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Crew Interviews
IMAGE: Piers Sellers
Click on the image to hear Mission Specialist Piers Sellers' greeting (388 Kb wav).

Preflight Interview: Piers Sellers

The STS-112 Crew Interview with Piers Sellers, mission specialist.

Q: First off give us a little bit about your background. You're going to be a little different than most of the astronauts here. Tell me about where, where's your home? Where did you grow up? And, kind of your background there.

A: Okay. Yeah, a little bit different from most of the people here, as you pointed out. I was born in England but my dad was British Army -- a career guy. So, British Army brats. Very well traveled. We went almost immediately to Cyprus and Yemen, and that's where I grew up as a kid. In those two places, and a little bit of time in Ethiopia. And then after a while with a family continually moving around, we were sent off back to boarding schools, back in England. I've got four brothers. So, we were packed off, en masse, and went to boarding schools in southern England - in Kent and Sussex. It was all very nice. Surprisingly. And went on to university in Scotland, in Edinburgh, which was great, and then a Ph.D. in Leeds. And after I finished up the Ph.D., I married my wife while I was in Leeds. She abducted me. She's a nurse from Yorkshire. And after I finished up my Ph.D. in Leeds, we came over to the States to do science in NASA-Goddard. And, I've been here ever since. That was in 1982, when we came over.

Now, at what point did you decide that you wanted to become an astronaut?

Oh...

Where did that come from?

...pretty much forever. Pretty much forever. When I was a little kid six years old, my birthday was April the 11th, 1961. On April the 12th, Yuri Gagarin was launched, and my dad told me all about it. And, I thought it was just a continuation of my birthday. This was, you know, somehow connected. It wasn't the case, as it turned out. But, he explained to me how this guy had got into this rocket, was shot up, and was going around and around the world really fast. And, he held an orange up, and he had his finger going round this orange, in and out of the light, because he had a light shining on it from one side. So, he showed how Yuri Gagarin would be seeing the sunlight for a little while, traveling all the way over the Earth, and then flashing back into the dark and coming back - night, day, night, day. I thought this was fascinating to me! I couldn't imagine anything better. And, you know, as I grew up, I watched all the lunar landings on TV. And, that was phenomenal. So, the whole thing was completely compelling to me for the entire, you know, as long as I can remember. But while always being something that you'd really, really like to do, I didn't see a way I could actually get to do it. So, it was, it remained as a "gee, I'd really like to do that" category of thing. I was amazed when I actually got the opportunity finally.

That naturally leads into: how did that come about? What path did you take? I mean, at what point, actually what point did you decide, "Maybe I can do this?" You know, and how did you get into the Astronaut Corps?

That kind of crept up on me, I think. I was always pretty passionate about science and and flying. Those two things have been something I've managed to wiggle my way into all the way through my life. And I think that, as looking back, I guess I never shut a door on an option for doing it, just in case life worked out that way. But, it wasn't something that I single-mindedly pursued. You know, every night I sat down and checked my plan for becoming an astronaut. Box complete! I didn't do that. I was off being a scientist, working very hard at that. And then, it just turned out that after I guess some time after I'd been working in the U.S., I realized, "Well, if I became a U.S. citizen, I could apply. And, I'd just be like anybody else applying." So, I did. And it worked out. But no one was more surprised than me.

All right. Who were the role models or are the role models that made some, major influences for you in your life?

Lots of people. I mean, really lots of people. At different stages in life, I think. I think at school, I was really fortunate in having some incredible teachers - you know, particularly physics, maths, and biology - who I think showed me that not only science was interesting and difficult, which I knew, but a lot of fun. And, then they turned me on to the whole business of science is fun. And, research being an excuse for a job, you know. Which I followed up on later in life! So I had teachers who basically opened my eyes to the possibility of doing science as a career and an occupation and a hobby all at the same time. And, I'm forever grateful to them. Parents, family, who always encouraged. Always. And then, a succession of gurus, you know, as you go through life in different places. Some wonderful people I met at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who, no matter how difficult the problems we were attempting to do, they said, "Oh, no problem." You know, "You guys can do it. You'll figure it out." And, usually we did. We took on a lot of projects that looked very, very daunting at the outset. With help from, you know, a terrific series of experienced people in Goddard, we managed to pull most of them off. That was something.

