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NASA Press Briefings - 8/20/97
Note: The activities that Anatoly Solovyev was expected to perform were actually carried out by Pavel Vinogradov.
Van Laak: “We’re very glad to be here today, and especially glad to be talking about moving forward with the program. We’ve certainly had some setbacks in the last few months, but I think we’re genuinely on track to regaining our science capability that we lost as a result of the collision and regaining some of the power margin that has caused us, and especially the Russians, to work so hard in maintaining the systems onboard. I think you’ll find that the work that’s going on on Friday and also what’s coming up in the future demonstrates once again the resourcefulness and the perseverance that our Russian friends have in the way they execute their program.”
“I’d like to take just a minute to review some of the events of the last week because we haven’t talked since the Progress redocking attempt on Sunday. That was, of course, aborted because of a software loading error; they just simply slipped it one day to Monday, and on Monday when they were closing in for the normal redocking of the Progress, they lost the main computer onboard the Mir, and when that went down it caused an abort of the autodocking sequence and the Progress stopped in a stationkeeping position, which it had already established prior to the failure and it simply maintained that position awaiting further instructions. The commander of the Mir, Anatoly Solovyev, took over with the TORU, which is the manual system, and we have absolutely no qualms about using the TORU from the close-in stationkeeping position, and he flew to a normal docking to the station in free drift, which was an excellent piece of piloting.
“It is worth mentioning for just a moment that free drift is the condition the station was in when you take away active attitude control, if does not generate high rates of pitching or rolling or anything; it simply is not longer maintaining a specified attitude and can drift out of that attitude and lose some power and so on. So it’s necessary that they actively control the attitude and keep tracking the Sun appropriately, but it doesn’t result in an immediate hazard to the station.
“Reviewing where we are today, they were able to restore the computer by doing maintenance. They had two spares for the component that failed. They changed it out. The computer came back up on Tuesday, and they got attitude control with the jets back last night. Today they have 10 of the gyrodynes up and powered maintaining normal attitude control. They have the Elektron operating, the Vozdukh, the condensate recovery, the urine reclamation system, and they’re really in a very robust system status so we’re very happy with the situation onboard right now.
“We did hold a review this morning. It lasted approximately an hour and a half. It was a video telecom with our Russian colleagues. They had already conducted their own internal review of the activities coming up, talking specifically about the internal EVA on Friday, and they shared those results with us. It was a free and open exchange. We had a lot of questions and went back and forth, but we primarily depended upon the work that our technical experts had done prior to the meeting where they had gone into great detail, and we only answered a few of the more outstanding questions at that time. We came out of that review with a positive response. We were very happy with the status of the program and the Russians. Greg will take a few minutes to describe the activities on Friday and afterward we can answer any questions that may remain. An then afterward I’ll take a few more minutes to talk about the schedule of other upcoming events.
Harbaugh: “The plan of attack for Friday is fairly straightforward. This is a relatively benign IVA/EVA. Nevertheless, we gave it, we think, good close hard scrutiny and have enjoyed a great deal of cooperation and effective communication between our folks and the Russians to come to a proper understanding of how they plan to execute, and I’d like to walk you all through that, but first let me say that there are several objectives to this EVA. First and foremost, is to restore power from the Spektr. The second objective is to reclaim some of the hardware that is in the Spektr as opportunity permits, that they might take advantage of, that they might make use of in the pressurized volume. The third objective is to do a brief inspection inside the Spektr for a potential leak source. They are going to look behind a couple of panels, but they’re not going to be doing a lot of work here. They’re not going to be yanking a lot off the walls and that sort of thing, but they are going to take the opportunity to look for blue sky on the other side of the module.”
