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NASA Press Briefings - 8/12/97
Culbertson: “As you saw last week we had a very successful launch of the Mir-24 crew on the Soyuz. They docked two days later on Thursday the 7th. Just to clarify some of the questions that came up regarding that, Anatoly Solovyev took manual control at about 9 or 10 meters and as he reported later on the air-to-ground, it was because he could not see clearly the crosshairs that overlay the docking target itself, so he took over manual and allowed it to drift off a little bit so that he could see in fact that the crosshairs were there. I believe what you had was a case where the automatic system was controlling so tightly that with the shadowing and the color of the background on the target, he just couldn't see that it was in fact in place. So he backed off a couple of meters and then continued in with manual control and made a very smooth docking right on the numbers, and it all worked very well from then on.
“Solovyev and Vinogradov have been onboard since then working with the Mir-23 crew and Mike Foale and continuing to work on systems onboard the Mir and get ready for the departure of the crew on Thursday. Vasily Tsibliev and Aleksandr Lazutkin will come home on Thursday, and they land I believe, about 8:00 a.m. CDT, and of course they're looking forward to that. Mike Foale will stay onboard and continue his program. He's actually been very active with greenhouse, CGEL, and some of the other experiments, and is making good progress in keeping what remains of his science program since the Spektr was closed off on track.
“The plans for the near future, of course, include the internal EVA that was discussed several weeks ago. Solovyev and Vinagradov will conduct that EVA on August 20, and will attempt to reconnect the cables from the solar arrays in the Spektr to cables that would lead then into the base block and the other modules. They have trained for this in the water tank in Star City, and their procedures seem to be mature and well set up. Mike will be in the Soyuz during that time and will support from there. It'll take probably about five to six hours to complete that. We're optimistic that once that EVA is completed they'll be able to regain a significant portion of the power that was lost, which will make the science program for the upcoming missions easier, increase the margins there, as well as allow them to turn on some of the systems in modules such as the Priroda and the Kristall that have been powered down since that time.
“Speaking of that, the systems problems they've been working most recently have been in the oxygen-generating area. The Elektron in Kvant-1, when they attempted to power it back on after leaving it shut off for quite a while, while they were using the gaseous oxygen out of the Progress, would not keep running. They've been troubleshooting it for about two weeks and it appears to be related to some type of a clog or problem in the gaseous analyzer section of the Elektron. The liquid unit appears to be working fine. They've narrowed it down, they believe, to a small filter in a valve that leads to vacuum from the H2 line and are attempting to clear that clog today. As of the last time I talked to the crew, they didn't have the results of that attempt. And they're using water with aspirin in it to try to clear the alkaline that they believe has collected on the filter. If that works, that should recover the use of that Elektron. If not, after the EVA on August 20, regaining the power from the Spektr should bring the Elektron in Kvant-2 back on line. That one, as far as we know, is still functional and there's no reason to suspect it wouldn't be operational once it has power again. Right now they've been unable to route power from the base block into the Kvant-2 to repower while they're working on this other one, so in the meantime they've been using the solid oxygen generators, the lithium perchlorate. They used about one per crewmember per day and that has gone smoothly, with no problems and the oxygen levels have remained well within our normal ranges. CO2 removal is working well with the Vozdukh. They supplement that occasionally, every day or two, with a lithium hydroxide canister, actually an American one that we brought several up on the last shuttle, and that keeps the CO2 levels well below our maximums.
“The other systems are working as they were the last time we briefed. Condensate recovery and the thermal control is working fine. They have succeeded in significantly drying out the modules that were shut down and which had collected some condensate for a while in Priroda and Kristall. They've routed warm air into the back of those modules so that it circulates back up toward the core module and they have collected that condensate in the CRS and they appear to have made a lot of progress in drying that out, which will expedite repowering those modules when they do regain power.
“Getting that power back is important, but beyond that they plan an EVA on or around September 3. This EVA would conduct an inspection of the external surfaces on the Spektr module that were damaged during the collision, try to assess where the damage is, and install some handrails at the work site that would allow them to conduct repair activities in the future. They also will look for any other areas that may not have been seen previously. They also will install a cap on a vacuum line that will allow them to begin the work to build a new Vozdukh or CO2 removal system in the base block itself and may possibly retrieve a Benton dosimeter, which is one of our external experiments on the outside of the Kvant-2 module.
