Interview: Brian Duffy
STS-92 Crew Interviews with Brian Duffy, Commander.
Talking with Commander Brian Duffy of STS-92. First off, why did
you want to be an astronaut? Was there any particular event or
person that inspired you?
A. Well, the
idea of being an astronaut was something that was planted when I
was maybe in 3rd grade or so, about 8 years old. I was one of all
those kids that sat in front of the black-and-white televisions
and watched Alan Shepard launch. And you know, I thought a lot about
you know…my imagination would run wild, just like any child's
imagination does. And I thought how great it would be to be able
to do that. Of course, I never dreamed, at the time, I'd ever have
an opportunity to do it. So, I think the seed was planted very young.
And it wasn't until actually I had finished Test Pilot School and
was flying as a test pilot in the Air Force…the opportunity
arose to be able to apply for the program here to fly space shuttles.
And it was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up.
tell me a little bit about how that opportunity came to pass.
If you would, give me an overview of your education and career,
and just tell me how you got here.
to this seat was as you know, of course it's been an interesting
road in my career. I grew up in a small town south of Boston called
Rockland, Massachusetts. And I went to high school there. I grew
up and went to high school there, and not far from there, there
was a naval air station. And South Weymouth Naval Air Station. And
I always watched airplanes coming and going in and out of there,
and I thought it would be an interesting you know, something I would
like to do. It would be something that would be neat to go fly fighters
like I saw coming in and out of that base. And I applied to the
Air Force Academy for college and was accepted to go there. And
while I was there at the Academy, I majored in mathematics, played
baseball, and had a good time. But probably the most important thing
I did was, I got a chance to fly in a number of different airplanes,
one of them being the F-4. And to be a 19-year-old at the time in
the back seat of an F-4, a hundred feet off the ground, going 600
miles an hour made me realize that was something I really wanted
to do. So, graduating from the Air Force Academy led me to pilot
training, and I wanted to fly fighters out of pilot training and
was fortunate to do that. [I] got an F-15 assignment. I flew a couple
of assignments in the F-15, and I had the opportunity to go to Edwards
to go to test pilot school. I went to do that, and I was flying
F-15 flight tests at Eglin Air Force Base up in the panhandle of
Florida when, back in 1985, when a call for applications went out
and they were looking for people to apply for the shuttle. And I
was surprised to find out, quite frankly, that I had qualified and
filled all of the squares that you needed to fill to be competitive
to apply. And I thought, you know, I couldn't let that 8-year-old
kid from so many years ago down to find out that I was qualified
to apply and not do it. You know, would I be able to live with myself?
So, I applied and I'm very, very fortunate to be here.
right. This flight begins a series of missions involving the largest
and most critical hardware for the International Space Station.
If you would, discuss this flight's pivotal role in the assembly
sequence and why this flight is crucial to enabling the rest of
the missions to follow in sequence.
Well, you know,
the truth is, every single mission in the sequence of building the
space station is equally important. And regardless of what you have
in the payload bay-whether you're bringing up hardware, as we are,
or if you're bringing up crewmembers or if you're bringing up supplies
or you're bringing back things- all of those missions are required.
We're in a stretch here where we do, in fact, need a series of serial
successes, where every mission has to work because the follow-on
missions depend on you getting your things done. And that fact hasn't
been lost on my crew nor on all of the other crews that are assigned
and training right now. So, we understand the importance of this.
Is our flight important? Sure, it is. But it's no more important
than the other flights. We'll be bringing up the Z1 Truss, which
is an important piece of the space station structure and also adding
Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, or PMA-3 to one of the ports of the
Node. And the reason that's important is because on the flight that's
going to follow us, he needs that port, that PMA to be there so
he can dock to it because he's not going to dock to the port that
we dock to. So, that's just an example of how interrelated these
flights are and how important one is to the next.
are and what have been the biggest challenges for you and your
crewmates as you trained for this particular flight?
had some challenges. We've been training for quite a while now for
this. And, one of the challenges you might equate to training for
a race or something or running a marathon, for example, you know,
this has been a long process. And we need to…didn't want to
peak too soon. We wanted to, but we wanted to make sure that we
were adequately prepared and ready to go when the time came. So,
pacing ourselves has been important. The time that we've had to
train, however, has been put to good use in that we've not only
been involved in getting ready, getting ready and training for the
things that we're going to do, but we actually had a chance to get
involved in putting the flight together and planning how things
were going to get done and who was going to do them. And, so that's
been something that we've taken advantage of here in the last couple
of years while we're getting ready for this mission.
after you rendezvous and dock with the ISS, your number one priority
is the installation of the Z1 Truss that you mentioned earlier.
