Interview: Mikhail Tyurin
International Space Station Expedition Three Crew Interviews with
Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin.
are speaking with Expedition Three cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. Before
we get into talking about your flight, tell me: Why did you want
to become a cosmonaut?
it isn't easy to explain for me. Because it, I would say it happened
in [a] natural way. In other words it was very natural for me
and I didn't try to do something unusual for this purpose. I just
worked and worked, and was moved from one task for one job to
another, and it was like a sequence of events. And as a result
I became a member of cosmonauts' group. So I cannot explain anything
there was nothing special from your childhood or anything? It
was just an evolution of your career?
I graduated from the university, I started to work as an engineer
at the department which creates methodology. Before actual cosmonauts'
crew start to have training for this, there's a sort of tests-like
test pilots learn how to control [an] airplane in difficult, in
different situations. The same is done by the special group of
people who learn how to work in space. And, after they have some
experience, this experience is used to create procedures, to create
methodology, and so on. So I started to work [these] tasks and
this department; and as a result, I was taken to the cosmonauts'
me about your cosmonaut training. Tell me about that process.
stage of my training was done in Russia with that so-called generic
training. And then we have training in [groups]. And after actually
it's a common technique which is used both in Russia and then
U.S. After the person is assigned as a crewmember for some specific
mission, he starts the third, the main stage of the training as
a crewmember for some specific mission. So almost 4 years ago,
this stage started for me. And actually it wasn't an easy work.
Traveling, different systems, different approaches, makes our
training rather complicated.
you made it through that complicated training, and here you are,
a cosmonaut now. Have there been any particular people along the
way that helped to guide you, to help direct you to get you where
As I already
said: For me it happened naturally. But, of course, some people
affected making the decision. Of course, most of them are my friends,
my chiefs. Actually, they are both. Simultaneously chiefs and
friends. But people with whom I worked together in the same department
and the same group; but they are older, more experienced, and
probably I tried to follow them.
only have you [watched] these people that have worked together
for many, many years. You've also [observed] these nations coming
together to work to build this international project. How have
those relationships improved that you have seen and where do they
stand right now between all the partner nations?
course, right now, the relationship is improving. But we still
have some problems. Not so big. Not very important. But we are
still learning to work together. Our methodology is based on different
experience, some cultural differences still. When we work, we
still have some differences. And it is natural also, because to
fix everything, to learn or to avoid…them takes usually [a] rather
long time. But the main idea is that all the people who are involved
in this program try to learn everything the best from each side.
In other words, we are trying to learn all the best from [the]
U.S. system; and I hope [the] American system is trying the same.
Because all of the systems have, of course, have good and bad
things in their experience and their specialty in the system.
And we are trying to avoid bad, what is bad and to learn or to
share what is good.
you seen the examples yourself for those positive changes?
course. I could give some examples. But they are mostly too technical;
and it isn't easy to explain it and to explain it in simple terms.
But now we have some good examples [of] how our so-called MCCs
- Mission Control Centers - try to share, to work together, not
to disturb each other but to help each other to work as a team.
This is one of the examples. And, our training also. We, let's
take as an example the crew in itself. We have no, we have nothing
to, we have no disagreements in crew opinion. We are as a, we're,
we are a group actually and our opinion is crew opinion. And it
is one of the examples.
solidarity will, of course, serve you very well up on orbit. You've
had a chance to speak with some of your fellow space travelers
about going to the International Space Station. What are you expecting
to see when you finally get there?
good question. As you know, the station is growing. And it is
becoming bigger and bigger and more and more complicated and it
means in a way the problems are growing also. So we will have
lots of things on board, lots of different equipment, much more
scientific experiments and scientific equipment compared to the
first, say, the first mission or even the second. So our responsibility
is getting greater and greater, bigger and bigger. And we have
to learn more and more each mission. Each crew has to be prepared
for more and more things which are to be done. So, it means we'll
have some additional work, some additional tasks, and most likely
some additional problems.
you give me some examples of what you have learned from the Expedition
One and Two crews?
idea, the main idea I would say is to work under the two Mission
Control Centers. With two, I said "under," like a software is
writing under operating system. But the general meaning it is
with two different Mission Control Centers.
year will have passed from the launch of the Zvezda Service Module
to your flight. Describe how the International Space Station has
matured from just two little modules to a real home in space.
like to speak about technical events, because it's too specific.