“One thing I forgot, prior to the EVAs, after the crew undocks on Thursday, the crew that remains onboard will get into the Soyuz, undock from the Mir on Friday, and back off to about 70-100 meters. The Mir will be rotated in front of the Soyuz and then they will redock on the opposite end to free the Kvant-1 end for the return of the Progress and any future Progess vehicles that will come up. The Progress has been station keeping at some distance from the Mir and will be brought back aboard using the automatic system on either Saturday or Sunday. Hopefully, during the undocking and redocking of the Soyuz, they'll have a chance to take some video and some still pictures of the damaged areas. The video will be downlinked to the ground. The stills we will bring back on shuttle when STS-86 docks.
“We're looking at launch dates for STS-86, and as you know we've put Dave Wolf in training for the EVA program as a contingency in case he is needed during his increment. Wendy Lawrence has moved to his back-up role and Dave is doing very well in his EVA training. They got right on that and he's been in the tank and been in the vacuum chamber and feels it's been very productive and gone very quickly, and so he feels very comfortable with the quality and the efficiency of the training he's received. He'll be back in the States in early September. We'll give him his final refreshers on the shuttle for flight on that as well as the refreshers on the science program, and conduct things such as water survival and TCDT prior to his launch so that he can then launch on the shuttle in late September. We're looking at dates around September 25, though shuttle hasn't set a specific date yet. It'll be based on his training requirements and programmatic requirements to be ready to go and we've notified the Russians of when that might be. That would be about a week or 9-day delay from the original schedule of September 18. At any rate, his training is going well. Wendy Lawrence will be back in the States next week and she will also go through her refresher training for shuttle, as well as continue to work on ways to help Dave get set up when he first arrives on the Mir. She will participate in the transfer of his science hardware and the set-up in the Mir modules once she arrives on orbit and will come back on the shuttle.
“In general, that's all going very well. I believe that being able to change a crew member from prime to back-up and vice versa and impact the shuttle schedule by only a week is well within the template that we had estimated at the beginning of the program, that it would take to do such an exercise, and it's also been a good learning experience for everyone involved because of the details of having to change one crew person for another. Such things as menu and clothing and support items as well as any other crew-specific items have to be changed out, such as the Soyuz seat liner and the Sokol suit. We had estimated what all this would take previously, but had never really gone through the exercise, so I think this will also be a good learning experience for any event that happens in the same way during ISS. So we're continuing to learn, We're continuing to work the issues. I believe we have a good handle on the way things are going right now and what the plan is for bringing the Elektrons back on line and also for the status of the Mir itself and the status of the crew. We're looking forward to the return of the Mir-23 crew. I know they'll be happy to be back on the ground after such a trying mission. It's been one of the most difficult people have ever had to go through in space, and I believe that we still owe them a debt of thanks for keeping the Mir going through all of this and the hard work that they put in. And of course we congratulate our Russian colleagues on the successful launch and docking of Mir-24 and wish them success with the beginning of the mission of Solovyev and Vinogradov.”
Q: “What is the intensity, how many hours a day is David Wolf training, and where are his "deficiencies"? What is being emphasized and what is his reaction to it?”
Culbertson: “Right now he's still continuing to get reviews on Soyuz and Mir systems, but his major emphasis is in the EVA area, so he's working some Saturdays, he's working some eight- or nine-hour days in the training flow, but he's says it's all doable and not unusual for what we do in the shuttle program at this phase just prior to a launch. He says the instruction is excellent and he's getting it very quickly. His Russian language is pretty good and he says it's all very doable at this phase. When he gets back to Houston the emphasis will shift back to shuttle systems and science review, and again it'll be long days and a lot to fit in. We also want to make sure he has some time off to relax for a few days in the middle of all this because he's going on an unexpected long trip and needs a chance to recoup.”
Q: “Sometimes we hear concerns about the Russian employees who don't get paid on a regular basis. Is that of concern to you?”
Culbertson: “That's a concern, if they're not being paid. We know these people personally, and if it impacts their personal lives to not have their salaries coming their way, then we are concerned on a personal basis. On a professional basis, you would be concerned about morale and things like that, but I've seen no evidence that this has had any impact. In fact, whenever I ask any of the folks "How's the situation?" and "Are you doing OK?", they all say "Yes, we're fine." A lot of them are working second jobs or their families are working and providing other income and they say, "We're getting along just fine." Some things still are provided as they were under the previous system and so in some cases the basics, such as housing and some food, are not as critical as you might think if you're salary's coming in slowly. But in general it's a concern, and it's something that we need to be cognizant of, though I don't believe it's quite as serious as it was about a year and a half ago when things really were bad.”