Describe for me the Z1 Truss in some detail. How big is it, and
what does it do for the International Space Station now and in
the years to come?
see, describing the Z1 Truss. It's not a big, sexy piece of hardware.
It's about a…I would estimate, maybe a 15-foot cube. And it's
18,000 pounds or so. It's going to be in the payload bay. It's important
because it becomes the base that all the solar platforms are built
on. We put it on the zenith port of the Node. The top port of the
Node. And we'll have it there. And then the follow-on flight, 4A,
with Brent Jett and his crew, they will add the solar array on top
of that. So, this is an important base. It also has a lot of other
important equipment in it. It has the Control Moment Gyros, for
example, that will be used for controlling attitude-the attitude
of the space station-so they can be in the attitude that they want
and point the solar arrays at the Sun for electrical power generation.
It also has the S-band and Ku-band and communications antennas on
board. It has a Plasma Contactor Unit on board. It has DC-to-DC
converter units on board. It's a very well-designed, very compact
piece of structure. And what we're going to be doing on the flight,
if you can think of it as your trunk when you're going off on vacation
is, if you packed your trunk for vacation, you pack it very strategically.
You don't waste a cubic inch. Well, that's the way the Z1's put
together right now. We're going to carry it to orbit, dock with
the station. Koichi Wakata will use the robot arm and place it in
position. Pam Melroy will be operating the Common Berthing Mechanism,
which will be the first time that'll have been done on orbit. That'll
attach the Z1 Truss on to the Node itself on to the space station.
And then on the following days-4 consecutive days- Leroy Chiao and
Bill McArthur, Jeff Wisoff and Mike Lopez-Alegria will go out in
two teams of two and they will unpack the trunk. It's the equivalent
of getting to your destination and now taking all of those things
that you'd put in every nook and cranny and putting it in the place
where you're going to need to have it, not so much for a vacation
I guess, but where we're going to need to have it so that we can
are some of the difficulties and complexities you've trained for
in this whole installation process?
flight is pretty complex from start to finish. And that's because,
you know, we're bringing, we have hardware that's on the space shuttle
program side. We have hardware that's on the space station program
side. Then we have international involvement as well with the having
the Russians involved. And so, pulling all this together, into a
nice, neat little package has been a real challenge. All of the
details. The big things, you know, when you talk about it in large
terms, you say, "Well, we're going to launch a space shuttle.
We're going to carry space station hardware. And we're going to
dock over a Russian ground site and do some other things over a
Russian ground site so that they can do commanding powering things
on and off." That sounds pretty easy. You know, the devil's
always in the details. And the details have been the challenge for
you mentioned this in passing a few moments ago, but what additional
communications will be possible after you do install the Z1 Truss?
once we get the Truss on board, the space station will still be
in the same configuration for communications as far as Bill Shepherd
is concerned on the follow-on, the folks that come on up. We will
have it on board, but there'll be some future additions that'll
be required. More hardware brought up, more software brought up
to fully enable and get the entire capability of the hardware that
we're bringing up there.
once that hardware is installed, what will it be capable of communicating?
systems that are on board the Z1 Truss are going to be the heart
of the comm system for the whole space station. And…they'll
be able to send down both high and low data rates so that all the
data that's associated with the experiments-all the voice communications,
all of the video that will be sent down-that'll all flow through
right. Now what are the Control Moment Gyros, and what do they
Well, the Control
Moment Gyros are these massive rotating structures that are in the
Z1 itself. And what they do is, they use torque to…they act
as gyroscopes; and we use the precision that you get and the torque
that you can generate from spinning a mass to point the space station
where we want. And when we fly the space shuttle, we use Reaction
Control System jets. We use thrusters in order to point that. And
when you're using a thruster, the thruster produces thrust by combining
a fuel and an oxidizer to produce the force. Well, that's a consumable.
So, every time you want to make a change or point at something,
you're using consumable. You're using propellant. And with the space
station and maneuvering it all the time, we almost, I don't think
we could carry enough propellant to orbit to keep doing it forever.