That was very...

And, of course, the role model here. I mean, you know one of the role models here is John Young, who still works at the Office. And sort of like an ordinary astronaut, but not really. You know, here's a man who's been to the Moon, twice, and test flown the shuttle, etc. The man's an inspiration. And, he's still here. And, you can say, "Hi, John" every morning, which is quite something. So, he's the astronauts' astronaut, I guess.

Now, this will be your first flight in, into space. How did you feel when you got the call for this mission? And what are your feelings now as it's getting closer?

Well, the first, when we got the call, my son answered the phone. And it was from Charlie Precourt, who's the head of the Office. And so, we always sort of know, right about that time, when you're getting a call from Charlie Precourt that it might be about this. So, he answered the phone. He says, "Dad, it's Charlie." And, I said, "Charlie who?" And so, he goes, "Charlie who?" "Charlie Precourt." "Okay, good. Give me the phone." A good feeling, really good feeling, because I've been in the Office for five years and been working hard in Russia and so on and so forth. It was a good feeling to realize, "Ah, great! An assignment. A flight. Marvelous!" And then as, you know, the conversation went on, it turned out, "Oh, EVAs. Three of them! Oh! Even better." So, it was a perfect package, I guess, if you like. I was overjoyed to get such a plum assignment.

You mentioned work with the Russians. Do you have quite a bit of exposure? You did some work in Russia as a, isn't that right?

Yeah. Actually it goes back further than that. In the late Eighties, the science group that I was working with at Goddard had some Russian connections. And so, we went over to Russia in '88, '87, '88, '89. We were the only science group actually working over there for a while. We had them, we hosted them over in the U.S. as well. So that was fun. And, you know, I'd always been interested, since then, in the Russian approach to science and space. And then, I found myself going back and working there as a sort of liaison guy on software between, I don't, almost three years' worth of halftime work pretty much in Russia. It was terrific! A tremendous experience. For a long period, I was the only U.S. person in this building where I worked. I just worked with Russians all day, every day. And, they really included me in what they were doing. And we had a great time. A huge learning experience.

And, you learned your Russian pretty well?

Yeah, you had to from that. When you're the only guy in the building who's an American, you know, they're not going to all speak English for you. Those that can. So, yeah, that was the perfect way to learn Russian. (Excuse me.) Thrown in there and do the work with them.

How do you see that as helping you prepare for this mission? Has it made a big impact?

It's made a big impact on me personally, and I think also, you know, in my ways of how the program works. This is an international program now. Right? We're working with people that we'd never have dreamt of working with 15 years ago, you know, during the Cold War. And it's fascinating. They've taken a very different approach, in some areas, in how they do spaceflight. It's not less safe. It's not less good. It's just different. They have a different approach, and you can get these little epiphanies when you realize that they've take, had a really good idea, a very simple idea, and made something beautiful out of it. That we've somehow bypassed in just the way we've developed our technology and taken different routes. But I think, you know, the main thing, and you've probably heard this from lots of other people, is that it's an international program. You have these partners that are scattered all over the world, who are all trying to do something together. And generally the intentions are good, in spite of all the squabbles and the difficulties. You find that every person over there, basically their intentions are good. They want to see something good happen. And, it has. I mean, just look at the station now. It's beautiful! It is beautiful. Who would've thought it? That it would work out so well?

Now, were you a Russian Crusader along with...

Sandy...

Sandy, right.

...Magnus. And Peggy Whitson was there. Mike Fincke. Dan Burbank. There were quite a few people out of our class who went and did spells over there. I think Peggy and Sandy and I were probably among the longest-servicing Crusaders. I think Sandy did about two-and-a-half years and I did about the same or maybe it was just a little bit longer. So, we put in a lot of time over there. And it was, I think, really interesting for all of us.