Q: “President Yeltsin was quoted as saying that he felt that perhaps the crew of Mir was responsible for the June collision. What kind of reception to you think they're going to get when they come back and was any of that was discussed when you were in Russia?”
Culbertson: “Actually, President Yeltsin said that they were attributing this to human error, is the way I understood what he said, and that could be read several different ways. The crew obviously is a part of the human process, but there are other people involved in the process, and I believe that all of that will come out eventually once the accident report is published. Every accident is a chain of events, and if somebody doesn't break one of the links in that chain, it's going to happen. A lot of things, I believe, led up to this one and I believe we will have a pretty clear understanding once it's published, of what led to this and who was responsible for what.”
Q: “In that report, President Yeltsin did say that he would be talking to the crew. Are you at all concerned about what will occur after this? On another bent, what will Mike Foale be doing in his space walk? Some mention has been made of that; has that been finalized?”
Culbertson: “I meant to mention that. We have had some discussions with the Russians about the possibility of Mike participating in the EVA on September 3. We haven't made the final decision to go ahead and put him officially into training for that, though I mentioned to Mike that it was being considered and he thought it was a great idea. As I said, the key tasks of this EVA are to get to the site on the Spektr where the damage is, install some handrails so that they can do future repair activities, do inspection in that area, and look around and see if there were any other damaged areas that might have occurred on the base block or Kvant-1, because we do think it probably impacted lightly in some of those areas. They're going to install a vacuum valve and retrieve the Benton dosimeter. Mike will act primarily as an assistant with Solovyev doing the primary activities and installing the handrails. And so he'll generally be a back-up to him through all of that.”
Q: “You spoke almost as though that was going to happen, that Foale would be the first of the Americans to participate in the spacewalk repairs. Where is NASA as far as making that sort of commitment? What issues are you looking at before making a final decision? And if Mike Foale participated on September 3, does that imply, then, that Dave Wolf would participate in more than one of the six repair space walks that would follow?”
Culbertson: “Let me explain a little bit. We have a process, whenever we assign or consider a crewmember for an EVA that we developed in Phase 1, where we review the tasks assigned to that EVA, what the tasks of the crewmember would be, and what the risk versus gain would be for conducting that EVA with an American crewmember. We're still going through that process for Mike. We went through a similar review to that for Jerry to ensure his readiness for the EVA and that we understood what the tasks were. We'll do the same thing for Mike to see if it makes sense for him to participate in that. We need to answer some of the concerns we have on safety and make sure we understand truly what the tasks would be and whether there were any hazards that need to be controlled before we would approve of that. That's going to take another day or two, probably. At any rate, the other thing we're weighing there is what are the benefits of Mike participating in something like that. Obviously, he's had EVA experience on the shuttle. It would give us a second opinion on conducting EVAs outside the Mir, looking for other issues that may or may not be there. It would give us a chance to compare the EMU and the Orlan suit directly by someone who's done an EVA in both of them. The other person who will have that opportunity will be Vladimir Titov on STS-86. He's done EVAs on the Russian side; now he'll do one in an EMU. So that'll give us both an American and a Russian comparison of the two systems. And then also it would give Mike a chance to get up close and personal with the damaged areas and be a recent eye witness to what he's seen when he comes back on STS-86. So he can then interpret the photos, help describe the damage up there, and help both the Russians and us understand what the characteristics of the damage are, what the holes look like, and might work, rather than having to do all this through video and air-to-ground with the crew that's up there. So there are specific benefits to him doing that we need to understand the different way of operating within the Russian system, make sure we're comfortable with the fact that Mike's training was prior to his launch, which was quite a while ago, and in fact, I believe his last training was in October of last year, and that we understand that the training that he would receive on orbit would be sufficient to give us comfort that it would be a safe thing for him to do. So we've go a few hoops to go through yet, but I believe we'll be able to finish that process this week. As far as anyone else down the road doing EVAs, we haven't committed to anybody doing EVAs yet. We're obviously making people available for that, primarily as a back-up, because if you had a critical EVA that needed to be conducted you'd want somebody there if one of the crewmembers got sick like happened on the last increment. You'd want to be able to conduct the EVA, particularly if your other choice were to bring the whole crew home versus continuing the mission. So it gives us more capability, more flexibility. If it makes sense later on, particularly if we've had a chance to evaluate with a second crewmember, we would probably be willing to consider specific EVAs for Dave Wolf or other people that might follow. But we do have a very specific process for making that happen.”