So, these Control Moment Gyros we can use to point the space station
where we want it without using propellant, if you will. We still
have a propellant system as a backup but the CMGs will be the primary
means of pointing the station.
Tell me more about the DC-to-DC Converter Units. What do they
are many DC-to-DC Converter Units on the stations. The ones that
we're [carrying] up will be ones that'll be mounted on the Z1 Truss.
And they're going to help condition the electrical power that's
generated by the solar panels that are going to come up on the mission
after us. [They] generate, or condition that power that's generated
so that it can be used by the space station itself.
Now I understand the Z1 Truss can help eliminate static discharges
on the station. Tell me about this. Why is this important?
you know, I'm not a scientist in doing this. But…static electricity
is generated whenever items come in contact with each other and
then are separated. So, as the space station flies through space
it still encounters atmospheric molecules. You know, there's hydrogen
and nitrogen and oxygen molecules that are up there. So, over time
and with the size of the space station, it'll generate a lot of
static charge. And the Plasma Contactor Units are ways in which
the change can be neutralized.
now what role does the Z1 Truss play in controlling the temperature
on board the ISS?
Well, the Z1
Truss has some ammonia in lines there. And it's not an active part
in, necessarily, in the thermal control of the ISS. But it'll enable
the entire cooling system. It'll be a part of the whole cooling
system once it's put together.
This flight features four space walks. And during the first one,
the S-band Antenna Support Assembly will be relocated. What is the
S-band Antenna Support Assembly and why are you moving it?
Antenna Support Assembly - remember I mentioned that the Z1 Truss
was put together as, the same way that you pack your trunk for a
vacation. And it's located in a place on the Z1 Truss where it can
withstand all of the launch loads and landing loads, should that
be required. But it's not where you want to have it to use the S-band
system. So what we'll do is Leroy and Bill will take that off of
its stowed location and just relocate it over to where it's going
to be in place when we use it.
Now also earlier, you mentioned the Pressurized Mating Adapters,
and you're adding another one during the second EVA. What does
Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 do and where is it located?
Okay. The PMA-3
is going to be located, it's going to be in our payload bay for,
to start about mid-bay. And on that Flight Day Koichi Wakata will
use the robot arm and he'll go over and he'll grapple it. And Jeff
Wisoff and Mike [Lopez-Alegria] will be out in the payload bay at
that time. They will loosen the 16 bolts that hold it to the structure
that we carry it up on. Once it's free, Koichi will pick it up out
of the bay and move it around over the nose of the space shuttle
and attach it kind of on, around the front of the space station
as we're looking at it. It's really going to be on the bottom of
the space station when it's free-flying.
right. There are four space walks on this flight. What are your
responsibilities during the space walks? What will you be doing?
Well, the space
walks, of course, I can't necessarily help the guys outside. But
truth be known, they don't need help. They're very talented and
they're very well trained. They're ready to go. My jobs on the inside
are making sure that everything is in place to get them safely out
the door and also, during the course of the mission, to monitor
what they're doing and communicate with the ground to make any decision,
any real-time decisions that we have to make to changes in plans.
And then, once they're back in, to help get them out of their suits
and get them fed and get them ready to go, you know, on their next
right. If you would discuss the Common Berthing Mechanism and
compare its differences with other docking mechanisms that we're
more familiar with.
Okay. The Common
Berthing Mechanism is a fairly complex piece of equipment that we
will be controlling from inside the space shuttle. And it is in
orbit already; the active part of it is already in orbit. And what
it is, is it's four mechanisms spaced equally every 90 degrees around
a ring. There are latches that we can command open, you know, into
an open position. And then we can move the piece that we want to
attach into place, and then we can command those latches to come
up and grab it and to pull it down together. And then, once it's
down, there are 16 bolts that are motorized bolts, motor-driven
bolts, that we can also command using a laptop computer. And those
bolts are what will generate the force that'll seal the two units
together. And then we can do a leak check on them and make sure
that they're working properly. Pam Melroy has become the expert
on the CBM. And she'll be the first one to operate the CBM on orbit,
the Common Berthing Mechanism.
particular issues with the CBM that you're concerned about at
the CBM is very complicated. But it's very robust, also. And you
can have multiple failures and the system will still work fine.
