Interview: Salizhan Sharipov
International Space Station Expedition 10 crew interview with Flight
Engineer and Soyuz Commander Salizhan Sharipov.
Q: The International
Space Station Crew Interviews with Salizhan Sharipov, the Flight
Engineer on ISS Expedition 10. Salizhan, tell me what are the goals
of this expedition to the International Space Station?
A: The main
task of Expedition 10 is support of ISS in functional condition.
We will have to do dozens of experiments, Russian experiments as
well as U.S. experiments. And if we perform all those science activities,
then I believe the main task will be complete. Of course, we will
also have a few EVAs: Nominally we'll be getting out from the Docking
Compartment of the Russian segment, but if necessary we are ready
to perform spacewalk from the U.S. segment.
training for this flight, in one way or another, for several years
now, and not just the formal instruction here in Houston or in Star
City. Have you enjoyed the process of getting ready for this flight?
Yes, of course.
Training for a spaceflight is a very interesting period of time,
when you are already a crewmember and looking forward to the flight
and you are putting all you have, all you knew, in order to get
ready for the flight. Of course, this is not the first time I am
training: prior to training for Expedition 10, I was a backup crewmember
that performed successfully in space. And I believe training in
both Houston and Moscow is an element that is a combined, united
element of training that is necessary to perform successfully in
you have flown to a space station before, albeit a different space
station. Has that experience given you any advantage in the preparations
you're going through this time?
Yes. I was
a member of STS-89 six years ago, and the experience of communication
with the U.S. colleagues and training together with them helped
me a lot in current training for ISS. And of course, the experience
that we are gaining at the center of cosmonaut training is very
valuable because we communicate with experienced cosmonauts who
have visited space many times. This is important for success.
On the other
side of the experience coin, though, Expedition 10 will be the first
ISS crew in which none of its members have ever flown a long-duration
mission before. You've got three ground teams keeping an eye on
what you do, and almost four years' worth of experience of crews
on this Station right now; do you think it matters so much that
neither you nor Leroy have flown a long mission?
Well, I believe
Leroy Chiao is a very experienced astronaut. He performed three
spacewalks - three flights with spacewalks - and he's very well
prepared, technically. And the fact that I have not flown Soyuz
before - well, I still have experience while I was training for
the previous five flights where I was backup. I think it is important,
and I think the trainers, the instructors, people who prepare us
for flight, will be making the correct decision. And only if they
are sure that we are able to do that, only then I believe we will
be allowed to fly to space.
to this mission took an unexpected turn with the loss of Columbia
and its crew last year. And as we've mentioned, now you've flown
in space before and you're well aware of all the things that can
go wrong. But here you are again, ready to go fly in space again.
What is it that you feel that we get, or what is it that we learn,
from flying people in space, that makes it worth this risk that
you're willing to take?
spaceflights are risky business; everybody knows that. New technologies,
advanced technologies, are necessary to support spaceflights, and
we learn new technologies while we are performing science in space.
And, this is what we are contributing to humanity, to progress.
And it is unfortunate that sometimes we are losing qualified specialists,
it is unfortunate because the technology that we are advancing in
space is usually so advanced, and we are not able always to foresee
all the hurdles that we should go through while performing science.
But, we are bowing to the people who have sacrificed their lives…
why you wanted to be a cosmonaut.
is a very interesting job. A job of the cosmonaut, an astronaut,
requires vast knowledge of technology. This is a person who is able
to control himself and follow the goal, and these are the qualities
that are important in this profession. I believe these [are] qualities
that I should cultivate in myself, and this is what I am doing.
And this helped me to make the decision to become a pilot first
and then a cosmonaut. I remember when I was 4 years old and I saw
an aircraft in the sky that was flying very low. I was together
with my mom, and at that time I realized how it could be to be in
the air, to fly. And then I was training, I was learning, I knew
that it will take a lot from me, both emotionally and physically,
and I became a pilot, a military pilot. And of course, when the
opportunity came to become a cosmonaut, it didn't take me long to
write an application to the cosmonaut training center with a request
to undergo medical examination to become a cosmonaut. Of course,
I was accepted, and since then I am in the Cosmonaut Corps, and
I have trained for long-duration flights.
about this long-duration flight. The members of any flight crew
have got to have a whole range of talents that are necessary to
complete all the jobs on a mission. And in this case, all of those
talents are, need to be possessed by just two people. Tell me what
will be your main responsibilities as a member of the Expedition
I am the commander
of Soyuz vehicle. I'm completely responsible for the Soyuz vehicle
for rendezvous and docking activities, and in case of emergency
- hopefully it will not happen - and if we have to abandon the Station
using Soyuz I will be a commander in that case as well. But, for
the long-duration period of the flight while on the Station, I will
perform the role of flight engineer, responsible for the Russian
segment of ISS. Both Leroy and myself have been trained for working
both in U.S. and Russian segments, and we're combining our roles.