But from a normal life in terms of normal life, probably I can
say that it, first of all, it looks very big. If you are in Soyuz
compartment and look through all the hatches, people say that
if you can see somebody in the opposite end of the station, it
looks very, very far. It means the station is really very big
as a structure. Of course, it is a complex of different systems
which [provides] lots of power and everything for life. So it's
growing. It's growing and becoming bigger and bigger.
are going to be riding to orbit on shuttle mission STS-105. Describe
for me the purpose of that flight. Is its main purpose to take
you to orbit?
It is one
of the main purposes. Another is to bring [the] so-called MPLM,
which is Multipurpose Logistics Module, which will contain some
equipment for the future missions. The shuttle crew is [the] primary
crew to bring it and to dock it to the station with [the] shuttle
arm. Also, they will provide EVA to activate this MPLM to set
some cables to connect, to perform some connections and so on.
What else? Several scientific experiments will be provided during
shuttle mission also, both with shuttle crew and station crew.
Of course while in shuttle, we are the same shuttle crew. But
we are simultaneously a station crew also.
you meet that other crew, you actually have to get up there and
dock with them. Once you've docked and open up those hatches,
what is that moment of meeting Yury, Jim, and Susan going to be
like for you?
can say just how I imagine it. Of course, the first, the very
first minutes I expect to be very emotional. And it's also because
we are friends with those guys. For instance we are friends with
Yury for almost 20 years; from the university we know each other.
From the university, when we were students we studied at the same
department and have also almost the same specialty after graduating.
So we know each other very, very well for a very long time. And,
it is also, of course it is very pleased to see your friend everywhere,
any time, and especially on orbit. I know Jim Voss and Susan almost
6 years; they are also our friends, not just colleagues. So I
think the very first minutes will be very emotional because this
is the opportunity, this is the chance to meet friends. And then,
of course, we will spend lots of time, as much as possible, for
handover tasks. Because I expect lots of things to discuss, to
share, and so on. You know, it is very difficult task, handover.
me more about handover. What kind of conversations will you be
having with the Expedition Two crew?
we will be prepared for this. We even will have a special book
for handover procedures. But I don't think all the problems to
be discussed will be in the formal procedures. Let's try and take
an example. You come to stay [at] your friends' home and he is
going to leave. And you have to stay and use everything at the
garage, the kitchen, everywhere. And before he leaves, he has
to explain to you everything and you have to remember everything
to keep in memory and pick up very fast. Usually it takes over
time. And according to our experience, usually handover takes
so much time that crewmembers don't even have enough time to sleep.
is the process of formally exchanging station crewmembers and
shuttle crewmembers? Does it all take place in just one day? How
does that plan work?
I don't have this information. It is still in work. How long,
I mean, how long the hatches will be open, how long we, how much
time we will have for handover, who is scheduled to go to the
station first, who will stay on orbit on board of the orbiter,
currently I don't know this plan. And it is also complicated activity
because we don't, we mustn't to have hatches open all the time
when the orbiter is docked. Because since we have EVA planned,
we have to keep different pressure in station and in orbiter.
That means we have to have hatches closed and it also makes the
procedure of handover more complicated. Because all the people,
all the crews, all the equipment is involved in this procedure.
So we'll see.
you think there'll be some sort of a formal handover ceremony
from Yury to Frank of command of the station?
know if there is [a] sort of flight tradition for this. But, informally,
we'll do something of course. Maybe Yury will transfer or give
like a symbolic key from the station to Frank or something like
this. Or just say to him, "Frank, now you are a commander. Please
take this chair."
mentioned the Logistics Module going up on STS-105. What [kinds]
of things are being unloaded from that MPLM and are you going
to be assisting in any way with its unloading or will you be busy
expect me to be the prime responsible person for this task. I
mean from the station side to bring everything, to calculate everything,
and to make sure we have transferred all the equipment we had
to transfer. What [is] it going to be? Actually most of [it] is
just equipment for scientific experiments. And so-called racks,
standard shape structure and all the equipment, all the devices,
boxes, and so on [are] sitting on the racks and we have just to
disassemble it. Not to disassemble it. To take these racks and
to transfer them to Lab. This is the main task.
are also two space walks while Discovery is attached to the station.