“I wanted to have folks understand the sequence of events as it relates to Mike Foale. Obviously we’re concerned about the success of this EVA, but of paramount concern, we’re very much focused on Mike and how he’s going to contribute and how we ensure that he is safe throughout the course of this. The “F” represents Mike, the “S” is Anatoly Solovyev, and then the “V” is Vinagradov, the flight engineer onboard. The upper graphic depicts where they are at the start of the EVA, EVA preparations activities. You can see a number of hatches are open, passageways are open, with the exception of the one down in the Spektr. Spektr is down below. Up above is Kvant-2, to the right would be the Base Block, and then on the left is the Soyuz. Coming out of the image toward you would be Priroda and back on the other side of the orange area (the Node) is the Kristall. The orange area is known as the Node, or Transfer Compartment, or Transfer Module. The Soyuz itself is comprised of the Habitation Module [on the right] and the Descent Module. They will have prestaged in the Habitation Module repressurization bottles, and I will talk about that a little bit later. There will also be food in the descent module and the three Sokul suits, they’re called, the launch and entry suits. This environment on both sides of the hatchway (between Soyuz and Transfer Node) at this stage of the game is 1 atmosphere and there is free and clear movement between them.
“The lower graphic depicts where they are at the start of the EVA. Mike Foale has moved into the Soyuz, and has closed the upper hatch, the hatch between the Hab Module and the Transfer Compartment. That is latched. Solovyev and Vinogradov are about to start the depressurization activities. You can see all the hatches are closed. I also want to point out the prestaging of the hatch that is going to be put on the Spektr. That one is tethered to the wall. I also want to note here that Solovyev and Vinogradov are in their Orlans, they are getting their cooling, their electrical power, and their communications through umbilicals between their Orlan suits and attachments inside the node area. They will have, and have already prestaged two control panels. They have done EVAs out of this compartment in the past on several occasions. This is not a new activity.
“In the course of the depressurization, Solovyev and Vinogradov, again they are in their position, they are controlling that depressurization. Mike is in the upper area, the Habitation Module of the Soyuz. As they pass a pressure of about 520 millimeters, Mike will actually unlock the hatch between Soyuz and the Node. The delta pressure across that hatch, in other words the force of 1 atmosphere on the Soyuz side, versus the lower pressure on the Node side will hold that hatch in place. That is a safety precaution in the event that Solovyev and Vinogradov need to ingress in a contingency.
“At final depress, when they’re ready to ingress the Spektr, Mike will get into the descent module and close and latch the hatch there, and that will be secure and, again, the entire Soyuz side will be maintained at 1 atmosphere, in other words, full pressure. Mike will be in shirtsleeves. He will not be the Sokul suit. He could get into it if he so desired. I think the crew has exercised their option not to have Mike get into a Sokul and we’re very comfortable with him doing that. So this is the configuration that we see: At vacuum on the Node side and full pressurization, 1 atmosphere, on the Soyuz side.
“I want to illustrate to you a little bit more closely a thing or two about this so-called hermaplate. This is the hatch that’s going to be put in place of the hatch that presently protects the rest of the vehicle from the vacuum in the Spektr. This flat hatch here will be removed in the course of the IVA and replaced by this hatch that has been prestaged. Work has already gone on to pull the cap off this hatch and replace it with something called the hermaplate, and I’ll show you some illustration and describe that a little bit further in a moment. There are 18 bolts associated with swapping out that cap, and there are 23 cables or connectors that are routed to this face, which will be the face that goes into the node once it’s installed.
“This illustrates the swap-out complete, essentially the EVA complete. You can see now that the Hermaplate hatch is now in place. It provides the pressure seal between the Node and the Spektr. You can also see that there are connectors mated, to the plate. Essentially the hermaplate is a feed- through plate. It allows us to maintain an electrical connection across that interface without losing pressure, and the old hatch has been moved out of the way. Just for your information, we’re talking about 11 cables total that are going to be mated up in the course of this EVA. Eight of those will provide solar array power from the solar arrays in the Spektr; one of them provides pointing capability, and there are two that are provided as fallbacks for future applications.
“The estimated time for the total EVA is on the order of four hours and 15 minutes. I think that’s a very comfortable timeframe based on our assessment. They have seven hours in the suits, and that’s an oxygen limitation; they actually could go longer than that very possibly, so we’re not concerned about them being rushed or pressed in any way.
