mission. Tell me about what'll, in general, what'll be your top jobs on this mission, and about what it's been like to spend the last year studying and practicing to be able to do those things.

Our training flow's been busy. First of all, you know, our shuttle crew is four people, because we're going to transfer a crew up to station, so one thing that's been different for me on this flow is that all the jobs are divided between four people rather than five or six people. So it's been busy. And my main roles, I'm the lead for the spacewalk for the, using the shuttle arm, and for the transfer operations, and, as well as many other duties as assigned. So everybody has their own niche and that's where I've been spending my time.

As you said, you're bringing a new station crew up, so you and your shuttle crewmates [have] had to coordinate what you're doing with the Expedition crew that's already on the station right now as well as the one that you're bringing to orbit as well. How do you deal with the challenge of keeping up to speed with your folks, and with all of the folks, who are on orbit and people here, how do you keep all, how do you keep it all straight?

It's really kind of a challenge to keep coordinated with the two station crews that we'll be interacting with. And of course one of them, you know, launched quite some time before our mission, a few months ahead of us, so we spent what time we could before their launch rehearsing certain things with them like the deorbit preparations but we don't get a lot of time. And, both for that crew and the crew we're taking up where we've had maybe a little more time with them to train, we are also relying on the fact that each crew has experienced shuttle crewmembers on it, and that's helped us out a lot because they've been through this so they kind of know what we need to do together and how we need to work together. And we'll also, we will have followed up… we've had telecons on orbit with the increment three crew so that Frank and his crew knows what we need when we get there and, of course, they learn ahead of time what they need to have packed for us when we get there so we can bring it home, so we also rely on just talking to them while they're on the station to try to coordinate. So it's, this is very different; you know, that's something that I haven't had to work with before.

Well, in order to do this job one of the first things that's going to have to happen is that you and your crewmates are going to have to dock Endeavour to the space station. Tell me about what your role is as a member of that team and give me a description of how the docking's accomplished.

We are using all four of our shuttle crewmembers as part of the docking, and we'll use some of our increment crew to help us out as well. My major role has been doing the cameras using the handheld laser, which is a backup tool we actually use out of the overhead window to sight off different points on station to give us range and range rate; we also carry other sensors that help us do that that are prime to be used, but as always we prepare for all sorts of contingencies. And, this whole, the whole first few days of the flight, you know, up until docking on day 3, are all spent really in the rendezvous [because] we start, we launch at a time that puts us in an optimal position to catch up to station. We launch when we're, you know, kind of in the same orbit that they are in terms of being matched up in inclination in space, and we're just in a little different altitude. So we start to catch up over a series of burns using our Orbital Maneuvering System and our reaction control jets, until we're below them at, we're below them in orbit so we're moving a little faster, and we get exactly below them on what's called the R-bar-we're on the same radius from the Earth-and then we start to swing around to where we're ahead of them on the velocity vector and so we come in relative to the station from this forward velocity position and dock on to the forward end of the Lab. So that's it sounds complicated but we do it in a series of steps, and while everybody's whizzing by pretty fast, to us it's all just relative motion so nothing is happening all that quickly. And it takes a, you know, our Commander flies that in and the Pilot is backing him up and doing a lot of the rendezvous work, and Mark's doing that, and Dom; Dan Tani's doing kind of keeping us all together and making sure the timeline is followed. So it takes a lot of people working together.

After the docking is complete the top priority of the mission becomes the crew exchange. Now back on STS-102, the station crewmembers were switched over one at a time over several days, but in August the Expedition 3 crew all moved onto the station on the same day. How's it going to be done this time, and is there a particular rationale for doing it one way or another?

