Interview: Fyodor Yurchikhin
STS-112 Crew Interview with Fyodor Yurchikhin, mission specialist.
Q: First of all let me ask, where are you from? Where did you
A: Oh, this
is interesting story. I was born in a little town, Batumi Autonomous
Republic Adjara in Georgia. This is very multinational town, very
nice town, and a nature like Houston's nature. This really, yes.
And then, when I finished high school, I was studying in Moscow
Aviation Institute. After graduating this institute in 1983, I work
a long time in Energia in Russian MCC. And in this moment I with
my family live in Shyolkovo. Shyolkovo, this is a little town near,
in Moscow region near Korolev City between Korolev City and Star
City. And I have wife, two daughters. Very nice daughters. My older
daughter eight-and-a-half years old, and my younger daughter is
one years old. Is okay?
Very good. Okay. When did you first think that, you know, "I
would love to be a cosmonaut." When did that become a dream
you for a very interesting question for me. And I think when I understand
myself, yes, I in this moment, I have this task for me, yes. I must
be a cosmonaut. It must be yet this is very nice profession. Because
I was born when Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space have this
historical flight, I am only two years old. But, I, maybe I don't
remember very well this time. But, I remember that the old people
have a very nice, this is about holiday. A big holiday. Not official
holiday, but very big holiday. And, I remember this time very well.
I think, in this time, I, because, for example, in the first class
in high school, when my first teacher asked me about the, my future
profession. She asked, "What do you think about future profession?"
Why, I answered, this is "I must be goal keeper in the football
team," this is the Soviet team. "Yes, but," she told
me, "this not profession." "Oh, okay. I am, I will
be a cosmonaut." And, I think in 1961, I think. This [is] my
good. When, at what point then did it become, go from a dream...
"Okay, I can actually achieve this. I can become a cosmonaut."
When did you decide that?
Oh, wow I
don't really, okay. This is next point in my, oh, in my life, yeah?
The, for example, the first point in when I was finishing my high
school, yes? And a long time I played football, soccer, too. Yes,
and for me, very, I don't have very much time. Yes. And, I finished
playing football and soccer because this is, this is my dream, too.
Yes, I, I was a younger man then, yes. But, I don't have enough
time for studying in school because I thought this, "I must,
I should continue with my studying, can we institute way in Moscow
Aviation Institute." Because a lot of Russian cosmonaut finished
this institute, too. Yeah. This way, too. And this is all my life.
But, really, when I begun work in Energia, a lot of time I work
in MCC, Russian MCC. And I understand the, this profession very
well. I understand this is very difficult profession. Very difficult
profession. I see this profession and the, a lot of people in this
profession. I know a lot of cosmonauts, Russian cosmonauts, yeah?
And, I think in this moment, I really understand this profession.
And, told myself, "I am ready for this profession."
you went for it. You were working in the MCC. What were you doing
in that job? Were you, you were an engineer? What were you in charge
I work in, I work with schedule. With schedule. This is a daily
plan, daily plan. Every day we have a new daily plan for next four
days. Yes. And, in this daily plan we understand the, all data for
aboard, for Salyut aboard the first, my station, the Salyut-7. The
Mir station board will order do crew in this moment. What do, with
what equipment we work in this moment? With what payload we work
with at this moment? This is very interesting. And, I worked in
[unintelligible] group. We work I sit in MCC near flight director
Russian flight director, yes? And, this very nice and very good,
my experience. A lot of experience, yes. And, for example Sergei
Krikalev, our very nice cosmonaut, very good cosmonaut, very well
cosmonaut, he has worked a long time in MCC, too. This is very good,
very nice school.
And I remember
when we began program ISS, for example, I work with Mir, Mir-Shuttle
Program, yes, a long time. This very nice time because this a new
experience. And, two big objects-Mir, Mir and shuttle-have a docking,
they has docking. This is a holiday, too, for, I think. This is
maybe second holiday in American and Russian generations after Soyuz-Apollo
When you became a cosmonaut, at what time did you hear, or did you
decide to come to America to train, to go for, to ride on the shuttle?
you a lot for this question. Because, this is interesting question.
There, my first flight in a space shuttle cannot be the flight 9A.
This is a secret, yes? Just a little near, yeah? Early. Just a little
early. But, a long time I sit in Moscow for, and I don't understand
why I don't have a training in Houston, yes, a long time. This,
this terrible time for me. And one very nice very good time for
me, this is August. Yes? When I understand then in this moment I
cannot have a travel in Houston, too, and begin my training. I [Russian
name] this secretary in NASA-Houston and in Star City, too, near
then my huge Commander, Jeff Ashby, should have a call, a phone
with me. "Why? Who is Jeff Ashby?" Yes it's an, yes, and
this day and I remember in 6 o'clock Moscow time, this is very early
in America. "Yeah, thank you, Jeff, for the, your patient."