“Just a couple of photographs to give you some feel for the work that’s to be done. This is a view from the Spektr. The connectors that are to be mated, there are two on this panel here, if you can see that bracket with connectors mated to it. There are five down in the lower left corner, and then there are four back behind this hatch. And the four behind the hatch are the ones that are the most difficult and the ones that Sergei Krikalev and others, Anatoly Solovyev included, looked at in their preparation at the Hydrolab prior to Anatoly’s launch. And they developed a technique that we find very satisfactory. Essentially they’re reaching around on both sides of that hatch, they have to deflect it of the full-open position a little bit to get an arm in from both sides.
“This shows you the connectors on the bracket that they need to reach back inside. The second and third from the left, we know they’re going to mate up and we anticipate that two of the four on the right, they’re going to mate up to complete that set. We’re just not certain which ones. I will point out to you, however, the most difficult one is one they are not mating up. It’s the one furthest to the left. They developed techniques, worked very hard at making sure they could do any one of those, and were repeatedly successful at doing that in the Hydrolab prior to launch.
“This illustration gives you some idea of the technique that they’re going to employ. The gloved hands come in from both sides around that hatch. We have offered, and in fact sent them a connector tool that we thought might be of some use. They appreciated that offer and in their assessment and their water tank runs they've decided this is something most likely they can do by hand. They are carrying some tools with them in the event that they find a need to do any more or use an alternate technique, but they don’t anticipate that and we don’t either. But they are carrying some backup tools in the event that they need them.
“I mentioned the hermaplate. This is the feed-through plate and you can see the number of connectors on that face. This has already been bolted, this is the hermaplate itself, this has been bolted in place and is already prestaged just awaiting the execution of the EVA.
“This is a view into the Spektr to give you some idea of what they are facing as they go in. Anatoly, I believe, is the one that will be ingressing as the commander, and he will be going in feet first. You can see at the back end of the Spektr there’s a big camera, there is an ergometer, which is essentially a bicycle that crew could use to exercise with, and some other hardware on the walls, so there is not a lot of room to go in very deep, and we’re not expecting them to go in very deep. The couple of panels they talked about inspecting are very close to the entrance to the hatchway.
“This is a view from the Node. It’s a wide-angle view, but it gives you some idea of the environment Solovyev and Vinogradov will be in when they are in their Orlans preparing to ingress into the Spektr.
“This is a photograph of Sergei Krikalev in the Hydrolab run, actually demonstrating ingress into the Spektr. You can see it’s a little bit of a tight fit, but this is a little bit misleading. It is something they have done repeatedly with Orlans going into and out of the modules in the past and specifically getting into and out of the Soyuz, so I don’t anticipate any problem getting in or out . They know that they have the clearance and they have proper techniques to execute them.
“That’s it as far as the slides that I wanted to show you. Again, to recap, the sequence of events, once they ingress the Spektr, when they’re going through the depressurization as I laid it out for you, Anatoly will go in feet first. Before he goes in, he’s going to do an inspection to make sure there isn’t anything floating around that might present a hazard, something that might be a catch point, any material that might be floating around. We have very aggressively worked with the Russians, our safety folks and theirs, to ensure that there are no contamination hazards that we think are unreasonable. So I emphasize that we are going to do and that they are going to do an inspection and once they go in they are going to be careful. We have also evaluated this scenario, I will tell you, of one of these folks getting hung up with one of their umbilicals, and we have satisfied ourselves that there is a way for them to extricate themselves, either by demating the umbilical, which we know they can do, with their eyes closed, just by feel, and then retreating back into the Node and remating the umbilical with their partner. They also have taken the prudent step of having the flight engineer staged in the Node to play out the cables, these umbilicals that they’re using to move in and out, provide their cooling and their communication, electrical power. So the flight engineer is essentially in the Node and paying out these cables and controlling the movements a little bit, so it’s a very controlled operation. Once Anatoly goes in and specs, then he will start the process of mating the cables, and they have built-in time in their time line for Anatoly to pause and refresh a little bit, to relax and take a break if he feels that this is a demanding thing that’s wearing him out or something, but, frankly, with only 11 connectors to be mated, we don’t think that it’s going to be that tough, and most likely he’ll just run his way right through this and be done with it before we all realize it.
