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Crew Interviews
IMAGE: Dave Wolf
Click on the image to hear Mission Specialist Dave Wolf's greeting (408 Kb wav).

Preflight Interview: Dave Wolf

The STS-112 Crew Interview with Dave Wolf, mission specialist.

Q: First off, I guess we'll start with a little bit of personal background. If you would, tell me where you…grew up and what you call home.

Hi. I'm from Indianapolis. I'll always call that home. And moved to Texas to work in the space program when I was twenty-seven years old.

At what point did you have the dream of being an astronaut?

I remember the moment I wanted to be an astronaut. I was inspired during the Gemini Program when Ed White did the first U.S. spacewalk. I was nine years old. It inspired me into technological fields, eventually medicine and engineering, and I always wanted to work at NASA from that point.

How did you get here? At what point were you able to transfer that dream into a kind of a goal and a reality?

I was always interested in working at NASA. I became an electrical engineer in undergraduate. I became a physician. And it was always in the back of my mind to try to combine these fields to meet NASA's needs. Eventually it worked out. And, I came here as a researcher initially, a medical researcher, and ultimately became an astronaut.

Growing up and possibly even now, who were your role models? What kind of, who inspired you?

Like all of us, I had multiple role models. Of course, my father liked electronics. He built stereos. My mother liked sports. My uncle flew aerobatic airplanes. And all of these people inspired. But as much as any, the American space program inspired me to do my best in school and inspired me to pursue a technical career. And, ultimately, it led to NASA.

Now let's start talking about the mission. You're on STS-112. Tell me a little bit about the major goals of this mission. Give me a brief summary.

Our mission, 9A, STS-112, has major goals of installing the first starboard truss on the International Space Station. It's a 28,000-pound piece like a bridge. It will hold the radiator cooling system for cooling, the cooling fluids for the space station. And, further outboard, will then be placed the solar arrays for electrical power generation. We will install this with the robot arm. We'll activate it with three spacewalks. And, we will also spend a good deal of time transferring supplies to the International Space Station for the Expedition Five astronauts who will, are living there.

Now, you trained with the Expedition Five crew before they went up. And you will be, STS-112 will be the first visitors on their increment. What do you, what's that reunion going to be like?

There's nothing like a reunion in space. I trained in Russia for Phase I for the Shuttle-Mir Program, and I knew Sergei and Valery very well during that training. They helped me a great deal in those days. I've known Peggy since we were medical researchers together before we were astronauts. We've now trained together in preparation for this mission. And my last words to them were, "Let's meet in space in a few months." So, we're looking greatly forward to getting together, socializing a little bit, and then getting down to the business of installing the S1 truss.

Now, give me a little bit of detail about the S1. Now, you mentioned it has the radiators. Including the radiators, go ahead and include that. Tell me a little bit about the S1. What's, what all is included on it? And, why is it important to the overall scheme of the station?

The S1 truss is built like a bridge. It weighs 28,000 pounds, and it is the home of the thermal control system for the space station. At least the half of it that goes on the right side. It has thermal radiators, which circulate ammonia through them, and radiate the heat to space. Then, this cooled ammonia goes back to the space station for air conditioning and to cool electronics. It also is a structural member that will hold the solar arrays, which will be the next step to add further outboard. And, those will generate the electrical power for the space station. In addition, there's many electrical components called multiplexers. Essentially delivers computerized commands to the rest of the truss and receivers data on the behavior and function of the rest of the truss structure on the space station. It has cameras. It has antennas to talk to the satellites for communications. And a great many sensors to understand the behavior of the space station. The CETA cart is particularly appealing. It reminds me of the old push railroad car. It's a fairly large car that will have toolboxes on it, and even a little crane that you can crank around. And, it will be our work platform for carrying space components, even large components out so that when we have to replace items such as electrical power conversion boxes we'll have a place to store the boxes, carrying them a long way out even to the solar arrays, and have a work platform for repair work.

Now this is going to be, the installation of the S1 is going to be the first time that we'll be using the station arm, which is mounted on top of the MBS now that it's up there (it's been installed). Tell me kind of the significance of that, this being the first one. And then, also why it's necessary because of the location of the S1.