To date, we've had a couple of very small glitches; nothing that
would have been a showstopper on orbit. And we don't expect that
there'll be any problem. We might have a, you know, something that
we stop and talk to the ground about. But my expectations are that
it'll work just fine.
Now after the space walks are all complete, you're ingressing
into the ISS. What are you doing inside the International Space
Station? And will you be entering the Zvezda Service Module? And
if not, why not?
Well, we do
have quite a bit of work to do. We'll have two opportunities during
the course of the mission-on Flight Day 4 and on Flight Day 9-to
do ingresses. On Flight Day 4 it's going to be a big day for us
actually. In the morning is when we're going to put the Z1 on and
do the first CBM operations. And then after that is completed, which
we think will be maybe around lunchtime or so, then we'll start
the ingress into the Node and into the Russian segment as well;
into the FGB. And once we're inside the Node and into the space
station Jeff Wisoff and Pam are going to, they're going to start
by opening up the hatch to where the Z1 was attached on the top.
And they need to get access in, on the inside now where these pieces
were pulled together, because we need to put a, connect a grounding
strap across the interface just to keep the station electrically
grounded, properly grounded. And they're also going to remove the
four components that were used in the Common Berthing Mechanism
in attaching them, because the Z1, once it's in place, was never
planned to be moved. So, there's no point in leaving that hardware
there. So, they're going to then take that hardware out, and that'll
take them a few hours, probably, to do all of that. And in the meantime,
we'll be ingressing toward…into the Russian station. While
they're doing their work, we'll continue into the Russian segment,
into the FGB. And in there, we're going to start preparing, or continue
preparing, the FGB for the first crew that's going to come up, which
is going to happen after our flight, shortly after our flight. And
so, we're going to go in and change out a Harmful Contaminant Filter
and you know, just precautionary kinds of things. Just making sure
that everything is as pristine as possible for when Bill Shepherd
and his crew get there.
docking to the ISS with two Russian Progresses attached. Describe
the processes and challenges of rendezvous and docking on this
is something I'm really looking forward to. I had the opportunity
to do a couple of rendezvous in my last flight. And in my flight
before that, I was the Pilot on a mission where we did a rendezvous.
So they're, for a Pilot you know, they're one of the highlights
of the mission-just as for the Mission Specialists, the EVAs are
the highlights for their flight. What we'll do is, we're going to
come in and, come in from underneath, from, actually from behind
and then up from underneath. And we're going to get to about, about
600, between 600 and 500 feet from the space station, and then we're
going to just fly around in front of it. So, if it's here, actually,
if it's like this, we're actually going to fly around in front of
it and get above it. And then we're going to come down from above
and we're going to dock from above it as we come down. Now some
of the factors that make it…you know, a challenge are: we want
to maintain the proper range and range rate, because timing is very
important. The reason the timing's important is because, now, we
want to be docking with the station, while we're over a Russian
ground site. So, we have a limited window and a window open and
a window closed time that we want to be docking within. So, staying
on the profile and being in the right place at the right time, and
with everything ready to go will be, you know, a bit of a challenge.
That's what we watch as we do it. The flying part is something I'm
really anticipating and I can't wait to do.
right. Now tell me about the process of undocking for this flight.
is a little bit simpler than the docking process. The
timing's still important in that we're going to undock over a ground
site, also. And the reason that we're doing that, I failed to mention
that before, the reason we're doing it over a Russian ground site
is so that they have a backup way of commanding the attitude control
system of the space station. We're going to be the last crew to
leave the space station with it unmanned. After our flight when
Bill Shepherd and his crew get up there, there'll always be a crew
on board. So we'll be the last ones to leave it. If there were a
crew on board, they could go to a computer and command the attitude
control system of the space station to become active again. When…the
two vehicles separate, we're in free-drift. Neither vehicle is trying
to control attitude. We just want to separate with very low rates.
But then once we're separated, we want to go back into attitude
control. The station does because they want to point for electrical,
to point the solar arrays for electrical power at the, you know,
point them at the Sun. And we…want to ensure a nice separation
as well. If there's no one on board, they can't command that backup,
then there could be a problem. So, we do have a backup system using
the Russian comm passes to do that. So, we just time everything
so that, both for docking and for undocking, we are over Russian
ground sites for backup commanding just in case we needed it. Once
we separate on the undocking, we'll fly out. And Pam will be flying
the separation. We'll fly out to, in the 400-foot range, stabilize,
and then we'll depending on how much fuel we have, we'll either
be able to do a fly-around or we'll just separate away, and then
start preparing for…you know, the entry and the landing.
worked with Leroy Chiao and Koichi Wakata on STS-72. Did that
experience make your job as Commander any easier this time?