“Once the connectors are all mated up there will be time for Anatoly to do the inspection that we talked about, behind a couple of panels. They have some suspicions based on the identified contact points based on their analysis of the trajectory of the Progress, a couple of areas in particular that they’re concerned about and they want to take the opportunity to look at those and see if there isn’t something obvious in the way of characterizing the leak path. This is not a detailed search-and-destroy kind of mission. They are not going in there and pulling all these panels off on all the walls. They are going to go and see what they can see, and then they’re going to come back and report their results and that’s going to be factored into future EVA and IVA operations. They’re not trying to fix the leak today; they’re just trying to inspect and recover power. So once the inspection is done, they will have retrieved, as a matter of course, objects that they think are valuable, they have sort of a shopping list, but nothing specific that they’re looking for, with the possible exception of a vacuum cleaner that we think they might find useful in the post-EVA cleanup. One of the concerns is, as I said at the outset, is the safety and making sure that they go through the process of proper cleanup after the fact. If they get something on their suit, we want to make sure that it’s properly cleaned and the vacuum cleaner might help that and they’re going to have some rags positioned so that they can swab their suits down once they have completed the EVA.
“So that’s really it. Once they’ve retrieved the items, done the inspection, and mated the connectors, then all they have to do is put the hatch in place and there is a mechanism with a handle on the Node side that they will turn, it’s a little crank, and it brings a bunch of dogs in place and keeps the hatch in place. And then they go through the repressurization and then they’re done. And that’s it for a summary for the EVA and if there are any questions I’ll be happy to answer them.”
Van Laak: “I wanted to close with a couple of comments that have to do with upcoming events. We are certainly focused on what’s going on on Friday, but we also want to take just a minute to remind folks of the next couple of weeks. The next major vent in the timeline is the external EVA on September 3 as currently scheduled and that is to install some handrails in the work area around the base of the solar array and also to inspect for other sources of damage around the radiator and so on. I want particularly to address the question of Foale’s participation in that EVA. It has been discussed with our Russian colleagues at some length and we’ve conducted extensive reviews here in the United States, and we have concluded that it is appropriate to put him into training at this time to enable him to participate in that EVA. We have not committed to his participation in the EVA; we have enabled him to be trained on orbit to participate in that EVA. We reviewed all of the training tasks and the actual activities he’d be involved in, the safety aspects of it and so on, and we are happy with doing that.”
Questions from the Press
Q: “Greg, you went through the spacewalk, and everything went fine. What happens if you go through the spacewalk and everything isn’t fine? What happens if Anatoly goes in there and snags his suit on the Spektr. You’ve got Foale in a place, where I guess there’s a little rescue area, but just talk me through what happens when something goes wrong, if it does.”
Harbaugh: “There are a lot of different scenarios, but I think we’ve put the thought into it to cover most of those. As I said, we have analyzed specifically the scenario where one of the crewmembers gets hung up in there, and the snag hazard is these umbilicals. They’re 10 meters long, but, as I say, they’re being controlled as they go out. The crewmember could demate the umbilical and still be fine and comfortable for some period of time, at least 30 minutes, probably more like an hour, so plenty of time to extricate himself. He’s got his partner there to help him if he can’t do it for some reason, which I can’t imagine, but between the two of them it’s up to them to ensure that they protect themselves and that they recover. The other contingency that probably merits note is one in which, let’s say they put the hermaplate on and there is a leak. When they repressurize, they find that, unfortunately, for whatever reason, that hermaplate doesn’t seal properly. They have sufficient environmental control onboard, repressurization cycles in other words, that they could depressurize again and try moving the hatch around and cycle it, and if that doesn’t work they could actually demate the cables and replace the original hatch. They always have that to fall back on. We know that obviously works because there’s good pressure and integrity there now. The far-out, most unlikely scenario, where they are unable to recover with the new hatch or going back to the old hatch, they have the option of retreating to the Soyuz where Mike is prestaged in the descent side. They could ingress in to the habitation side, close the hatch, and then they could undock and return to Earth. They have that capability, they have demonstrated in the Hydrolab and every one of these folks is trained to go through the process of getting into the Soyuz, getting out of the Orlan, and preparing themselves for reentry. I have to emphasize that is a very unlikely, very remote scenario. But it does show you that they are several levels taller in their fault tolerance, their ability to withstand problems.”