Q: “Could you explain a couple of factors in the Foale spacewalk decision? Is it your decision, or does it rest higher within NASA or even beyond that, in the government? Also, would you make your decision, if you make it this week, somehow contingent on the success of the August 20 spacewalk, or do you now view that as unlinked from the exterior work.”
Culbertson: “It's actually a two-step process. The first step would be to say that we're fairly optimistic that we can get there from here and that we would like to start training for him, start preparing him for the EVA. So we'd have to have a certain comfort level that it's all going to work out OK in the end to start the training even, because there's a significant overhead with that. Once he conducts the training and finishes it and we get some feedback from him and the people on the ground who've followed it, both Americans and Russians, and we see the results of the August 20 EVA and what the situation on the Mir is we'll have a final readiness review two or three days before the actual EVA itself in which we would say yes he is ready or no he's not. If he's not, one solution might be to wait a couple more days and get a little more review, a little more training. Or we might jointly with the Russians say that nobody should do this EVA now if some other factor appeared. But I believe that in the normal course of events you would just say that we've addressed all the hazards, we've addressed all the issues, the people are trained, prepared, and ready to go, the ground is ready to go, and then we would go do the EVA. But we will have a specific review very close to the actual EVA that says that we have addressed everything that needs to be and that it's safe.”
Q: “What would you say is the significance to kids of the work, the science and technical work, being done on Mir today and what are some lessons in it for them.”
Culbertson: “I think there are a lot of lessons here for people of all ages. I believe that one of the most important is that when you have a problem, you deal with the most critical and life-threatening first, and then once you've taken care of that, then you determine what the other problems are and where best to go to get yourself back into the best, safest situation possible. I believe kids can learn a lot from that. If they are in a life-threatening situation, take care of that first and then think how to get away from that as far as possible and get back to your highest comfort level. I think the other lessons are that if you've got a relationship with somebody else and you're working with a partner, and they start having trouble, you don't walk away from them just because it gets tough. In fact that's when they most need you and you need to keep working together to ensure that the partnership lasts. If you're not going to maintain that through good times and bad, you probably shouldn't establish the partnership in the first place.”
Q: “This is not the first time that a crewmember's size has kept them from a mission. Considering that U.S. astronauts will continue to depend on the Russian equipment on the International Space Station, do you think that we should see any change in the astronaut selection criteria?”
Culbertson: “Actually, that is one of the things they look at nowadays during selection criteria, so you know when you select somebody whether they are going to fit in the Soyuz or not, for instance. We knew all along when we selected people whether they fit the EMU, the American EVA suit, or not, and sometimes you make a conscious decision to select someone whether they do or not. So you know how many people in the corps can do one thing or another, and that's just something you need to keep in your management bag of tricks. I don't believe you'll see a change, or that being a total discriminator for selection. There are other more important factors than that, but it's certainly something to consider. As far as the use of Russian equipment, the Soyuz right now is the major limiter for people that would stay on the ISS. They've got to be able to fit in the Soyuz up and down and we'll eventually have American suits and people doing EVAs in American suits from shuttle and station. The Orlan would not be the only suit available, but it's something we'll keep in mind and we'll know what mix we've got up there when we fly a crew.”
Q: “How much additional detail do you have on the possibility that the Progress M34 grazed the side of the base block?”
Culbertson: “That was pretty clear shortly after the accident when we first saw the video together. I think everybody could see that there were potentially places where it had some type of contact that slowed down the rotation. The Russians also announced it shortly afterward that they suspected it might be the case. But they've tested all their systems that are associated with the base block and Kvant-1 and have not specifically identified any area that's been impacted yet or has been affected by that yet. The potential exists that there may be an antenna damaged because the signal strength on one of them is slightly lower than what they had experienced in the past. But until they get a chance to actually look at it from outside, either from the Soyuz or via the EVA, we won't know for sure. But as I say, we've had no evidence of any critical systems being affected by that, though I suspect that, as we said a long time ago, that it did have some kind of contact with other parts.”