Now, you mentioned Peggy. Part of your training here for this mission was with the Expedition Five crew. And, you guys will be the first, their first visitors...

Yeah.

...since they've been up there. And you'll be a little more than halfway through their increment. How will that reunion be for you guys as well as for them?

I'm looking forward to it. Without giving too much away, we hope to be bringing up some of their favorite stuff. Food wise. So, we're hoping to have time for a very, very small party, when we bring them special food and costumes. How about that? It should be fun. I would expect, when we get up there, we'll be still finding our space feet, particularly the rookies. And, they will look smooth and slick as they glide around station, like eels, you know. Perfect. While we'll be flailing around. So, I'm looking forward to Peggy giving me a quick tutorial [on] how to do things.

Now, getting a little more into the mission, this is the fifteenth flight to the space station. And you're assembly mission 9A. Give me a brief overview of STS-112. What are your goals?

The main thing that we're going to be doing is just continuing the process of building the big truss that goes across station. And, ultimately this thing is going to be a 350-foot-long truss stretching across station. With all the solar arrays on the ends, and the radiators sticking up the back and the middle. But, it's going to take umpteen flights to get it all done. And we are the second truss to go up for this. We're S1. S0 is already there. I'm not counting P6, because that's temp stowage sticking out of the top. So, we're going to put on a very large piece that'll continue this process. It's a big, it's a 45-foot girder basically that holds cooling equipment, a radiator, electrical connections. It's got a little cart that you can ride up and down for the crew and carry tools and equipment up and down. All the rest of it. But, it's a, you know, I think the way to look at it is: if you're building, you know, the railway between New York and San Francisco, you know, 150 years ago or something, we're laying down the bit that comes up to the Appalachians. One of the first chunks. But, it won't be any use until the whole thing's finished. Not completely anyway.

What, in the scheme of the truss and the station, what's the importance of the S1? It has the radiators on it, and you guys are also, you're taking up the CETA cart.

Yeah.

What's the importance of this one?

Everything out to the starboard can't go on. You know, we're the bit of railway track that has to be there before the next piece can be laid, otherwise you can't get from here to there. If you look at, head on at the station and you see the final configuration, with its, you know, its huge bridge sticking out sideways, both sides of the station, with the solar cells on each side, you'll see that it's made up of you know, half a dozen segments each side. And, each one's got a, you know, the inboard ones have to be there before you can clip the next one on. So, it's important that we get it there. It's important that we connect it up right and prepare the ground for the next crew to put the next piece on. Which I'm sure we'll do.

Now, here on Earth, if you have this, the large station and you put this huge structure on one side, naturally we tend to think, "That's going to throw it off." Up there it's a little different. Kind of give me an explanation for that.

Yeah. You'd think the whole thing would just flop over sideways. It doesn't quite work like that. There's a couple of forces interacting here that you have to consider. One is that in orbit generally speaking, if you leave something there for long enough, the heavy end will go down and the light end will go up. So, putting the truss on will change the center of gravity. So, you'd expect to see a little tendency for it to hang down. The other thing is that they want to basically align the station, normally it's barreling straight for you like a long pipe, but it'll align it a little bit so that the drag, there's a little bit of atmospheric drag up there, so that all the drag evens out and it's not got a turning moment on it. So, for a while, with just S1 there, I think it'll look like it's crabbed along a little bit. And, that, you know, you're driving, looking out of your side window as opposed to windshield, you know, like this. But, as soon as they put the other one on, it'll straighten up. And, it'll look better, too. But, it'll do that during the growth of station, it'll look like it's sprouting pieces randomly and then eventually, you know, the whole thing will look symmetric and beautiful at the end.

Right. Now the MBS was installed on -111. And, that'll be the first use with the arm on that to install the S1. Kind of, what's the significance of having the mobility and using that now for the first time to install this S1?