Well, I have
to tell you: this is one incredible crew that I've had the pleasure
of training with for the last couple of years. They all have tremendous
talents, their great strengths. And knowing Koichi and Leroy as
well as I do from our last training flow-and I also, the flight
before that, I flew with Jeff Wisoff-so, knowing half my crew as
if they're my brothers already certainly makes it a lot easier.
When you're training together for this long and you're this close
together, you become like a family. You become very close. And I'm
actually not looking forward to the day when I don't get to see
them all every day.
right. Our Russian partners have shown a lot of perseverance in
getting us to this point in the assembly. What do you think of
their contribution so far and what does our partnership entail
from this point on with future critical flights?
with the Russians has taught us a lot of things. They've taught
us that there's more than one way to skin a cat. And they certainly
do have perseverance. They've had some difficult financial times
over there. Difficult, and that makes it difficult for them to do
their job. They know how to do their job. They've proven they know
how to do their job time and again. They're very successful. And
it's, you know, once they get over their financial difficulties,
things will get easier for them. Even as it is, though they are
able to do the things that we need them to do; and we've been very
happy with working with them and look forward to a great future
working with them.
you touched on this a little bit earlier. But, if you would give
me an overview of the role of this flight in preparing the International
Space Station for the arrival of the Expedition 1 crew.
Well, we are
the…our flight is going to be important in that we are, you
know, another step along the way in building the space station.
And by bringing the Z1 up and bringing the Pressurized Mating Adapter
up, we've added a lot of capability to the station. But Bill Shepherd
could probably go up there and do just fine, you know, without it.
And if you asked him, he'd probably say he's ready to go before
us. I don't really feel like there's a hard requirement for us to
have to go beforehand. But we will have just added increased capability
to the station before he gets there.
tell me, what is the importance of establishing the space station
and what do you believe it will lead to in the years to come?
Well, the space
station is just our first step. You know, it's an opportunity for
us to build a laboratory that is open 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year,
and in an environment that you can't re-create on the ground. And
I would like to think that we don't know what we don't know right
now. There's so much we're going to learn so much that we haven't
even thought about, haven't even considered at this point that makes
this whole effort worthwhile. In addition to that while we're doing
it, we're bringing an awful lot of countries and peoples together
in a common cause down here on the planet. So, you could think of
it almost as a joint…or dual-goals program. And something that
I expect great things from.
is also the 100th shuttle flight. And, if you would, discuss the
significance of the space shuttle in human spaceflight history,
its uniqueness, its accomplishments, and its role in the future.
The 100th space
shuttle flight. Wow! I never thought I'd be on the 100th space shuttle
flight. But to us, it's just a number. It could've been, you know,
flights before, you know, a flight in front of us, a flight after
us. So, we're honored to be in that spot. The space shuttle is what's
important in this whole process. And that's what you have to understand:
this is the most incredible flying machine ever built. It roars
into space you know, like a launch vehicle, a rocket. You can turn
it into whatever you want it to do on orbit. It can carry cargo.
It can be a laboratory. You can rendezvous with other spacecraft,
as we're going to do, and dock with it. And then it reenters like
a, you know, like a fireball and lands on a runway with a big 100-ton
glider. It is an absolutely incredible vehicle that allows, you
know, allows us to…carry equipment to learn more about the
altitudes where we're flying. And we can learn more about aerodynamics
and hypersonic flight. We can learn about human physiology on orbit
by extending stays up to a couple of weeks. I think 17 days or so
is the longest space shuttle flight we've had. And we've learned
a lot about how humans behave and how the body reacts to zero-gravity
for extended durations. We're about to learn a lot more on the space
station when we spend a lot, you know, constant time, many, many
months for individuals on the station. But it's the shuttle that
has made that all possible. We wouldn't have a space station if
it weren't for the space shuttle. So it was our first step in getting
us to the station. And it'll be our, you know, our ride up and down
and our lifeblood, I think, for the station for as long as we can