Q: “As you look downstream at the EVA options, can you summarize some of the latest work at JSC to support the Russians on things such as a cutting tool for the solar array or various sealant options to patch the punctures?”
Culbertson: “It's mostly been at the level of talking about what's available and where we could go. Until we know more precisely what the damage is and also identify the path we're going to take to repair it if we go that way, then it's hard to build any actual hardware or go too far with the sealing material, though people are looking at it. The Russians are evaluating some material that we sent them. We've got a long way to go before they lay out a specific plan. My counterparts agree with me this is something we should probably do in the course of the missions, but it's something that is going to go fairly slowly; it's something that's going to take a certain amount of time and testing on the ground, and the result may end up being a repaired hole in the hull of the module, but probably will not result in a habitable Spektr module. We'd have to figure out how to certify any repair we did for long-term habitation or for people living and working in there and I'm not sure we can do that in the amount of time left in the Phase 1 program, but I believe the exercise of repairing it will be very valuable to future operations and provide some good lessons-learned. We may pressurize to see if it holds, but I suspect we will end up keeping the hatch closed. The reopening of that module is not critical to the continuation of the Phase 1 program.”
Q: “Could you review the drinking water situation aboard the space station? How much water do they have left? How much of it may be contaminated? And how important will the result of the test of samples being returned on Mir-23 be to planning the STS-86 launch?”
Culbertson: “Right now they're looking at the amount of water they have and how long that will last based on nominal usage. There are several variations on that depending on whether the Elektron is actually operating or not. It consumes a certain amount of water when it's operating. The condensate recovery system is operating now, but that water is not certified for drinking yet until they bring samples back on this Soyuz and have a chance to analyze them on the ground. The last samples that were taken from that system had higher-than-expected ethylene glycol several months ago, and just to be conservative the medical folks will not approve that water until they get a chance to look at another set of samples that are taken at various places in the line before and after the filters. They're optimistic that that water will be OK based on the ground testing that they've done at even higher concentrations, but until they get verification of that it's not likely that they'll give the crew the go-ahead to drink it. They are also not operating the urine reclamation system, which provides a couple of liters of reclaimed water every day to be used in the oxygen-generating system. Once the power is regained from the Spektr, that will also come back on line and add a little bit to the water situation. Right now it looks like the water they've got onboard will last into early October. If any of these things don't work out well it could be less than that though we don't have the exact numbers on it. We are looking at the possibility of exactly when we would need to launch the shuttle and also they have a Progress scheduled for early October, so that even if we didn't launch the shuttle on September 27, we'd still get there in time to replenish the water and continue the operation on the Mir. So we have encouraged them to keep that Progress on track, no matter what launch date we set for the shuttle so that both vehicles are available to replenish the Mir if needed, and I believe that's a good plan that should keep things operating OK for now.”
Q: “How many days of water are left from the Progress and shuttle deliveries if it does turn out that the other water reclamation systems are contaminated? Do you have a good idea of how many days of that water that you're pretty certain is safe, how many days are left of that water?”
Culbertson: “The last estimate I heard was a couple of weeks less if the condensate recovery is not approved for use, which would put you into late September. We will know by the end of August the answers to all these things, such as the analysis on the water, the power recovery, and the schedule for the Progress. So I believe in a couple of weeks we'll have a very firm handle on that and at that time decide what will be the best course.”
Q: “How much of a concern is that to you and will you preserve the option of launching on September 18 if those samples do come back bad?”
Culbertson: “We're not planning to do that at this time, no.”
Q: “Can you also say how many canisters you have of both lithium perchlorate and lithium hydroxide as of today?”
Culbertson: “No, I can't as of today. It's around slightly under 200 canisters of the lithium perchlorate and I believe they've got around 25 days' worth of lithium hydroxide, but they're not having to use very much of that because the Vozdukh is working.”
Q: “What have you been asked to take and what has been approved so far as far as Russian repair equipment to fly on Atlantis at the end of September?”