We plan to change them out very close together, so it's as close as we can do it, to where we'll have the increment three crew officially on shuttle, the increment four crew is officially on station. And on the first flight you mentioned, they had some other things going on: some of the increment crewmembers were going to do shuttle EVAs, so they had to kind of phase it out, and Susan Helms, who was on that flight, was the IV crewmember, you know, the "inside guy" for the later shuttle EVAs, so they had duties that kept them tied to shuttle for a period of time. In these other crew exchanges we haven't had that. And if we don't, you know, if we can, we like to transfer them as a unit so that if for some reason we had to undock and leave quickly, we leave the new people there and we take the folks home who've already been there a few months rather than some mix of that. So that's the desirable situation.

Along with a new crew, your mission is delivering to the station some supplies and equipment much of it that's being carried inside one of the Multipurpose Logistics Modules. First off, can you describe what you're going to be doing the day after docking when the crew installs the MPLM onto the station's Unity module?

OK. Well, I'll be the person using the shuttle robotic arm, so I'll be assisted by Mark Kelly, who will be the R2 person, you know, looking at the display and backing me up, and then we reverse those roles when we put it back in the bay. But I'll be taking it out, so I'll grapple it with the shuttle arm, we lift it very slowly, straight up out of the bay, to kind of a low hover position, then we start moving it to high hover which moves it forward relative to the shuttle, and rotates it around a little bit and gets it positioned, ready to put it on to the Node. And then, we in coordination with the station people, they have to get the latches ready up there, we have to be in the right attitude control and all that, bring it on in, latch it, and then there's a, some work to do before we're ready to open up the hatches and start to unload. But we're going to, we're trying to, before we go to bed that night, get to the point where we've got the hatch open and we're at least ready to go inside.

This is, will be the fourth…

Yes, the fourth time.

… the fourth time you've done the MPLM. Have you gotten any tips from the people who did it the first three times about how to make this a simpler task?

[Yes.] We, you know, we listen to all those and the instructors, of course, build upon that base of knowledge, too, so as we get trained it kind of the training comes to us with the benefit of what has gone before. And so, yes, we have made use of that experience-sometimes it's good to be the fourth.

Well, you have experience running the shuttle's robot arm on orbit back on, with the deployment of the Gamma Ray Observatory. Has the experience of running those controls helped you get, feel more confident about doing this job?

Sure. I mean, that was good arm training back for that flight and some things have changed since then, so…that was back when we had very heavy payloads, there was a lot of uncommanded motion in the arm that you had to counteract and be very careful with that, and now we have some software that helps us do that, a lot of which was put into place because we had station construction coming down the road with some very heavy pieces of hardware and we really needed that. But this has, there's more-but we didn't have, we had to just lift it up and let it go when we deployed the GRO-so this has been interesting to also have to do an install. [Yes], but it definitely helps to have been through the arm training flow before and to have used the arm on orbit, and it also gives me the confidence to know that our training facilities are really good, that when you get up there, you feel like you've been there.

It's, it's…

It's…

…the realistic…

[Yes], the realism of them is very good.

Once the Raffaello is installed, it's scheduled to take four or five days to unload all that's coming up in it, and other material from the shuttle middeck as well, and then to pack the MPLM up again. Tell us, in general-because these things change as you get closer to launch-but in general what are the kinds of supplies and logistics that your mission is going to be delivering and bringing back home?

As you said, it's a combination of middeck and the MPLM, mostly in the MPLM. But, looking at all of this, we're taking up some science experiments, some crystal growth things, we're changing out, we have a refrigerator that carries up some samples, new samples that go into the station, we bring the old ones home; we have a lot of clothing, we have a lot of food-U.S. and Russian food-we're carrying up some EVA equipment, we're carrying up some items to help them do some maintenance on the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System; there's some things called CIDs, which are circuit interrupt devices, and that could even change-we think that's, we pretty well know what we're taking up, but even up until the day of launch if they need something, you know, there's some flexibility to get it up to the crew. So there's some people that really plan very carefully what's up there, what does the crew need, how much room do we have, and most of it is in the MPLM. So it gets packed back there very carefully, like a big jigsaw puzzle.

And for all of those people who've done all that planning, you're going to be their point man on orbit because you've been assigned the job of this mission's loadmaster to oversee the movement of everything back and forth. Can you give me a sense of the magnitude of that job and the difficulty, I guess, in trying to keep track of what's where?