Will you be supporting those efforts in any way?
no scheduled activities connected with [these] space walks. But
probably we will follow…maybe some help will be needed. Or at
least if it will be possible, we'll be taping and taking [pictures]
of them. Because it's [a] unique opportunity to have a unique
photo and videotapes. Of course, if we aren't scheduled to do
something else during this time.
several days of docked operations, when these space walks and
the Logistics Module is unloaded, it will be time to close the
hatches and send the Expedition Two crew home. What do you expect
you'll be thinking as the hatches close and your increment really
the first thought will be: "Okay, guys, it's our turn to work."
outside of the major events such as the arrival of new modules
or space walks, while you are up there going to work, what will
your daily life be like on orbit? What's a typical day like?
have lots of things to do for our tasks of maintenance and maybe
repairing of some equipment, some systems. I expect lots of loads
for the crew working with computers, with inventory management
system, with SSC computers also. We have a lot of software onboard.
It takes some time to have a good experience and to work with
it. So I expect us to be busy all the time.
construction is still going on --
while you're attempting to do --
do you balance those two important jobs?
to balance it is task for ground, for planners. But our task is
to switch our mind from one to another to the third and so on.
Sometimes it is, it isn't easy to work on one complicated subject
and then immediately to switch your mind to something completely
be working as a scientist sometime. Give me an overview of some
of the science work you'll be doing on orbit.
of the experiments are biomedical research. But also we have some
technology, biotechnology experiments. And also physics. From
Russian side, we have very interesting and very complicated experiment
which was already provided during the first mission. And we have
to continue with this research. It is a so-called Plasma Crystal
Experiment. Probably some people have already heard about this.
And lots of biomedical researches. Biomedical experiments, both
from Russia and U.S. sides.
the work be very different from the work that took place on the
Mir space station or on the space shuttle? Or, is it kind of similar?
If you take
into account that we still have two Mission Control Centers, I
expect it to be different compared to what we had in Mir, on Mir
station. So it makes our work more complicated. But now we have
some experience already. And which helps to have a good hope that
is possible to work and communicate with each other. To understand
else you will be communicating with is the Payload Operations
Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. What will
they be contributing and what kind of interaction will you have
with them about the science work going on board the station?
everything is going as it was planned. For this case, we have
all the procedures for our activity and work to be done by the
crewmembers. Most likely in this case Marshall Center specialists
will be just [checking] that everything is done properly and on
time. But, if some, in case something is going wrong, probably
we'll need some consultation, some additional explanation from
them. And, for this purpose, they are going to be available, I
mean, on the communication in case the crew needs some additional
information, some additional suggestions. But I hope everything
will be as it's planned.
is the Human Research Facility and what kind of work will you
be doing with it?
of equipment contains some devices, computers for some sequence
of biomedical experiments which are planned to be conducted during
our flight. So we'll work with it.
during your stay, a Soyuz rocket is going to bring a Russian Docking
Compartment to the station. What does this new component do?
purpose of this Docking Compartment is to support EVA, extravehicular
activity, from Russian side. And it is going to be the primary
Russian airlock. Actually, I don't know why it is called "Docking
Compartment," because the, again, the main…a main goal for this
module is to provide EVA and to serve as an airlock. But it also
has a docking port and it is possible to dock this compartment
to the station and to have another spacecraft docked to the Docking
take a space walk to hook this new Docking Compartment up. Explain
to me what's going to happen during that trip outside the station.
Yes, I know
this activity very, very well because it's my task to connect.
Actually, it isn't difficult. It is just connecting of several
cables, power and data cables. And as far as I'm, if I am right,
it is going to be performed during our first EVA.
that Docking Compartment fully functional at the end of that space
have several other space walks during your stay up there. Who
conducts what? What kind of work are you doing and what kind of
training had you had - cross-training to know each other's tasks?
have to activate [the] docking module, as you said before. Then,
we have to install a Strela; it is like a big crane to transfer
people or equipment during EVA. Actually we are going to have
two Strelas on board; and one of them is already attached to the
FGB and another is to be installed by our crew. What else? We'll
activate some systems in [the] Service Module and Docking Compartment.