This is a really, I think, good test of, you know, heavy crane engineering in orbit using the new arm. This huge arm [has] got to reach down in the payload bay and fish out our truss, twirl it around, and clip it on right side up in place. It's really quite a thing. And also, it's clear to all of us that we can't do the job without it. We really have to have the arm to make it work. And, that's why we're continuously assessing the health of the arm, making sure it's all installed, all bolts and fingers and everything works okay. If for some reason they can't get the arm, the truss quite close enough to S0 to mate it, there's, you know, some range where David and I can reach out and grab it and pull it in and slip in bolts manually. But, we'd rather not do that. We'd rather let the crane do the work.

Let's move into the EVAs. You and David Wolf will be making three EVAs on this mission. Kind of give me a brief overview of all of them as a whole. What are the goals for the EVAs in your mission?

Okay. Well, the first one generally speaking…EVA-1 has the highest-priority items. EVA-2 has the, you know, second; and EVA-3 the lesser ones. Just in case something goes awry in the schedule, and we only get, you know, a certain amount of work done. So, EVA-1 has the must-get-done items, which are connecting up electrical power, that's probably the most important thing. Undoing all the launch locks on the radiator. The truss has a radiator that's pretty much bolted to it in 18 locations for launch, so that it won't flop around. But, on orbit, it's all these bolts have to be undone so that the radiator beam can rotate freely and align the radiator out of the Sun, solar direction. And, this is a big beam by the way. It's sort of, you know, 30 something feet long with little radiators on it. So, we'll be undoing all these bolts and making sure this guy's free. Let's see. Installing a TV camera group on EVA-1, so that that will be used to observe some of the other tasks during the later EVAs. And, a few other odds and [ends]. EVA-2 has changed radically from earlier plans. We were going to be doing a lot more setting up of lights and cameras and things, and we're still doing some of that. But as you probably know, a lot of the quick disconnects, the little junctions between fluid pipes that carry all the cooling all over station, these junctions are, some of them are a little suspect, and we're going to put little plumbing fixes on all, on a lot of them. Not on them all. Some 30-odd of these little joints have to be looked at and have a little device clipped on there to make sure they behave themselves when you turn your back on them. So, that's going to take up a large chunk of EVA-2. And then, as, we'll be freeing up the CETA cart so that it can slide up and down the rails. And, this is this little railway pushcart that you can, not quite like that, but you can move up and down. We want to take it for a ride. We're hoping they'll let us. Another camera group to put on the Lab so that, from the Lab, this camera can look back all along the truss and get a great view out down the railway and see how people are doing. Check out to see if they're working hard or not. And keel pins, moving keel pins out of the way.

Pam mentioned the cart that you guys are, are you going to be testing it once you loosen it up...

Hopefully.

...and...

Hopefully, we'll take it for a spin up to the end of the truss. There should be a little thing on the end of the truss that stops us going any further, so you don't fly off the end in space. And, we'll check that that's there before we go out, you know. Dragster rip down the truss. We'll be going very slowly. You pull it along by, the way you make it move is you put your feet into the cart and then you're lying down along the length of the truss, and you pull yourself along a handrail and drag it after you by your feet.

Will you [be] using it for your, any of your EVAs? Or, are you just putting it out and then testing it?

Really we're the guys who make sure it's all working unbolted from its launch position so that it can now run around freely. And move it around a little bit for one of our tasks actually. Yeah, we do use it to put on some fluid jumpers. It's going to be a handy little item as time goes on. You'll be able to take it right to the end of the line.

All right.

You know, when station's complete, you'll be able to drive all the way out to the end of the truss, look at the view, and come back.

Let's go through kind of a step-by-step for each one of them. We'll start with the first one. Kind of step-by-step you come out of the hatch, what happens?