Well, keeping track of it is tough. You know, you don't get away from the paperwork anywhere, and certainly not in space-we have our share of it. And it's kind of like the UPS guy: you know, you've got to sign for everything, you've got to make sure they made the right delivery, and…we've also, we've used the experience of all the previous transfers to help us with this, and gradually, you know, a picture emerges of what's the best way to do it. So our plan is, for the unloading to, we'll probably unload most of it to a staging area on the space station, as determined by the station crew; a few things will go to specific locations but a lot of it they can put away after we leave, so we have the luxury of unloading a lot of it to the same place, with a few items going to specific locations. And so we'll kind of get an assembly line going the best that we can and try to be very efficient on that. The repacking depends on how much time the increment crew that's been on board has had to get that ready for us, because they get a list, before we arrive, that says this bag needs this in it with this label, and it's pretty complicated and they have a lot of sorting and packing to do to get that ready. And that all is supposed to match our list of items that come back, and there are specific places for it to go because we have to worry about the mass loading, you know, where things are in the MPLM so that all the stress loads have been analyzed, and so it's been likened to putting a jigsaw puzzle back together. When you start with a few pieces it takes a while, but as you get a lot of it in it goes faster. And so that's, we'll try to move all of the items that have been prepacked, that we have to take home, back into the empty spaces in the MPLM, like the end cones, and then sort it out and put this piece here and this piece here, according to how it's all been laid out on our plan. And, as you said, the paperwork, we've got to check off, say [yes], that came through, that came through, and when we're done we, it's very important to know that we packed it right because it is a safety issue for coming home.

The plans for the spacewalk on this mission have changed during the time that you've been training, as a result of circumstances that are happening on orbit. Linda, what is the current plan for EVA on STS-108, and what are these circumstances that are forcing the changes?

[Yes], our flight was always designated as some Launch On Need or flexible mission to meet the maintenance needs of station, all the way along. So what we have come to now is that the Beta Gimbal Assemblies, which are involved with the rotation of the solar arrays, have been showing, for quite some time, some unusual current readings-periodically sometimes worse, sometimes better… still functioning. But the engineers have been scratching their head and trying to figure out what to do, and while we were looking at a repair and replacement for quite a while, now they've decided there is some thermal issues at play here, at least they think there's a good possibility of that. And it makes a lot more sense to go try to fix those first. So we have two thermal blankets that have been fabricated; we're going to take one out and put one on each of these two gimbal assembly housings and they get Velcroed in place. We think it's a pretty straightforward task, and we hope that does the trick.

Yet you're going to be doing this work up at the business end of these solar arrays that generate thirty kilowatts of direct current, all the way up on the top of the P6. Does that cause for you folks to have to make some special, take some special precautions?

We'll make sure that through Dom, the station people have let us know that we're clear to the work site, but they should be able to go ahead and keep most of the power generation going on-they are going to have to stop the rotation, and there is an S-band antenna assembly out there that probably will be powered down, because we get pretty close to that and we don't want that to be on.

Take us outside with you then, if you will, and spacewalk us through the tasks that are lined up for you and Dan on this EVA.

OK. Well, we are going out the shuttle airlock hatch, and Mark's going to be using the robotic arm to help us get around and what that really does for it is simplify our tether protocol, [because] the big overview for anybody going outside for a spacewalk is that we have to stay attached to structure all the time. And as you're climbing around on station, you know, you may have to do tether swaps or some double-tethering for a while, and what we're going to be doing is staying tethered to the arm. So we'll go out and hook our safety tethers up to that to begin with; we'll be taking out the thermal blankets and a few other items with us. We'll get on the arm and Mark will give us a ride up to about halfway up P6. Then we'll get off, translate the rest of the way and our first task will be to make our way to the end of P6 and put on one blanket and then the other, and we'll do that very carefully, we want to make sure we don't have any, we leave anything that can impair rotation or get in the way of even the moving parts. But I think they've designed the blanket really well, and that should go pretty smooth.

