to boarding a KC-135 reduced gravity aircraft the 2004 astronaut class receives
a pre-flight briefing. |
Candidates 2004 - Training Journals
you may have noticed, we have not had a journal update in quite some time. We
have been extremely busy. When we were accepted for the Astronaut Program, we
all had expectations of what it would be like. However, it was hard to imagine
how much time and energy would be required to go through the training process.
The past few
months have been spent primarily in the classroom studying Space Shuttle systems.
The training schedule has been broken up into tiers, much like quarters or grading
periods. The majority of the first tier focused on overviews of the major Space
Main Propulsion System (what gets us off the ground)
Data Processing System (computers on board and connections to equipment)
3) Orbital Maneuvering System (engines used to get us into a specific orbit and
to get us home from that orbit)
Reaction Control System (small jets that keep us pointed in the right direction)
Electrical Power System (we make power through the use of hydrogen and oxygen)
Auxiliary Power Unit/Hydraulic System (used to move the parts of the Space Shuttle
that operate like a plane)
Communication System (radios, intercoms, closed-circuit TV, etc...)
Caution and Warning System (fire alarms, "equipment-not-working" alarms)
goal is for us to have enough base knowledge in each system to become good operators,
whether it is as a commander, pilot, or mission specialist. Classes are between
one to four hours long. Our instructors are engineers that are members of the
Training Division. Apart from teaching our classes, they also keep busy training
crew members of upcoming Space Shuttle missions. They are great at their jobs
and are always willing to go the extra step to be sure that we are well trained.
for each class, there is a list of required readings or computer-based trainings.
We received a stack of workbooks about four feet high. Just like in any other
school, we also have to take tests. Our first test was in December. It had approximately
200 questions and we had two hours to complete it. It was broken up into fourteen
sections, representing the various systems. For any section in which you scored
less than 80-percent, some type of remediation is required. They want to make
sure that we have the knowledge necessary to continue. Future lessons require
a good understanding of earlier lessons, just like knowing the basics in math
before you can move on.
past week, we took our Tier 2 test which again focused on the above mentioned
systems. However, now we were looking at how to operate these systems. This required
us to have many classes in what is called the Single Systems Trainer (SST). It
is a mockup of the Space Shuttle flight deck (with all the switches and computer
screens) and, like the name implies, you are able to work on one system at a time.
The Tier 2 test had approximately 220 questions and it took most of us about 2
½ hours to complete. In addition to the tier tests, we have performance-based
testing that takes place in the SST. These are used to make sure we are able to
apply our "book knowledge" to the real world of space flight. They normally last
about two hours.
order to prepare for these tests, we do a lot of studying. Study techniques vary.
Some of us study in small groups, some alone, some make flashcards while others
review the presentation material or any combination of these. As hard as it can
be at times, we enjoy what we are doing. It is fun to learn new things while working
together as a team. At first it was a little intimidating to hear what was ahead
of us. As we look back, it is amazing all that we have learned. All of the hours
of preparation and studying are really starting to pay off.
don't want to forget to mention that while we are studying we are also required
to maintain our T-38 flight hours. For our first two years we need to get 100
hours of flight time a year, which is broken down to approximately 25 hours every
3 months. While this may not seem like many hours, it is quite a challenge to
stay current. The pilot and back-seater (mission specialist) meet about one hour
prior to take-off time in order to plan the flight and review safety procedures.
So, with getting to the airport and preparing for the flight it takes about 3
hours of actual time for a one-hour flight. Again, it is great to see how much
we have improved in a relatively short period of time.
we want to stress that with hard work and help from classmates and instructors
you can accomplish great things.
The Astronaut Candidate Class of 2004