It kind of starts a little bit earlier than that. It takes us a long time to crank up for the EVA. We have to do one of these things to prevent yourself from getting [the] bends in the suit. You have to put on the mask, breathe pure oxygen, do some exercise on a bike, stay on pure oxygen for a while until you get in your suit. So, there's a little ballet going on here with swapping masks and lowering the pressure in the airlock segment and all the rest of it. Getting everything ready. Getting into suit. And then, I think that Pam will be stuffing us into this little airlock like a couple of loaves into an oven, you know. We both just fit lengthwise, me with my head sticking outboard over the hatch, Dave with his head inboard so that he can operate the controls for the airlock. And then we'll go through the business of lowering the pressure inside the airlock that we're actually going to use for egress. Opening valves. All the air will hiss out. S-s-s-s. We'll be looking at our gauges to make sure that it's not leaving our suit; it's just leaving the room that we're in. And at that point, I will be looking down out the hatch. And, this hatch faces down out of the station. So, I'll be sort of, if you like, lying on my stomach looking at this hatch with Dave's feet clangoring around my left ear somewhere, very close because it's very small. Crowded with equipment. Undo the hatch, crank a handle, pull it up, and then there's a white cover on the outside of the hatch that you have to get out of the way. And, when I punch that guy out of the way, because you just give it a push and it should flop out of the way, the first thing I should see should be the Earth scooting by at five miles per second from left to right. So, I'm hoping they're going to give me a little break there, to just get used to the new perspective. Because then you dive headfirst out of the airlock. I guess like through the hatch of an airplane, you know. A hatch on the floor of an airplane, you dive out through there, do a somersault, and grab a rail so that now you're hanging by your hand, your feet down towards Earth. And looking at the back of the station. So, that's getting out, which I've thought about quite a lot because that'll be, you know, my fourth day in space and crawling out of a spacecraft, headfirst, towards the Earth. So, I've thought about that a bit. And, I expect it to be interesting at least.

To say the least. Right.

Then Dave and I work on our tethers, get all our equipment. We get some camera bags and stuff like that. And, off we go to do our work. Now there is one wrinkle in this. We have this schedule of, you know, tasks to do, like connecting up all the electrical junctions between the existing station and the truss. But, if they can't get the truss close enough, we forget all that for the [time] being and we just get into different positions on the station. Pull in, help pull in the hand, the truss by hand bolt it up by hand. That's something that'll be decided obviously while we're probably in the airlock, whether we have to do that or whether we do our nominal EVA plan. So, we've got to keep thinking, "Which way is this going to go?" while we're sitting in the airlock. Pretty well immediately Dave gets going on electrical jumpers and I get going on the launch locks. So, I start working my way down these 18 launch locks with a big power tool, undoing bolts, folding them out of the way, and checking that everything's clear for the radiator. And, on goes the EVA from there.

Okay. On, I believe it's on your first EVA, it may have moved, the S-band, are you all installing the S-band?

That's right. Let me see where does that come? I think that comes after Dave has done one side, one panel electrical connections and we've done some bolt locks. Then, we're ready to move on and install the S-band. This is a whopping great antenna. It's the size of, I'm trying to think a big file cabinet with a long stand sticking out of the bottom. And, it's bolted, for launch it's bolted onto the front of the truss with big launch restraint bolts. And but it has, actually ends up sticking out of a position on the top of the truss, nadir, so it's pointing away from Earth up at a satellite, you know, for communications. So, Dave will undo all the bolts. And then, we'll try and haul it off the front of a, of the truss. E-e-e-h, get it off. A bit of a pull that, to get it off apparently. And then, Dave will be on the arm. And so, he'll clutch this thing while the arm, you know, Sandy drives him round the truss, up to the top. And then, he'll plant it like a flag. We'll turn it around and plant it like a flag on top of the structure. Do all the connections. One of the more interesting things to do, not interesting, I guess. But a challenging thing to do is taking off the shroud that covers it off. When you take off white shrouds, you know, these big white shrouds that cover equipment, they end up like Halloween costumes in a lot of cases. They try and wrap themselves around you, and you end up looking like Casper the Ghost. So, we'll be hauling this thing off, fighting it and trying to, you know, defeat it by tying it up with tethers and stow it. Dave says, "I can do that." But, I think I'll probably need his help! And then he having bolted all in place, he undoes two locks that allow the whole thing to start swiveling and looking for a satellite, you know, like a flower looking for the Sun. You know, it just turns around. Lock on. And, that'll happen later.

Now while this is kind of backtracking a little bit, while you're in the airlock, they're actually going to be at that point installing the S1.