Q: “What if the spacewalk doesn’t work? What if, at the end of this exercise on Friday, you discover you can’t restore power from the Spektr solar panels, for whatever reason? What does that do to the future of the program?”
Van Laak: “Well, to be honest, it would certainly represent a significant impact to us. You know, we have designed a science program to continue in the last two increments that was dependent upon a fairly modest power recovery, given what the Spektr originally had, its power-generating capability, what we think is a very modest and achievable goal out of this EVA. If they get nothing, then I think that we would have to very carefully evaluate whether we could in fact continue a science program with what was left. I do not know the answer to that. I do know that there is significant operational value in continuing to participate on the Mir, and we would have to look at the remaining power margins in terms of the safety of being on the station for a whole year. We are very content with it today, but we’ve not had to work with the Russians to manage the consumables over an entire year with the power balance that we have today.”
Q: “Could you review the current power-generation capability and what are you looking for in return from this space walk? What additional power level do you hope is generated at the end of this if it’s successful?”
Van Laak: “In rough numbers, there’s approximately 15 kilowatts of power being generated by the station right now, and I neglected to bring my notes with me, so I’m doing this off the top of my head, but what the Russians had hoped for is approximately 3 more kilowatts coming out of the Spektr. Given that Spektr itself generated almost 11 kilowatts to begin with, we think that’s a very achievable number. It does write off totally the damaged array, and it assumes some less-than-optimum performance, probably from a pointing perspective from the other arrays. If they get the 3 kilowatts, they have told us that we will get approximately 1200 Watts continuous and intermittently approximately 2000 Watts. The science program that we planned counted on 900 Watts continuous with an intermittent of about another 500, so there’s margin above what we had planned for and we think it’s a pretty achievable goal.”
Q: “If, during the spacewalk, something occurred such as another attitude control problem or something to do with a crucial station guidance or environmental systems, what happens then? How would you go about attempting to either back out of the spacewalk or address it and suspend the spacewalk for a while? What do you do then?”
Van Laak: “That’s a very good question, and it’s certainly one that’s been addressed in detail. Each scenario is slightly different, but the thing I would have to say is that on the station, things don’t happen as rapidly as they do as, for example, on the shuttle. You don’t suddenly decide I have to deorbit within 20 minutes. The station doesn’t deorbit. So, for example, if you had an attitude control problem, the attitude system would shut down and you would go into free drift. As I mentioned earlier, that’s not a catastrophic event, it doesn’t develop high rates, it just impacts the power-generating capability, and they would probably terminate the EVA at that point, depending on exactly where they were. I don’t know how rapidly they would terminate it, but they would most likely terminate it, and begin powering down the systems as soon as they completed the EVA, recover the systems onboard, repair whatever had failed, and then go back to do the EVA on another day. If it were one of the life support systems that were to fail, there’s no one consuming life support onboard the station complex itself, and so there’s plenty of time to react. And another thing that’s different about stations than the shuttle, for example, is if all the oxygen-generation system shuts down, there is such a large volume of air onboard that you have hours and hours if not days, depending on where you were in the cycle to consume the ambient oxygen before you have to repair anything. So it’s been considered at great length and we think it’s a very reasonable situation.”
Q: “You talked about how there will be allowance for him to rest his hands, you talked about how there’ll be a vacuum cleaner to clean up stuff that might float out or be attached to the suits, and so on. Could you give us a feel for what the risks, the challenges, whatever word you want to put on it are, in pulling this off correctly as a crewmember? Why do you need to rest your hands? Why do you worry about little stuff floating out and so on? Why would that be a problem other than getting a little dust on the counter?”
Harbaugh: “In terms of the challenge of the EVA or IVA, it takes a certain amount of dexterity to mate or demate connectors. We demonstrated that in our program repeatedly and the Russians have similar type connectors. It’s not as simple as putting a plug in a socket on a wall, you actually have to bring two pieces together and apply a torque or a twist to them. These connectors are fairly friendly that way, but doing that in a pressurized suit, and the Orlan is at higher pressure, which means it is more difficult to move your fingers, they operate at 4/10 of an atmosphere, approximately 5.8 psi, where we operate at 4.3. It makes it all the more difficult to squeeze the hand, and you have to squeeze the hand to grip the connector to do the mating and demating operations that are being anticipated here. So even though it’s a relatively small number, it is something that if it doesn’t go on just right it can fatigue you, and you have to have patience. Anatoly has done 43 hours of EVA, so he is a man of infinite patience, and he knows how to do these sorts of things. So it’s jut a matter of getting it properly aligned, and then putting it together, and when you get it lined up just right, it’ll go on just like butter, I don’t have any doubt about it.