The mobile base structure is an amazing part of the space station, also a new technology for ISS. It's a large platform that has, that will motorize drive itself along the truss structure to different positions. At various positions it can stop, plug in to the data and power systems of the space station, and thus allow operation of the robot arm that is based on this mobile base structure. The critical feature of this is that it allows access to the various areas of the space station, which is so large now that there's no one position to base a robot arm to access a significant part of the station. So, this will allow us access of most of the space station from the various parking spots of the mobile base structure.

How different is it using the arm now that it's on the mobile base system, it's mobile, and it's necessary because the S1 is kind of far out and you can't really reach it where you're installing it and for future installations as well.

Right.

How is that different from, say, when the S0 was just installed with [STS-110]?

Right. The robot arm has this amazing ability to walk itself to different points on the space station. It can put its end on an attach point and then release the other end and essentially swap the useful end. This is important for installing it in different areas. As an EVA crewmember, it's important that I, for instance, am able to ride this arm to do critical assembly tasks and it will be able to reach the part of the station of interest. In this case, the S1, the starboard truss. You add up for other missions it will need to operate from different positions to for instance access the port truss or, in the last mission, the S0 truss was installed and this arm was based on the U.S. Laboratory module. So, it's an extremely flexible system. The operator has to learn to operate in a very general fashion for many different locations. So in that sense, it can be complicated. But Sandy has a real grasp of this. And we look real forward to using this arm.

Let's go back a little bit and to use some of your experience in '93 you've flown a science mission, STS-58. And then you were Board Engineer-2 on the Mir for 119 days. Kind of tell me a little bit about your experience with the Mir, your residence there.

Living long-term on board a space station as I was lucky enough to do on the Russian Mir space station for four-and-a-half months has got to be one of the most amazing experiences in a person's life. You forget completely about the Earth. It's just voices in a headset after a while. And it becomes kind of distant and remote. Movies become very intense when you watch them, because they become your only attachment to the Earth. It's almost like you're in the movie. The mental attitude to long-duration spaceflight is more like, "I'm moving to space. I will live there. And, someday, I'll move back." I felt it was important not to count the days to the end. The mental space you go into to do that is fascinating, and it's just as fascinating to come home. It becomes an immense experience to drive to the corner and get a cup of coffee. Now, you look so forward to it, it's, when you come home to Earth, it's amazing that you can just get in a car and go somewhere, and come back! So, it makes life very exciting to experience something like that.

How did your experiences aboard the Mir prepare you for this mission?

Long-duration spaceflight allows a person to become very accustomed to operating in space. To know what a human can do accurately, efficiently, what one cannot do. That's a valuable experience for any mission. I got to do a spacewalk in a Russian space suit on a space station. And, of course we will be doing three of those spacewalks on 9A, and that experience transfers very well. It's helping us in our planning phases of the mission. And it makes me feel more confident that the methods we are anticipating using will actually work as we have them planned.

Kind of explore with me a little bit about how the progression that you've seen, both in the technology and the advancements that we've made, and also in the international cooperation that we've seen, from the Mir and the cooperation that we had there to now in the space station and where we are at this point.

It would be hard to imagine conducting the International Space Station Program between 16 countries, key partners of which are Russia and the United States, had we not accomplished the Phase I Shuttle-Mir Program. The trust is built really person-to-person, working together, not by documents of agreements that are signed. And, Phase I took us a long way down the road where the engineers worked together, face-to-face, learned to mutually respect each other's knowledge and work, and this has taken us a long way in the solving problems and moving forward on the International Space Station Program.

Kind of following up on your EVA on the Mir station, how has that helped prepare you, you mentioned it a little bit, how has that helped prepare you and Piers and the rest of the crew for the EVAs that you're about to do? And then also, what are some of the differences? Because now when you were in an Orlan suit, and this one, of course, you're in an EMU. Kind of give me some of those.