That's right.

Kind of give me a little brief description of when it gets installed and then you guys go out. Because you kind of have, once they do that, you kind of have a time to make all these connections, right?

Yeah. The, you know, all the smart people here at Johnson and the Cape and elsewhere put their heads together and decided that the only way this could really be done within the timeline was to have these two activities in parallel as we're getting ready for our EVA and the rest of the crew and the station crew installing the truss. So, you're right. There we are in the airlock, going through the final stages of preparation for this EVA while they're hopefully successfully installing the truss. And, it as I said earlier, if that doesn't work out, we have to be ready to put down all sets of tools that we were going to use for our normal plan and grab these huge contingency bolts and various other knickknacks to go and install the truss manually. Rather hoping that doesn't happen, because it'll put a real dent in our timeline as well as being, you know, a little tricky. But I'm pretty confident that they'll get it installed as planned, with all the motorized bolts and everything.

Now, let's move on to the second EVA. Kind of what happens here? You've made your step outside for the first time. And you've done some of your tasks. So now you're coming out for the second spacewalk. What's going to happen during the second one?

Dave and I decided to stick to the division of labor. He's always going to operate the EVA panel, and I'll always be the guy who jumps, operates the hatch and jumps out first. So, we'll do that. The first thing we're going to do is go and look at some of these fluid disconnects that I talked about and put the hardware on them to make sure that they stay doing what they're supposed to do. So, that's pretty much first off. Having done that, we go to the CETA cart area and maybe finish up some stuff there, to get it out of the way or at least wrestle some of its hardware out of the way. And then work on installing a big camera, TV camera, and light group, assembling that outside and sticking it onto the Lab. And, this will be on a mast that will stick out sideways from the forward end of the Lab, and it'll be a big, big mobile camera group that'll tilt around and come look at pretty much everything on the starboard side of station. After that, let's see, comes more of these fluid disconnect devices. Lots and lots of these. We have a batch of 18 after the camera to complete on the back of the radiator. Yeah, a fair amount of work there. And I think the rest of that EVA is looking pretty fluid now. I'm not sure what happens after that. We're still in discussion. But at some point, we have to make the big fluid connections for these big hoses that connect the fluid lines on station to the fluid lines on S1. We have to do that at some point.

What's happening in EVA 3?

Actually, I'm pretty sure, as of today the fluid jumpers that connect the two trusses together, that will be done in EVA-3, I think. What else in EVA-3? We have dismounting the large keel pins. When the truss is sitting in the payload bay of the Orbiter, it's sitting with its railway face down. And, they have these two huge triangular pieces of structure called keel pins that support the truss to the bottom of the shuttle. Now, obviously once you've got this thing installed on station, you don't want these things, these big keel pins, in the way because they'll stop the CETA cart from going up and down. They sit right on the railway track. So, we're going to unbolt those. We're not allowed to throw them away. They'll probably hit something if we do. We'll unbolt those, turn around, and stow them inside the truss where they're out of the way. And, they'll live in there forever after that. That'll be fun. I'll be holding one of these things when I'm standing on the arm, and Sandy will drive me down the length of the truss. I'll flip it over and stick it in there. More of these SPDSs, a recurring theme, for the quick disconnects. And, what else? That's about it I think for EVA-3. As of today. I'm sure it'll change again. Have to stay flexible in this business.

All right. How's it been for you this being your first spaceflight, I mean to train with your partner, EVA partner, Dave Wolf, who has, was on Mir for a while and he's made some flights. How is it to be training with him?

It's been great. I've been very, very fortunate, you know, in having David for a partner at just about every level. First thing, he's very, very experienced. He's, you know, had his four and a bit months on Mir, and just as important he worked in the EVA branch for almost, I think, five years or something off and on doing development work. So, he's very well-versed in all the tools and techniques of EVA. And, that's been tremendous to have an experienced coach. And, another thing is: in spite of all that, David is just a really easy person to work with. He's very open to suggestions, however crass, you know, from the rookie. He's very tolerant, which is just as well! So, it's been a pleasure as well as a, you know, a great opportunity to learn, to be teamed up with Dave.