And, really Jeff have a, had a, this is first talk in phone. Yes.
And, Jeff told me about my future crew. About Piers, Sandy, Pam,
Dave. It's very nice time, yes. And, he told me then he prefers
he meet in Houston the first September. I told him, "Yes, I'm
ready." But, I think this is not real. But, just a little time,
this was very terrible time because five, ten days and I, the first
September, I am at Houston, and the second of September, on September
2nd, I have a first meet meeting with Piers. And, Piers come in
my apartment and talked with me. And, I understand then my crew,
one member in my crew know Russian very well, yes. And third, on
third September I see, I had a meeting with, with Jeff and other
crewmembers. And, I start, I starting my study in Houston now like
crewmember STS-112. Thank you for, a lot for this, guys, and for
Jeff. Because I think really, in this moment, I begun this, my way
I guess, how were you feeling to realize that you were actually
going to be going up into space? This is your first flight. And,
how does that make you feel?
I think very
well! Yes. I had a long my way in space very long because I begun
this really in 1987, when I ride the first late our general designer
look at the space systems. And the whole time I understand that
I am ready for this flight. For flight. Not this, for flight in
space. And, because I in the first time, I don't have know, like
I don't know like the animal in Spring? Yes, I don't jump, I did
not jump, yes. And, in this moment, in the first moment in Houston,
I feel, I felt very terrible because this is a new job and new relations
in, with crew. A new training. A new direction, training direction,
yeah? And but all my crew, every day, every time, everywhere, helped
me. And I, sometimes I don't understand American. This is terrible.
Yes. But, a lot of time I work with American people, and I thought
this, I understand the, all in American. But, sometimes, yes. And,
but in this moment we are about palm. Yeah? If you see the palm,
the palm, we see the all finger is, help, our difficult, different
direction, yes? And, I think, I think that all our training, the
finger work very well and sometimes this leave this. And, when we
have a landing in our flight, it must be about this I think. And,
I hope I am one crew with STS -112. And, I hope we will, I know
we will have very nice work. We are feeling very well, yes? And,
I hope maybe my work in space will be a very nice time. Very good.
I am ready.
were talking earlier about you were working in MCC-Moscow with,
when Mir was up. And...
the Shuttle-Mir operations. And one of your crewmembers, David Wolf,
Mir for a little while. What are your thoughts on what the Mir was
like? And how we've progressed now to the International Space Station?
And how has that progressed and the international cooperation there?
First just a little remark. A little remark, yes? Not a short time
Dave Wolf work four and a half month. This is a very long time.
And, this crew, this is my last crew with whom I worked in MCC.
Because in 1997, I finished my work in MCC. And, then on September
1997, I continued my work in Energia like conduct test cosmonaut.
Yes. What do, what I thought, think about Mir station and ISS station?
Yes. Mir station our history. Not the history only Russian. Not
the history only American and other countries. Mir station program
begun like Russian program but finished really like international
program. Because, for example, the first docking shuttle with Mir
station is a, is a history, I think, American people. The first
long flight in space American, after Skylab Program; this is the
Mir station, too. We had a very good experience. And, I think we,
excuse me. I know this very strong word, but I, we must remember
our history. But, we must think about our now and our future. And,
I assess this moment, our now history. And, our future history,
too. And, every day, every time, we think about this Russian, American,
French, Japanese, other countries, Canadian and other countries,
and I think we build every day, every time very good home. Our home
is your view on the international cooperation that is involved with
the space station and making everything, because there're systems
from everywhere, and people working on the station from everywhere,
how do you view that?
program ISS Program begun like a real international program. Yes.
We, when we begun this program and in this moment, we had and have
a lot of problems. A lot of problems. And the people different cultures,
with different designers, with different understanding I think.
Yes? But we continued this program. We begun this program in 1995
and continued seven, eight years. And, I hope and really now that's
last maybe 15, maybe 20. I hope maybe 30 years we work with this
very nice station. Yes. And, this is very big and very good experience,
because different countries, different cultures, work about one
team. Out there, problems we have only one choice and continue this
program. And, maybe in future, this experience is a very good experience.
Because we have just a little bigger station, too. This station
is planet Earth. And, in this station, if we can work with international
teams in ISS Program, maybe we, in future we work with big political
program in the planet Earth, too. Because the ISS Program begun
with government level, then next level designers' learn, and then
engineers' learn, then workmen level. In this moment, a lot of people
work in this program, yes? And, maybe in future, with the planet
Earth, a big station, space station, who have fly around Sun, we
have about this program, international program in the world.
the station is like a microcosm.