Preparation for spacewalks involves many different components. One of those is prior experience. In my case, it was in the Orlan Russian space suit on space station Mir. It involves underwater Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory training, where we have large components of the space station and we work through and choreograph our spacewalks. And, it involves book work and desk training such as we did earlier today, running through exactly how we will conduct the two or three spacewalks that have changed recently. Adaptability is important. The requirements change over the months or year preparing for a mission. And we learned in space station, in the joint Shuttle-Mir Program that we needed to be adaptable and learn to make late changes to spacewalks or other procedures, and go out and get the job done in any case. Our training is now geared a little more towards skills, basic skills, as opposed to the exact choreography one might conduct. This lets the operators become more flexible, adapt to new situations as they arise. So we're well prepared. And I think they'll go very well.

Let's talk a little more specifically about the EVAs. You, being EVA-1, and Piers Sellers, will be EVA-2. Kind of go through, well, first of all, give me the goal, give me a brief summary of the purpose for these EVAs.

The three EVAs that we will conduct on 9A are a teamwork that's choreographed by essentially four of the crewmembers. Pam, intravehicular; Sandy, at the controls of the robot arm; Piers and I go outside. The first and foremost goal on the first EVA is to connect the electrical connectors that will power the heaters and data systems to keep the truss alive. After that, we will convert this truss essentially from a spacecraft that was launched to a spacecraft that will stay in orbit. Essentially we'll deploy radio antennas, camera groups. We will activate the cart that runs up and down the truss that a crewmember gets in and pulls himself and tools and equipment along to any required point on the truss. We will connect ammonia lines for the cooling system of the space station. These are like elephant trunks that carry ammonia from the radiators on the S1 truss to the rest of the space station to cool equipment. We will be doing some repair and maintenance work that has been required over the years as some of the aging components are reaching their life span. So, it's a very mixed bag of activities that we will conduct. And in fact, it changes week by week at this point, which shows the emphasis that we need to place on being flexible and able to do what the program requires on the day we launch.

Give me a kind of like a step-by-step of each component. Like you're plugging in the power and the data, but you can't do it all at once. So kind of give me a...

Right.

...-a step-by-step of what's going to happen when you do these particular elements.

Not only are the crewmembers in space part of this choreography, but the ground controllers, particularly in Mission Control, are essential also. For example, the first critical step of activating the S1 truss is connecting the electrical and data connectors between the space station and the truss. In order to do this, the ground controllers have to send, oh, 20, 30 commands that power down components of the space station, allow us to then mate these connectors while they're not hot, then place power through those connectors while they power down another set of connectors so we can mate those. Essentially bootstrapping the S1 truss into an active configuration where it's capable of staying alive.

And, while you're waiting for them to power down the first set and then power up the or power up the first set and power down the second one, you're going to be installing or deploying something else between you while you're waiting. What's that going to be?

Time in space is limited. And, we always must operate efficiently. So for example, while Mission Control is busy sending commands and testing between various power ups and power downs of components, the EVA crewmembers will be conducting other activities such as activating the CETA cart, the little car that goes up and down the truss of the space station. It has to be very securely attached, of course, to withstand a shuttle launch. But, essentially floats free on the rails when it's in its activated position on orbit. You should be able to push it with one hand. It weighs over a thousand pounds. It's amazing how strong a person can feel in space, while it's paradoxically causing your muscles to waste in a medical sense. But we conduct the spacewalks and design them in a very efficient manner to use the six to seven hours that we get outside very effectively. The space suit itself is essentially a small spacecraft. It has all the key systems of a larger spacecraft. And, we need to manage its resources carefully. Data is sent to the ground continuously on the performance and the consumable state of the space suit. We monitor those through computerized displays ourselves. We're trained to handle emergencies with the help of the ground and onboard crewmembers. So we think we're ready to go out and safely conduct these EVAs and get the S1 truss installed.

Now, part of the installation as you mentioned before as a main part of the S1 is the radiator. And my [understanding] is you're going to actually deploy one of them and I believe there's, are there...

Three.

...talk about there's three on there. But, you're actually going to deploy one of them.