We'll set some cables and perform several connections. And this
task is for EVA, is scheduled for EVA which Frank Culbertson is
going to perform. Actually, it is his task. And also we have to
install some scientific experiments modules or equipment outside
of the station to collect data from station environment-external
environment. [These are the] main tasks.
as currently scheduled a couple of Russian Progress resupply ships
will come to your station during your stay. What is the process
of getting the station ready for the arrival of the Progress?
first station crew activity or responsibility is to perform the
redundant control loop and to be ready to take control for or
using so-called TORU control system. It is…how to explain it?
A remote motion control system which provides us the ability to
perform approach and docking unmanned spacecraft and to dock it
to the station using remote control system. And usually the station
crew activates this system and is ready to use it or to perform
manual docking in case of failure or like a redundant [system].
And this is the first task. After Progress is docked in this or
that way, we'll see the station crew has to reload it to bring
everything to the station and to pack to set everything-
it takes several days.
the Russian Soyuz vehicle serves as your lifeboat on board the
station at this point. What kind of work would you have to do
to get it ready to serve as a lifeboat in case you did have an
emergency on orbit?
it is, it should be ready, must be ready, during [the] whole flight.
Every moment, every day. And, in case of emergency, we'd just
activate all the system and it is ready to be used as a, as you
it's meant to be pretty simple. That you could just hop right
in there and be gone pretty quickly.
simple. But it doesn't take too long time because we are prepared
for this activity. And each crew has to be ready for this very
well because it can happen, as I said, before every day, every
moment, even in nighttime. So it should be done automatically.
4 months or so on orbit, another shuttle, STS-108, arrives bringing
your [replacement] crew - the Expedition Four crew. What will
have had to have happened for you to consider your mission a success?
What sort of milestones do you need to accomplish?
each of us wants to perform everything [that] is scheduled and
what is going to be scheduled during the flight. Because sometimes
our plans are changed. And usually it isn't, it doesn't make to
have a good feeling if you haven't accomplished everything or
something. So this is how we understand our main task. And, actually,
each item in our flight plan is so-called milestone. But some
of them are more important. Some of them are less important. Of
course, EVAs are very important because some future plans depend
on how successful they are during EVA activities. Scientific [experiments]
are also very important, both for the crew and for the ground
and for the research teams also, because sometimes it is very
expensive programs. And those people have already paid lots of
money to NASA to some different people and groups, I don't know
where. But, some money [has] been already paid. So we are as a
final group who has to accomplish everything. And the scientific
results are going to be very important also. And sometimes if
some sequence of experiment isn't [provided] in, on time or in
correct and proper sequence, some data could be lost forever.
So it is, it also makes [these] tasks very important for us. And
we understand it. What else? And, of course, the prime priority,
the first priority is safety.
you worry at all about the large volume of work that you're going
to have to accomplish up there?
an easy, the easiest question. But I would say our crew training
is going on almost 4 years. And it is not only methodology and
technical training. It is also psychological training. So I would
say we are almost prepared, both in technical area and in psychological
areas also. So we don't feel, at least I don't feel, anything
unusual, anything uncomfortable. I'm just trying to remember everything,
to keep everything in memory, and to be prepared for something
what is planned and especially what isn't planned.
me your thoughts about the role of the International Space Station.
Why is it important that we have the station?
Let me share
my personal opinion about this. Of course, it's very important
to have international space program, some sort of international
scientific programs to share technical experience, scientific
results, and so on. But for me it is important because we are,
it's a good way to share our culture, to learn to work together,
to learn how we can understand each other. After several years
pass-let's say 15, 20, maybe 25-the station will stop its life,
but our experience working together, our experience to understand
each other, our impressions how we work together, how we learn
to…how we were friends actually, how we knew each other, and how
we work on this program will help not just for us but will help,
I hope, will hope the second, the future generations to work together
to understand each other again. And this I would say, it is sort
of social area or social results of this program. And in my opinion,
it is even more important than scientific and technology.
will be the first person to live on the space station that has
not had any previous space experience. What are your thoughts
about this mission as your first space experience?
it will be more correct if I answer this question after my flight.
In this case, I would be able to compare my experience, my actual
experience, to what I expected before the flight. But now what
can I say? Of course I, during my training, I felt some ideas
how it is going to be. Actually, nothing's strange. Because each
of us has to do something first time in his life. First day at
school. First day at university. First kiss. First solo flight
in airplane. First spaceflight. It means just our life is continuing.
And something new is coming into our life.