Can you give us a, is it a long rectangle that wraps around…

No, it's kind of like a big barrel; you know, a big barrel like this, about so long, and the blanket's going to be wrapped up, and we can start it out on one end, to some handrails, and it basically unrolls around the BMRRM- the acronym for the rotary module-and it has a cover then that comes back over the top, fits around some cables and over the edges, and Velcros in place. It's like covering up a big can that has some extra appendages coming out of it.

Now the spacewalk is only slated to run about four hours; are these the only tasks that are involved?

These are our most critical ones-I mean, that's the top priority to get done. And then the other things, we have a list of some items that the program's, a few things the program's been wanting to get done and some get-ahead tasks for the 8A shuttle mission coming up in a few months. So one of the Four Bar link, linkages out there for the gimbal assembly, where it attaches to the end of P6, needs a little bit of a rotation with some vise grips to kind of click into place; we're going to do that. We're going to pick up a shroud, kind of a blanket, if you will, on the way back, in one of the stowage areas on P6, that's going to be reused on some more hardware coming up on a later flight. We're going to take some photographs of a couple of areas that have had some possible hits with something like maybe a small micrometeoroid. We're going to get some tools out and help out the 8A guys a little bit, bring them in so they don't have to visit a couple of the toolboxes. So that's what we're looking at doing.

On your last flight you conducted a spacewalk for which the tasks were pretty much laid in concrete throughout your training. Is it a lot more difficult training to do a job now that changes on you as you go along?

Well, there're a lot of advantages to having it laid out, although I know a lot of the previous shuttle flights to station that, in theory, had their tasks laid out; there were still some changes that came along for them. But what Dan and I are fortunate in is that all our work we did on using the arm to get out at the end of the P6, the tether protocol, all that is changed, has stayed the same. So while we did most of our runs to train for the removal and replacement of the BMRRM, we're going out to the same work site. The same, so a lot of it has stayed the same for us. So we've just tried to look on this as a, you know, flexible EVA program, and I think this is going to work.

During this flight, you have also got some science payloads of your own on board the shuttle, and that includes a satellite that's supposed to be deployed during, or near, the end of the flight. Tell me about STARSHINE and what it is that you folks have to do to send it on its way.

STARSHINE is really interesting…I guess I like it because of its educational connotation. But it's a small satellite, but it's made up of many mirrors, you know, that have been worked on literally by thousands of students who have polished these mirrors to a very, …you know, perfect, smooth surface, and then they've been assembled on this satellite. And the whole job of our crew is to, very late in the mission, you know, activate the circuitry that blows some pyros and allows a spring to push this satellite out of a can that's out in the shuttle payload bay. And it stays in orbit for a period of time and because it's so reflective, and it also has a very slow spin on it so it kind of seems to shine, I guess, as it rotates, the students on the ground can track it…they'll be able to see it. And they can make, do their measurements, make calculations on where it is and how high it is and how its orbit is changing, so it gives them a lot of experience in using numbers like that and mathematics to look at orbital decay. And there's going to be a series of these over a solar cycle, so they even get to look at how that impacts orbital dynamics. And it's something that's just participated in by so many students, and it really ties a lot of them into the space program, which is a neat thing.

And this is not the first time…

No.

…that this experiment's been flown on the shuttle.

That's right. I'm not sure. I think we're the second or the third time that it's flown. The second.

There's several other experiments out in the shuttle payload bay that are riding on a Hitchhiker carrier. Talk about the goals of some of those investigations and what, if anything, you and your crewmates do to help them do their jobs.