“The vacuum cleaner isn’t going to do you much good if they’re still at vacuum, but the concern is after the repressurization, when the two crewmembers that did the IVA are inside the Node, we want to make sure that there is no contamination that might outgas or something that might emit a gas once the atmosphere is brought back in, so we’re anticipating that they’re going to clean the suits off very thoroughly, perhaps wipe each other down before they get out of the Orlans, and then once they repressurize, look for debris flying around, anything that might be a hazard. There is a very remote, but outside possibility, for example, that there may be a piece of broken glass or something. I think we’ve looked at that and satisfied ourselves that that’s extremely unlikely, but you don’t want that kind of thing floating around and poke somebody in the eye. So it’s just a safety precaution. It’s pretty benign really.”
Q: “Your decision to let Mike Foale go ahead and train, you folks have said repeatedly how you’ve learned a lot operationally from working with the Russians. What have you learned about their EVA training? NASA has its own way of doing this, has had for years, that involves a lot of hours on hours on hours of repetitive training. The Russian approach is more let’s do basic training and then we’ll tell them about the basic tasks and that works fine. It doesn’t take as much preparation as NASA has done in the past. Have you learned that? Have you found a way to do this more efficiently, perhaps, if that’s the right word, from working with them?”
Van Laak: “I think it comes down to doing EVAs off a station being inherently different than a shuttle sortie. The crew is going to be months away from any training they did in the water for any EVA that they don’t do as soon as they arrive, and there are plenty of other reasons that schedule would drive an EVA many months into the future. So at the very least you’d be worried about refresher training, that sort of thing. But in fact what we have found is that being able to get into the suit and rehearse the EVA, in this case it’s an internal EVA, they can, and actually have used another module to rehearse. At the very least you can exercise the systems and refresh yourself on all the systems aspect of it, and they have models that they talk their way through and so on. It’s an outstanding environment for doing recurrent training. So the optimum implementation probably hasn’t been found yet, but it has gone a great way in terms of relieving our concerns about the currency of the training.”
Q: “Only one cosmonaut, Anatoly is entering the Spektr? The vacuum cleaner is one of the main pieces of hardware that they’re looking for in the Spektr?”
Harbaugh: “I’m not sure I would say it’s one of the main things. It is something that we would like to recover if it’s nearby. They’re not going to go seek it out. They have been given a list of suggestions, some things that we’d like to have back if opportunity presents itself, but we’re not going to ask them to go to any great lengths to go track this thing down.”
Van Laak: “And if fact it was stowed near the hatch before the collision, so we expect that’s where it still is.”
Q: “There are 11 cables going into the hemaplate on the Spektr side, but 23 cables coming out on the Node side?”
Harbaugh: “Correct. So there is potential for future application. In other words, you don’t want to limit your capabilities in the future and have to redo this whole thing all over again. So they are providing more capability on the Node side than they need right now. There are 23 connections going into the hermaplate, 11 that they know they have immediate need for. It’s just providing extra wiring for your house.”
Van Laak: “If I may, for clarification, all 23 go completely through the hermaplate. It’s just that there are not cables on the inside because there’s nothing identified to use them.”
Q: “Did I understand correctly that we’re going to go from 15 to 18 kilowatts if we succeed here, and that the maximum we had before was 26?”
Van Laak: “In round numbers. It’s extremely difficult to characterize the power that comes off a solar array system in simple terms because of periodic changes of beta angle and that sort of thing, but in round numbers. And it’s important to note that there is housekeeping power that we’re taking out, that’s 3 kilowatts of additional power to support the Elektron and things like that. But we’re not having, at the current time, to support the Spektr module in terms of it’s heating or life support systems and things like that.”