Yes, this is a microcosm. It may be the first step in future, in
future our planet.
talk a little bit about this mission, STS-112.
are your primary responsibilities for this mission, this flight?
I am IV-2.
In the main goal, role in our flight is install S1. This is a second
SS, second, I am sorry, second segment future our truss, yes? And
this is very very difficult work. And we should have three EVAs
work. And I am IV crewmember. IV-1 is Pam Melroy. I am the second
IV crewmember. We will have our EV crewmembers, Piers and Dave,
with this with also very difficult work in space, yes, but I don't
know why the American people talk of spacewalk. It's space work,
I think, yes. And with this, this is my primary role in this flight,
yes. And I work, I will work with the CWC systems, [unintelligible]
systems. I will work with TV four time, PGFC, this is, too. But,
primary role is my role with IV.
you mentioned briefly the goal of the mission is basically to install
the S1 truss segment. This is the fifteenth flight to the space
I guess if you could give me a brief overview of what the goal of
first and main role is distillate and install the S1. Second segment
of these. Then we distillate the potable water, for example some
equipments two pilots two-pilot equipment then use for crewmember.
This is very important, too, yes. And, we work I hope maybe for
eight, maybe nine, ten, in with the ISS, with the ISS, a very nice
but very difficult end, because this, in, we will have three EV.
Three EVA work. This is very important, too. And our guys ready
for this EVA because we will have a lot of training in NBL. I think
this is very, it, if we installing S1 very well, I hope, and I know
this really. Our task, yes? And we ready for this task we continue
to our program next. We don't have a stop, we should not have a
stop in this program.
the crew that is up there, Expedition Five, you trained with some
before they went up. And you will be their first visitors...
they've been up there. What will that reunion be like? I think you
know Peggy Whitson already. And, of course, the two cosmonauts you
know also. What will that reunion be like to see them again?
for them also to see you, the first people that they will see in
a long time?
I hope that
by now this is and this is very important moment. And I close sometimes
my eyes and I see the huge picture when we open the hatch, we open
the hatch, and we see them smile, the Korzun smile, the Treschev
smiles, and Peggy smiles. Yes? And we, all the people will smile,
too, because this is very important. I like this moment, I hope
this is very nice moment, yes. And yes, we had a lot of time training
with ISS-5. This very nice guys, yeah. And I think that all crewmember,
all Expedition, yeah, in ISS Expedition One, Two, Three, Fourth
is very nice Expedition. Very, very nice crewmember, yes. And, these,
too. We continue this very nice program. And we have some secrets
for these guys, yeah. This is the crew secrets, yes. And we hope,
we hope we will have a very good time in ISS Program. And in ISS
in this flight. And, some news, special news for crewmembers. Some
books, some magazines. This is very important, understand. Some
very special meal for crewmember. But, this is a secret. I am sorry.
you talk about any of the EVAs? What will be the goals of the three
EVAs? Maybe specifically. I know they will install the S1 truss.
But do you know some other specifics, maybe, of the goals?
Okay. I think
this is very special questions. And, I think the, for example, Pam
Melroy, she's IV-1. And our EV guys, Piers and Wolf, answering these
questions very well. Because now, now this work very well. But I
know all three EVAs very difficult, very complex EVA, yes? And the
first EVA after install S1, the crewmember work with bolts with
S1 and S0. Then the crewmembers will work with the TV cameras, install
TV cameras and CETA cart and S-band antenna in S1. Then, we work
with jumpers nitrogen, and ammonia jumpers. And, we will work with
umbilical. And, a lot of very hard and very difficult work. But,
I think these guys are ready. And I am ready, too, for help for
Piers and Wolf before EVA. Before EVA and after EVA.
you mentioned a while ago some, that you'll be taking some equipment
to the station. You have a lot of transfer things that you'll be...
Can you tell us some of the things that you will be transferring
to the station? Or, maybe some of the things that you will be bringing
The first we change some TV equipment. We change some computers
in ISS Program. We have two pilots equipment. We not, we install.
We transfer this equipment into ISS. And return and our in ground
the older equipment, yes. Potable water, technical water. Some equipments
for EVA, and we this equipments. And, we our EMU, one of our EMU
we transfer is ISS. And, this, and return small EMU size, yeah.
EMU size, I am sorry. This all.
you know, we're going to move a little bit away from the mission.
How do you feel flying on the shuttle, the American-made shuttle,
with a mostly American crew?
You and me
not American people. You and me, I hope these my friend in this
moment. Yeah? This is really my friend. Because we had a lot of
training, each of us, and we have very nice integration in our crew,
yes? And, sometimes we have a mistake. Sometimes I am have a mistake.
A lot of mistakes. But, we help together, yes? And this is very
nice crew. Not American people. Not Russian people. This is a crewmember.
This is a real family, yes? We have our, I don't know this word.