We are helping each other. All the activities that are performed
by Leroy on the U.S. segment will be supported by me, and Leroy
will be very well trained to help me on the Russian segment. Leroy,
as the commander of the crew, will be responsible for the flight
program, and I, as a flight engineer, will be responsible for the
technical aspect of the Russian segment of ISS.
Space Station has been run with just a two-person crew for a year
and a half or so now. Back then, there was some concern that two
people weren't enough to do all the work that was required to be
done; what has been learned about balancing the demands for crew
time for operations and science and for relaxation that is going
to help the two of you make the most of your time on board?
inside the Station are very interesting, and we have a huge flight
program that includes over one hundred experiments, science experiments
including EVAs; two Progresses should visit us; also we're expecting
Space Shuttle in March. And two crewmembers will be performing all
these activities; probably we'll be very busy, and I understand
the time will fly. Also, based on the experience that was gained
within the last year and a half, I believe two crewmembers can support
successfully ISS. Of course, this is not enough to take advantage
of all the possibilities such as science experiments on ISS, and
two people are not enough to completely explore all the opportunities
that space exploration offers us. And I believe Shuttle should come
back to flight as soon as possible, and we should complete construction
of the Station as soon as possible so that at least five people
will be working on board - only then we can say that we are using
it to full advantage.
focus of the scientific research on board the International Space
Station is becoming, more and more, research on how people are going
to be able to live and work safely in a weightless environment.
Tell me about some of the human life sciences experiments that you'll
be participating in on this flight, science for which you are going
to be, in fact, the test subject.
we are performing lots of both U.S. and Russian experiments. They
include human research, research of space impact to human body.
We understand that humans will be on the Moon, on Mars, and other
planets, and the beginning stages of humankind in space is the study
of space impact to the human body, and we are test subjects in this
respect in microgravity. Medical/biological experiments comprise
the largest part of the Russian science program. For example, the
research is being done on how the muscles are operating in space,
how the bones are functioning in space, how various medications
are affecting the human body. All of that will help for research
in preparation for long - very long, a many-years'-duration - flight
in space. We are not forgetting that when humans stay a long [time]
in space it will be necessary to have food the same as we have on
Earth; that's why we have an experiment which is called Plants that
is a study how to grow plants in space.
Space Station is a laboratory for experiments in other areas of
science, too. Tell me about some of the other kinds of science research
that will be going on during Expedition 10.
various kinds of experiments. As I mentioned, one very interesting
experiment is called SRS, which is a low-temperature synthesis in
space; high technologies that would allow us to develop new materials.
In biotechnology, for example, we are using stem cells for possible
development of a vaccination for AIDS treatment. We are studying
ecology of the Earth from four hundred kilometers above; geophysical
experiments, we are researching as well, study nature of various
occurrences, physical occurrences. We are performing such experiments
that would help humanity to live better and progress.
who has a degree in cartography, as you do, I would guess you will
have a very special interest and, I guess, an anticipation, about
the experiments that will call for you to observe the Earth and
to take photographs from four hundred kilometers up.
First of all, I am a military pilot and a cosmonaut, and after that
my interest lies in cartography and ecology. It is very interesting
to observe the Earth from space, having special equipment designed
for it. In this situation, we are performing geophysical experiments
that are interesting from the point of view of ecology. And when
I just started being a student of ecology, we were performing an
experiment on ecological monitoring of quasi-synchronous, of a certain
region in Russia; that was an interesting region where the first
nuclear explosion in the former Soviet Union took place, and there
were a lot of specialists working on the ground, working on aircraft
and we in space also were performing a part of that activity. Unfortunately,
we do not have this kind of experiments this time, but I believe
the experience that I will gain from being a flight engineer of
Expedition 10 will help for future development of such activities.
a couple of minutes ago that there are plans for a couple of spacewalks
out of the Pirs docking compartment. I know that things might change
later on, but tell me that, tell me about what are planned for the
spacewalks right now - what are you and Leroy going to be doing
outside the Station?