There're a lot of things out on the Hitchhiker. There's a Student Experiment Module that has, you know, probably eight or ten separate experiments within it and about six GAS cans out there, each of which has many smaller experiments inside each of those. And they range from different crystal growth to looking at seeds to looking at impact in dust to looking at…different kinds of biotechnology. Really, to me it's the breadth of the imagination of, you know, all the users that are involved here, and anything you can pack into one of these cans that can be pretty well self-contained and autonomous and that is, and has unique things to be looked at in microgravity. And a lot of them are activated at launch or thereafter by switches that are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, so some of them get automatically activated or kicked into the next phase of their experiment operation, but we also have an interface with them via a laptop computer that can control relays out in their electronics assembly that we can also act as a backup for activation or for some of them be the primary activator, and if we need to monitor the relay status during the flight we can go check that, and we can also deactivate the ones that need to be deactivated before we come home. But they do a lot on their own, just out there, and that's kind of the nice feature of that kind of the GAS cans and the Student Experiment Modules.

You and your crewmates are also responsible for attending to a couple of space station experiments which will be on the shuttle's middeck, up and down with you. One of them's testing out a piece of hardware called the Avian Development Facility. Tell me about what happens with this on your flight and how that, why that is contributing to future station research.

You know, a lot of these things will fly in later forms on the space station themselves, or a later form of that research will, once they kind of find out some of the basics from flying it on shuttle. And that particular one we mainly just monitor it at various times during the mission to make sure it's progressing OK-we don't have a lot of interaction with it. But it is looking at neurological development of these embryos in the quail eggs. And so there's just a lot of interest, you know, from the medical community on how things develop in microgravity, and, you know, the hope-later that is expected to apply to what the changes are in humans as well.

You've got another experiment that's a commercial experiment dealing with looking at the goal of improving treatment for osteoporosis and bone cancer. Again, tell me what's going on there and what you and your crewmates have to do with it.

And that's basically a monitoring experiment for us during the mission as well, to periodically look and make sure that it's still operating OK, that, you know, the power's OK, that everything looks like…hasn't had any failures. And we don't do any of that analysis on orbit-we bring all of that back home afterwards and the principal investigators on the ground then, you know, look at their samples from that experiment and determine how things developed in space and what happened. And again, you know, it all has applications to humans, which is one of the really appealing things about doing microgravity research.

There's an awful lot of stuff crammed into eleven days; you going to have any fun?

We will, but it is going to be busy. You know, shuttle missions are kind of like a sprint, and we, you know, the longer-duration flights there's a little more time to draw a deep breath and probably enjoy where they are. But just by being there, you know, there's a certain amount of uniqueness to the environment that makes it fun, and we will take time for that. But it is a very busy mission: I mean, every day has some major goals that we have to get through, but my experience before has been that at least in the evening everybody-or evening of the crew day-you kind of take a deep breath and look around where you are and have some downtime, you know, at the end of the day, and I'm sure we'll be able to do that as well.

It's been about a year now since the first permanent residents arrived on the ISS. We've now gotten to a point where we're changing out crews pretty routinely and delivering supplies and conducting science on a station that can pretty much take care of itself. Finally, Linda, give me your perspective on where you see this International Space Station taking us in the short term and in the long term.

Well, in the short term, we need to really continue doing the science; I mean, that's really important because it's why we're there, and it justifies the existence…I mean that's the real basic. But, you know, next year we're going to be adding on to the station, it needs more capability; we still have a lot of international partner modules that need to get up there to make it truly the international structure that it will be, and that's highly important; we need to get to where the crew size is bigger, because that's when you can truly have enough people up there, you know, at least six people, to maintain the station and do some real research, and I think it's critical that we get there and that's kind of the longer-term goal [because] it'll take a little bit, a little while, there're a lot of logistics to do that. But this has been on the planning board, you know, for a long time, and I think up until now it's all gone more smoothly than we ever could imagine. I mean, it's really a good feeling to know that we put this up there, that it's working, that all these people's plans that worked so hard came together and things fit and we've got a real space station. So where we are is great, but, [yes], the long, the short and long term are, let's just add on to it, and let's get to a bigger crew.

Crew Interviews
Image: Linda Godwin
Click on the image to hear Mission Specialist Linda Godwin's greeting (WAV file 365Kb).

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