That's right. A key component of the S1 truss are the three radiators that cool the ammonia before it goes back to the rest of the space station for air conditioning and cooling electronic systems. These are large radiators. There are three of them, and they sit on a beam, which rotates, so that they can aim toward the coldest part of space and effectively cool the space station. This is a large mechanism with motors to turn it and one of our key activities will be to remove the heavy locking components, 18 of them in all, which rigidly hold this radiator in place for launch. But, it must be very free for a motor to turn it while it's on orbit. This kind of construction has never been done before in orbit before the ISS Program. It just shows how we've progressed in our space technology. There's no question that our country is a first-class space-faring nation. And, I think that's exactly what our public expects.

Well, you are a scientist. You're an inventor, a physician astronaut, spacewalker. Talk about the significance of the space station and this assembly, you know, you're mission 9A in the assembly process. Talk about the significance of this, not only to the space program, but also, I mean, to science, to medicine and life here on Earth basically.

We, as a nation, insist on being a first-class space-faring country. We, along with 16 other countries, we are building the International Space Station. It will progress the field of science by being a full-time operating zero-gravity laboratory, where all our experiments can float. This opens up new perspectives and new potential in science. It is also critical for exploration. We will go to Mars. We will go other planets. We need to learn to live in space and build long-duration space structures and components. The space station will also look down at the Earth, and give us rational, good data on how we are managing our resources, how humans are impacting the Earth, and allow us to take rational countermeasures using firm data. Probably harder to [quantify] but perhaps most important is the inspiration that it gives our country. Our young people look at the space program and they want to pursue science careers. They want to do excellent work. We as a country expect to be first class in space. And, I don't think any of us would want to look back at our lives without a space program. So, it is really a combination of benefits we get out of the space program. Our vision is that the quality of life 20 years from now will be based on the products, knowledge, data that are produced on the space station. This is a lot like right now, where our current quality of life is in large part the result of NASA of the prior 20 to 30 years.

Before we get too far away from EVA I was going to ask you about your IV crewmember, Pam. Kind of give me a little more your thoughts on what, first of all, what the IV does for you as an EV member and then also a little bit about Pam.

Pam Melroy is our IV crewmember. And, I'm glad. She is an amazing person. She can keep the hundreds if not thousands of details straight. It would be like trying to have an orchestra with no conductor for us to attempt to go outside and do this on our own. She's a critical component of the EVA team. She's present at all our planning meetings. She creates as many good ideas or perhaps more than any of us in how to conduct these critical spacewalks. So we see her as a key, the key component of the spacewalk team.

Tell me a little bit about, you're taking two camera groups out. Tell me about why do you have to do them on separate EVAs?

It would seem easy to carry out two camera groups with associated lights. But, there's limited room in the airlock. And, these camera groups are big. Each one is bigger than you or I. So, when you put Piers and myself in the airlock in bulky space suits, there's only room, and barely that, for the addition of a camera group. We take one out on two different occasions, and we install one on the new S1 truss and the other one will be installed on a different EVA on the Laboratory module. These different places give us a good vantage point of different areas of the space station.

Now, when you're not, your time isn't totally occupied by EVAs. You'll be doing a lot of transfer operations. Kind of give me an overview briefly [of] some of the main components. You know, what are you taking up and some of the things that you're bringing down.

One of the beauties of having a space station and a space shuttle is how complementary they work together. The shuttle can take supplies up, scientific raw materials up, bring back products and data and used materials. So, re-stowing and bringing back used items is a key function of many space shuttle missions to the ISS. For example in the EVA area, we will be taking a new SAFER. SAFER is a simplified aid for EVA rescue. It's the jetpack that we wear on the back of our space suit so if we would become detached, we can fly back within limited range to the space station. This is critical because the shuttle cannot quickly undock and come get you from the space station. Another example is the space suit itself. It only has limited lifetime. And, we will be taking up a new space suit and bringing back the old one. And, so on. There's many components that need [to be] replaced.

Can you tell me a little bit about the secondary payload, which is the SHIMMER?

We will be operating a payload called SHIMMER. Its goal is to examine the upper atmosphere for various gas components. It's part of the mission to planet Earth, to help us understand human impact on the environment so that we can rationally develop countermeasures. It will look out of a window of the space shuttle. We will precisely align the space shuttle so that we look at different areas of the atmosphere. The great speed of the shuttle allows us to scan large areas of the atmosphere. It has very sensitive detectors, interferometers inside which allow us to analyze the components of the upper atmosphere as part of the full understanding of the human impact on our environment.

