6 Commander John Herrington|
6, John Herrington
Day 3, Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Do you ever
recall sitting down with a box of Tinkertoys, piled high on the
living room floor? Remember taking each piece and meticulously putting
them together? Now, take that same box of toys, put them together
in nice orderly groups, wrap some rubber bands around the most important
ones, shove them into dive bags, and place them on the surface of
the ocean. Okay, now don your dive gear, put on a mask, swim to
the bottom of the ocean, retrieve each piece and put it all together.
Oh yes, each piece must go together in a particular order and you
have to line up the bolt holes just right. And if the holes don't
line up, swap ends. If they still don't line up, figure out what
you did wrong and come up with a solution, right there, right now.
All the while, mission control is trying to reach you on your communication
gear, your own breathing is preventing you from hearing each call.
So, you time your breaths to coincide with the call, hoping you
might make out part of it. While, unbeknownst to you, your partner
notices an extremely large fish, roughly the same size and weight
as your 9-year-old daughter has saddled up beside you. You, of course,
do not have a clue this aquatic behemoth is within feeding distance.
You are too intent on the job at hand. Such is the life of the aquanaut/astronaut.
marvelous day beneath the waves. At least, I think there are waves
up there. You can watch your bubbles float to the surface and make
out the ripples on top. I have not been down here long enough to
determine how big the sea state is, just by looking up. I guess
you could eventually, but right now we just don't have the time
to spend looking up. Too much to do down here. That's exactly the
way it is in space. People are always curious what the Earth looks
like from above. You spend so much time working, that to actually
look at the window for pleasure is a rare occurrence. During my
spacewalks, I had to make a conscious effort to look around and
appreciate my surroundings. You are sometimes just too busy to really
absorb the sights around you. If we had not delayed our landing
on STS-113, I would not have taken a picture out of the window for
pleasure. That's like driving by the Grand Canyon with a camera
by your side and not bothering to stop because you have to make
Las Vegas by nightfall. Been there?
task is certainly a challenge. The pieces are not going together
as we planned. We have had to improvise to make it work. Tomorrow,
we will tackle the problem as a group of four. We will divide and
conquer and we will succeed! This task is another good example of
how hard a spacewalk can be. Worksite body position is everything.
If you try and accept a position that is not optimal, it will come
back to bite you. Steady yourself in your worksite, have your tools
at hand, properly tethered, evaluate the hardware, position it accordingly,
and blame the engineer when it doesn't fit right. ;o)
This day has
been challenging for all of us. A bit of frustration working the
task, difficulties communicating with the ground team, the plan
not coming together as we anticipated. Tomorrow we will use the
lessons we learned today and make it better. We will rise to the
occasion and make the most with what we have at hand. If we had
lemons, we could make an ocean of lemonade!
I have experienced today, I experienced in-flight (with the exception
of getting wet). Being adaptable is what it is all about. The "human"
in human space flight. The human in the loop. For all of the wonderful
images and data that we have received from robotic exploration,
they will pale in comparison to the first words spoken from Mars.
To hear the words describing the vista, a vivid explanation of the
glow of the Martian sunset, the heartfelt thanks to all who made
it possible for a human to walk a path on a distant planet. These
are the things that we are capable of doing. I truly believe that
the person who will have this opportunity is alive today. Perhaps
she is reading a science textbook or he is strolling across the
campus on the way to an exam. There is someone out there, who occasionally
looks up on a star-filled night and wonders... Could it be me? Yes