You've already kind of mentioned this when you were talking about this being your first space flight. But these are also your first EVAs. What are your feelings or thoughts on that? Just actually being able to go outside.

It's, you know, obviously what I've always wanted to do. When you think of a, a kid thinks of an astronaut, you know, and they draw a picture, it's of a little guy outside doing this with a piece of wire, hopefully, holding him onto something, you know. Yea! So, that's the dream part. So, that's really good. And then, you start thinking to yourself: "Wait a minute. Hang on. This'll be my fourth day in space, and I've got to go outside and work for nine hours and not make a mistake." So, that's a little daunting. But luckily, there's a whole crowd of excellent people who guide you through the process, you know, train you up, prepare you as best they can for this. So, the level of, of knowing what to do and when I should do it, you know, I could not have been better trained than I have. David and I have a fantastic training team pretty well together. The only question mark now is, "Well, how will it feel?" You know, and I've tried to think about that. I've tried to think about, anticipate what it will look like. And, I told you about opening the hatch, and there will be a view of the Earth whizzing by and then the sensation of diving out after it, grabbing a rail, turning, flipping over. I've tried to, I've tried to picture some of this in my mind so that you know, I'll be mentally ready for it. But, I just talked to a friend of mine who came back from his first [flight], which was also his first EVA flight, and he says, "You can't prepare for that. It's so dreamlike, it's so, such a novel experience that it's very hard to prepare for it. You just have to be prepared to be amazing." So, I'm prepared to be amazed. How about that?

Now, on these spacewalks, Pam was telling us that you aren't taking a full suit in the EMU. You're using, you're taking your arms and your legs that aren't, to benefit you and you're using the body of the suit that's already up in the station. And you guys are also transferring some EMUs and the SAFER to the station in the rotation.

Yeah.

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

This is the suit dance. And here's the thing. You know, not many people know that we're basically building station and crewing station with, it depends on who you talk to, somewhere between 12 and 14 space suits. Not many. It's a very small fleet. And, you know, these are the space-qualified ones. So, if you think about the number of missions that we're doing, assembly missions and crews being up there, it's a real emphasis placed on making sure that the person gets the suit that's the right size, the right gloves, because they are very particular. All the right pieces. And, that involves us swapping things out real time. I think I'm going to be taking, we're taking to station an extra-large suit, which I can use. But, I prefer to use a large suit, one suit down, which I can just squeeze into but it feels nice and tight when I'm working. So, we'll take the extra-large up, whip the arms and legs off it, put them on the large torso that's up there, and I should be ready to go. We're bringing back another suit. We're bringing back a medium when we come home.

What's it like to have, with Jeff as Commander and Pam as a Pilot, how is the rest of your crew? How is the training going, working with them?

It's going great. We very early on, almost immediately after we got assigned, Jeff had this great idea, I think, of taking us all out to the Badlands of Utah, where we went for a, you know, 40-mile walk (or it felt like 40 miles walk) over 10 days. No change of clothes. No washing. Just carry all your food with you. And, we went round this kind of long, adventurous walk around a, these canyons in Utah. And, that was a good opportunity to get [to] know each other I guess. You know, no distractions. No e-mail. No meetings, except for dinner, you know. A lot of hard work. Not much sleep. And I think that was a really good way to get the crew working together right from the get-go. And since then, it's been a pretty packed schedule of training. You know, as you can see, I'm probably just about to run off to do something else. But commonly we're working, you know, six-day weeks right now. And, every hour of the day. Now, about the people in the crew, Jeff has flown, this will be his third mission. And, he's done his previous two missions fairly recently. So, he's very familiar with everything, which is enormously helpful. This is Pam's second, and she's done her, she's just come back from one. Same thing. The experience is great. And, you know all about David. So, for us rookies, we're in a very good position. Half the crew is very experienced and has got a lot to teach us. And we provide the necessary enthusiasm and to say, "How about that!"


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/24/2002
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