Let's talk a little bit about the international, we talked a little bit about it before, the international cooperation. You, of course, worked, you were resident on the Russian Mir in the Shuttle-Mir Program, and now we have Fyodor Yurchikhin on your crew flying on the shuttle. And then of course, obviously the space station. What are your thoughts on the multinational, the crews, the Expedition Five crew is multinational. What are your thoughts on the crews that are multinational?

Our space program is now composed of 16 countries. We're joined together to build the International Space Station. America conducts the shuttle component of this. Most of our crews are international in character. The approach is different in different countries. And, it usually turns out that the right answer is in between. And, it's helped us unlock our perhaps rigid ways of thought for doing planning of missions, the kind of training we do, how we schedule crew time on orbit. And, as we've looked and been broadened by other countries' perspectives and in many cases we've been surprised to realize that maybe our answer wasn't exactly the best. It's a great advantage to have these different viewpoints. Our international partners are extremely talented, both the engineering communities and the crewmember communities. It's a great privilege to work with these people. Fyodor is a great example. He's a very talented cosmonaut. He's an excellent crewmember on our mission. It would be hard to imagine conducting the mission without him.

Let's transition into the other crewmembers. There are six on your flight. And you just spoke about Fyodor. Tell me a little bit about your Commander and your other crewmembers.

Jeff Ashby is a Navy-trained pilot. One of the most technically [competent] pilots in the world. But, his strength is really his grasp of interpersonal relationships. He is a master of leadership and motivation on a team. It never stops to, fails to amaze me the things he thinks of on how to resolve situations, how to make the whole crew feel important and good about what they're doing. He's a master. He's a leader, and he should be careful where he goes because I'll follow him anywhere.

How about your Pilot?

Pam Melroy is a master Pilot. And, she's a master astronaut. Nobody grasps the big picture of planning better than Pam. She has a knack for assimilating a huge number of details. When we're going uphill with 5 million pounds or so of thrust, there's nobody I'd rather have at the controls of the main propulsion system than Pam Melroy.

How about Sandy Magnus?

Sandy Magnus is our Flight Engineer. What a capacity to keep track of the whole vehicle, all the systems at once. When we are in simulations and multiple systems are failing, she seems to go straight at the solution where the different failures will interact and cause larger problems. She's a master Flight Engineer. She works beautifully with Jeff and Piers and Pam. There's no better team to handle this vehicle, particularly during dynamic phases of flight than Sandy and the rest.

And, Piers, your fellow EV crewmember.

Piers is an absolutely technically competent astronaut. Piers has total technical competence. His strength, however, lies in his personality. He's funny, appropriately. He is personable. He'll be a great friend forever. I can think of no one I'd rather share the experience of him doing his first spaceflight and conducting three spacewalks. I can't wait to hear what he has to say about that.

What are you most looking forward to on this flight?

Ten months of training. Thousands of details. Plans. It involves Mission Control, the flight crew, engineering communities. I look forward to seeing this plan come together, to just see how accurately we can pull it off, as well as how adaptable we can all be when things don't occur as they are expected. It's beautiful to watch this system work. It's one of NASA's great strengths, is to put together teams that can accomplish more than what one might think possible.

I wanted to ask you one more about the crew. Fyodor equated it to being like a family. How do you look at your crew as a whole? As the crew of STS-112, how, what would you characterize it as?

A spaceflight crew develops an amazing relationship. Some ways like a family; some ways like best friends; some ways like a club member with a difficult initiation. When we work this hard for this long together and conduct such an amazing adventure as a spaceflight, it bonds us together forever. We'll be friends forever. We've experienced emotions and difficulty and lows and highs that are very powerful when it comes to human relationships.

Okay. Actually before we conclude, I was going to ask if you had any other thoughts that you wanted to share with anyone who, you know, a viewing audience. Any thoughts that you wanted to share with them.

The public I hope realizes that this is their space program. And, we work hard to communicate what it's like to live in space, the kind of research science, exploration we do in space. And, they should be very proud that we are a first-rate space-faring country and live our successes, live our failures and problems, with us because it, it is the public's space program.


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