Culbertson: “We've essentially, in principal, approved everything they've asked for, though we were waiting to see if there was something else coming in today. They've asked for us to carry what essentially is a hatch cover, a collapsible hatch cover that would cover the well where the base of the solar array is if they went with the option of filling that up with sealant. It collapses into three parts and we believe we can fit that into the shuttle. There are some other generic-type tools and some sealant material, not the vast quantities you might require if it were the type of breach that they're talking about at the base of the array, but some smaller amounts that I believe they'll use probably for testing. I can't recall any other specific items at this time.”
Q: “Anything for the Elektron?”
Culbertson: “They haven't officially asked us for anything for the Elektron yet. I think they're waiting to see whether this latest attempt to clear the filter works or not. There was some discussion of potentially some cables or some tubes, but I do believe that they'll have this issue resolved well before the shuttle gets there.”
Q: “Since Titov's training here has been paid for by NASA, does Russia pay for Wolf's EVA training?”
Culbertson: “They have not charged us anything extra for it and it's being done within the training template that we had arranged for earlier. No additional time has been added to his overall schedule or the length of stay in Russia, so we haven't really discussed that. I believe it's to the benefit of both sides to do that.”
Q: “Which to you is more of a concern, the water situation or the oxygen situation and why do you think one over the other?”
Culbertson: “At this moment the Elektron is the more immediate problem, although I believe it'll be resolved in the near future. I think the overall water situation in terms of how much is onboard and how far it'll stretch is something that we're going to have to watch very carefully, but I also think that'll be answered pretty clearly by the end of August.”
Q: “Is there any consideration being given to sending people into Spektr in shirt sleeve to pick up whatever they can salvage out of there? Your computer people say they may be able to get the data off the hard drives, for example.”
Culbertson: “It's way too early to speculate on that. That would be way down the line.”
Q: “With the two EVAs you've got coming before the shuttle launch, have you established any metrics for what has to be repaired, what has to be set up, any minimum power level or anything like that before Dave Wolf is certified to spend a long period aboard Mir?”
Culbertson: “We still have our agreed-to criteria for continuation of the missions and we're still adhering to that. Right now, with the one Elektron not working and the other one turned off due to power, we're into the second-level paragraph that says that we will have a maintenance plan in place that says we'll recover it within a reasonable amount of time within the consumables available. Right now they've got about two months' worth of lithium perchlorate to handle that and they have a plan in place for recovering the Elektron, so I think we still satisfy that criterion, and obviously we'll be assessing as we get closer to the launch how successful they have been at recovering the Elektrons, and that will be a factor we'll take into consideration.”
Q: “Since Vladimir Titov, who is on the next shuttle to mission has EVA experience, why not leave him on the Mir instead of David Wolf?”
Culbertson: “Because Vladimir has not been approved for nor trained for the long-duration flight, and Dave has other things to do besides EVA. He's there as a contingency to be able to participate in the EVA, but he's also trained for a mission and for a research program that we intend to continue.”
Q: “How many cables have to be connected to how many connectors and are those cables wrapped through the solar array batteries in Spektr to the hatch or straight to the modified hatch, and what's the latest thought on the possibility of contaminants in that module?”
Culbertson: “As far as contaminants go, the longer in time we are away from the initial event, I believe the less likelihood of contaminants in there, just because of the sublimation of any liquids and the fact that most particles probably would have settled someplace in the Spektr by now or else escaped through any holes. I believe that the latest estimate is a bout nine cables to be connected, plus or minus one, and I understand most of them are very close to the hatch itself, although some of them are kind of behind the inner hatch so that when it's open they're located behind it, and they may have to close it to get access to them, but I don't believe that any of them should be that difficult given the training that they've had and the plans they have. If they have problems I think they'll identify it very quickly and they'll back off from the objectives of the EVA and just achieve less. We're conducting a joint review with the Russians on August 18 to ensure our joint readiness for conducting the EVA. Mike's participation will be from the Soyuz and we want to understand, just as we were planning to do before we would have conducted it last time. We want to make sure that both sides have all the information available on the potential hazards within the Spektr and understand how those hazards are controlled.”
Q: “You mentioned that you didn't think that Spektr would be able to be repaired in a way that would allow it to be reopened during the Shuttle-Mir Phase 1 Program. Do you think that module ever can be put back in business?”
Culbertson: “I'm not very optimistic that it could be put back in business in the situation it is now and the fact that we would have a very hard time certifying any repair that was conducted on orbit until we understand better the fracture mechanics, the failure mechanisms, and the repair viability itself.”