But the very nice helper, for example, in our crew. This is Pam
Melroy, yes? If she solve the, a little problem, not problem for
review, for she and he told me, okay? "You must be very patient.
You must, this is not mistake. This very nice. Okay? That all people
have a mistake." For example, this, yes, when I had a mistake
in KSC, for example, yes? And, this is terrible, terrible time for
me. Because we are family, we are family, and not American, not
Russian. When we begun our training, yes, with American people and
Russian, yes? But, in this moment, we are crew.
good. How has, what differences do you see or how do you view the
training that you have here in America and the training that you
had, the cosmonaut training, in Russia? Are there many differences?
And I know they both prepare you. But kind of talk about the, your
view on the differences maybe.
our training, Russian training and American training, is different.
Different. But, we have one task. The task is the Russian cosmonaut,
American astronaut should be ready for flight, yes? And but the
way, direction in this training is just a little different. For
example, in Russia, in Star City, our instructor prefer when we
have, before our practical lesson, our practical exercise, we have
a lot of theoretical lessons. And, only after, when we have exam,
we have a practical lessons in trainers?
And, in Houston, in JSC this is news for me. And, first time I think
maybe next week when I begun in my training, I was in trainer's
role in the real [unintelligible] shuttle system. I work with shuttle
system. I don't have enough about Russian, enough theoretical lessons.
But, I work with equipment, I, with real equipment. This is too
differentials, too. And I think this not maybe, maybe very important.
Very important we have one task. We must be ready for flight. And,
Russian and American. But, sometimes I think maybe in future we
will have one, maybe, I see the Russian instructors and people in
this one, a lot of Russian instructors, for example, in this moment
work in JSC, yes? And then return to Russia and told Russian chiefs,
we will talk Russian chiefs, "Okay in American people prefer
this way and this way and this way." I think American instructors
when, after Star City, talk the American chiefs, too. "Okay,
excuse me. But, this I think maybe just a little better. This just
a little better." And, in future, we will have one way. I hope.
on this flight, on STS-112, what are you most looking forward to?
This is two
really special things for me. The first, after MECO, for example,
I will talk myself, "Yes, my dream is real." It, this
is the first. The second, very important, too. Maybe when I will
have a free time, I see in window in planet Earth, I talk, "Yes.
The planet Earth. Earth is a sphere." Because I know this.
But, I don't see this. Only just a little more four hundred people
see the planet Earth, and the planet Earth, this is a sphere. But
yes. I'm looking forward, the first and very important. This is
when we open the hatch and see the Expedition Five guys. The first
EVA. I know we really ready for this work. But, I think if we will
begin this EVA very nice, and we continue it, our flight will be
very nice. Because important hatch, EVA-1. These too very important,
too. Then undocking. Just a little, not funny, yeah? And then, undocking.
And then the entry and landing. Our family. Our friends on ground.
This nice, yeah.
me about your crewmembers. Your Commander, Jeff Ashby. You said
he called you and was the first time you found out that you were
flying. And then now you came to America and you met the rest of
your crew. Tell me about some of them.
first time I read biographical data my crewmembers in Moscow in
Internet in NASA site, yes? And after this, I know that Jeff had
two flight in space like Pilot, yes? And, this flight, this first,
first flight Commander, yes? And I know Dave Wolf because he a lot
of time work in Star City training in, with Anatoly Solovyev and
Pavel Vinogradov in expedition in Mir station, yes? The first but
when I know, when I know that Dave, I did, I did not know that in
future we will have one flight, yeah? Because the first real man
with whom I had meeting, this is Piers Sellers. Piers is very know,
very well know Russian. Have a very nice family, yes. Very nice
guys. He like our, I don't know. Sometimes, I think he is everywhere.
Everywhere. Because he'll, for example, when we head up NORSS, this
is national [unintelligible] school in Utah state, he helps all
crews, every time, everywhere. Jeff Ashby, our Commander. Sometimes
I am afraid because I, and I think he didn't know anywhere. He know,
all, the whole system shuttles and know very well. Not only your
seat, only just equipment on the [unintelligible] the whole systems,
it, it's master man, yes? Pam Melroy, very nice, very professional
Pilot. And she is like mother, I think, in our crew, yeah. Dave
Wolf. The strong man. Very nice man, yes? I think this is a future
Hollywood star because a lot of funny stories. Know a lot of funny
stories. And sometimes when we just a little tired, yes? One, two,
three sort of funny stories. And, we have a good relax. Sandy Magnus.
Sandy Magnus is, had a very, I think, she know all when each of
things must be happening, yes, very organized, they all, all organized,
they all work. And know very well the systems, too. We are, I have,
this my crew. And, I have very nice, very good crew. Very best crew.
The best, yes?