There are two
planned EVAs for us; they are planned right before the New Year
and in February. The first spacewalk will be for installation of
the universal work space on the Service Module, and installation
of Rokviss experiment, which is a joint experiment for the European
Space Agency and Russia. We will have to install an antenna and
pick up some equipment that is already outside the Station. This
is complex and interesting work, and I believe this will be our,
my first experience in EVA and for Leroy, who has been there already,
will be my mentor in this respect. The second spacewalk is for ATV,
which is the European transportation vehicle. We will be installing
antennas-these are the ones that Expedition 9 is working on already
but these antennas will be located in the front end of the Service
Module, and we will have also to install other satellite navigation
antenna and a TV camera will be installed by us, also for ATV purpose.
As a mission
that plans to fly from October to April, that means that you will
be away from home for some traditional holidays. Have you two made
plans or stocked any special provisions for the holidays that will
come up while you're on orbit?
A holiday is
important: it is an opportunity to forget about work, to relax.
Especially for us, a holiday means that we can be with our families,
see their faces, talk to our kids. And for cosmonauts who are in
space, this is something that we are looking for, always. The holidays
that you are talking about will probably be interesting as well,
because we will be communicating with our families and we will be
also working on what we have to do. For the families that are on
the ground, this will also be interesting to talk to us … they
will have a video image of us from space. The families will miss
us, and we believe that they will endure, and we'll be always thinking
about them, and thoughts about them will help us to work efficiently
and come back to them as soon as possible.
three ISS Expedition crews spent six months each on orbit with no
visitors, but if the Space Shuttle returns to flight in the spring
you will be there when Eileen Collins and her crew arrive on board
Discovery. What are your thoughts about being part of what's going
to be an historic moment for ISS and for human spaceflight?
Well, I believe
the historic moment would be that the Space Shuttle comes back to
flight, and I hope that everything will be done well and safely.
And I'm certain of it, that we will definitely meet the Shuttle
crew in space in March, and we will be looking forward to that meeting
impatiently. When the Shuttle comes back to flight, then the new
stage in ISS activities starts. ISS has been missing the Shuttle;
ISS wants to grow, to develop, and continue functioning for the
good of the humanity. And Eileen's Shuttle that is going to come
will be the first step in the development in the direction so that
the Station will be developing further.
for STS-114 call for it to be a very busy mission with spacewalks
to test new inspection and repair techniques, as well as the spacewalks
on the Station, plus an MPLM delivery. How do you and Leroy go about
preparing yourselves for that? Are you training for that mission
now, or do you wait until you get on board the Station and then
get caught up on the tasks that you'll need to do during the Shuttle's
time docked to the Station?
First of all,
we are training for the long-duration flight that is going to be
busy already. At the same time, we are being trained for the activities
when the Shuttle arrives, and for a long time we have been training
for working together. We had quite a few lessons that will help
us to work together with the Shuttle crew. For example, when the
Shuttle is coming to the Station we are ready to inspect it to make
sure that the surface of the Shuttle looks all right; we will be
taking pictures of it. And later on, as we are already on the Station,
we will be getting more information on to what tasks we are supposed
to perform, specifically, and what specifically the Shuttle crew
is going to do, and we will continue working with the crew that
is still on the Earth and has not arrived by the Shuttle yet.
the International Space Station is a project that has goals of making
advances in engineering, and in science, and in global relations,
as well as in space exploration. What do you think is the most valuable
contribution that is coming from the International Space Station
Space Station is an international project and the participating
countries are doing a lot for the progress of humanity. The ISS
is demonstrating to us how we should work and live together; this
is an example of how we coexist in the future. The Earth is small,
especially when you are looking at it from space. There are no borders,
you cannot see them. Only people are there, that are doing something
to survive, to live better, to know more. And this is an example
of creating, International Space Station is demonstrating a lot
for humanity. I believe that just, that a few decades from now that
humanity will start working, living as one unified entity, and will
be doing everything so that all the people on Earth will live well.