Q: “Why would Mike Foale be needed for a space walk on September 3? You were explained what the benefits were to NASA, but Solovyev and Vinogradov have trained for this, so why do they want Mike Foale?”
Culbertson: “There are a couple of things. One is that we do learn from each other when we participate in each other's programs and I believe that they're starting to recognize that more fully than they did before and have been much more amenable to greater participation in lots of other areas, not just the EVA. And I believe they also see the benefit of Mike coming down fairly quickly after the EVA and being able to brief people in the program, brief the engineers on what the damage is and what the potential repairs might be and what might or might not work. There's something to be said for having an eye witness there when you're planning a fairly complicated operation, and I believe Mike has proven that he's a real pro in this area and would be very beneficial to both sides.”
Q: “You've had some time to think about the upcoming EVA and the impact of that if it doesn't work. If they can't get the power back on August 20, or they can't make those connections for whatever reason and have to back off, where to you think you stand? Would you still try to keep people your people up there for this increment and even the next one?”
Culbertson: “We'll have to see what the specifics are, but if they don't have a successful EVA on the first attempt, they'll probably try a second attempt, depending on what the reason is. If it becomes physically impossible to make the connections and there's no way of doing that in the future, then we'll have to back up and regroup and assess where we are because it's obviously going to be a long-term impact to the power situation. I really don't think that's going to be the case. The most likely case of limiting the success of the EVA might be if they're not able to regain orientation of the arrays, either because they couldn't get the right cable connected or because the box that controls that doesn't work any more in the vacuum of the Spektr. Right now there is speculation on both sides of that issue, and the plan would be if they only got the power hooked up but no orientation during the EVA in early September, they would probably go out and manually reposition the arrays so that they are oriented for maximum exposure to the Sun during their typical solar inertial attitudes. You would lose some efficiency during other operations such as docking or rotations, but for their typical attitude I believe you could position it and leave it and get pretty good power recovery. But they're looking at both ends of the spectrum. They've got a best case, a worst case, and then a most likely case, and the most likely is the one that the science program has been planned around.”
Q: “I realize that the prime reason for the Phase 1 is the political consideration. How much pressure to you get from the White House, from the Administration, to continue this, and would NASA justify this on a purely scientific basis?”
Culbertson: “First of all I don't agree with your premise. I don't get any pressure at all from the White House on this. They have yet to call me. The prime reason for doing Phase 1 is to learn how to do long-duration space operations. I think the initial contact with the Russians five or six years ago was based on political considerations because the political world was changing, but I believe that we have proven that the things that we are learning here have direct applicability to operating in space, to operating on a station, to learning how to operate with an international partner, and the politics are politics, but we don't deal with that in the technical side. We've got a program to continue and people to keep safe on orbit, and that's our prime consideration.”
Q: “Can you express as a percentage how much of the results do you expect Mike Foale's mission to generate since they've had all these breakdowns?”
Culbertson: “If Mike comes back safely and has learned the things he's learned, I consider it 100% successful. If you want to look at any one particular experiment you could say it ranges from zero to 100% depending on where the experiment is now located and how much of it he was able to complete. But that's true on every mission. Some experiments go very well; others don't, and it all depends on the circumstances that occur during the mission itself. If you want to count the number of experiments that he originally was assigned versus the number that will be fully completed by the time he returns, I believe it's around 50%. But that's only the research program. There's a lot more factors to the mission than what you do in the science area, and Mike has learned probably three times what he expected to in other areas.”
Q: “Can you tell us when the Russians may be planning any dress rehearsal for the EVA, either suited or unsuited?”
Culbertson: “I believe they've got dress rehearsals on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, or maybe it's Friday, Saturday, and Monday. But they are coming up very soon. We need to check with the timeliners and see what they've got planned. But they do have both suited and unsuited dress rehearsals coming up. I guess unsuited would not be a dress rehearsal.”
Q: “And for the final increment of the Phase 1 program. Has there been any more thinking who will fly that mission and when you might decide, if at all, if you are, in fact, actually going to continue with that final increment?”
Culbertson: “We plan to continue with that increment. Right now Andy Thomas is still in training in Star City and is probably the most likely candidate for that, but I have not received the final assignment from the Flight Corps Operations on Andy or a backup, but I expect to have that by the end of the week.”
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