Q: “So we’re going from about 50% to about 60% of the pre-accident capability? We’re not going to 90% of the pre-accident capability?”
Van Laak: “I haven’t worked it from that aspect in actual numbers, but basically you’re correct. It’s a relatively small delta percentage, but the way they’re implementing that difference, since were not, again, supporting the Spektr module per se, we’re able to dedicate that power directly to the science program, the majority of it.”
Q: “In the movies, you always see the space debris going everywhere when you have a depressurization. Could you describe for children what it’s going to look like inside the Node when you depressurize it, and then what is it going to look like inside the Spektr. Are they going to be using flashlights? Is it like going into a dark closet? Could you describe the experience for children for me?”
Harbaugh: “It will be dark in the Spektr. One of our concerns in the preparation was that we ensure that they ensure that they train for this with the ambient lighting they really expect to see in there, and they have. In fact we discussed it this morning, they're planning to preposition some lanterns, and they’ll have helmet lights on their Orlan suits that they’ll be able to use, so i’'ll be a little bit dark, kind of like going into a dark closet, but not real dark. There are no monsters in there that they need to worry about. One of the surprising things about going into an environment like this is how similar it’s going to look to the way it looks when it’s fully pressurized. There is not a lot that changes. The Node will look like the Node, everything will stay on the wall, and the Spektr will look like the Spektr, there is just no air in there. And it’s hard to really appreciate that, and it’s like when you look out the window, outside the spacecraft and you look in the payload bay, it’s hard to imagine that there’s no air out there. It’s not something that jumps out at you.”
Q: “It looks knid of cluttered in the pictures. You don’t expect some screws and bolts and other things to be found that they didn’t know were there?”
Harbaugh: “Possibly, but not likely. They have a pretty good policy of keeping things pretty well secured in all areas, because there is constant air flow throughout the station as a normal course, so they tend to tether things off or put things behind bungees. So the fact that there was this slow depressurization, I wouldn’t expect the environment inside to be substantially different.”
Q: “Commander Tsibliev, as well as some Russian flight controllers yesterday have said that there is great concern for the impact of the lack of financing on parts, in particular the computer breakdown the other day. How much do you worry about or have you looked at the possibility that financial problems might impact the gear onboard -- spacesuits, the hatch that was taken up, any number of things?”
Van Laak: “That’s an interesting question. I guess at the risk of being obvious, I’d say everything that’s onboard is paid for, so the spare parts for the computer happened to be onboard and they went ahead and replaced it. The one that failed was launched in place 11.5 years ago and so there’s not been a lot of demand for that particular component. There is concern, legitimate concern, regarding the financial pressures of supporting the Mir program or the International Space Station program, and certainly should they try to support both of them simultaneously. They would have to be procuring major components like Soyuz launch vehicles, Progress and Soyuz capsules, and clearly those are big ticket items. Individual components for suits and for spare parts for systems onboard, we don’t see as being of the same order of problem. It is something we pay close attention to and we have gotten into a dialogue with our Russian partners where they keep us informed of what the spares are that they carry up on the Progresses and so on. So I guess I would say it’s something we’re paying close attention to, but it’s not something we are ready to declare an alarming situation.”
Q: “Greg, you described the upcoming IVA as fairly straightforward and relatively benign. How would this IVA compare in complexity, say, to any of the Hubble space walks, or some of NASA’s most challenging space walks of the past? Which is harder? Please compare.”
Harbaugh: “Well, I think they both have their challenges. Doing something inside, because of the potential to run into snag hazards and that sort of thing does provide a challenge. I will say, though, that on a scale, this is not near the complexity of the Hubble servicing EVA.”
Q: “What about the risk? You mentioned snagging. I know that those of us in the media have called this everything from risky to precarious using every adjective most folks can think of to describe this. What adjective would you use to describe the risk of this spacewalk?”
Harbaugh: “I would not describe it as risky. I think that this is a pretty straightforward EVA. A guys putting his body length inside a module, he’s got plenty of room on all sides. He’s got somebody paying out the cable to him. I think it’s very straightforward. Other than the fact that this is being done in vacuum, I don’t think they get much easier.”
Q: “Jim, you mentioned one cable of the 11 is going for solar array pointing. I know that there has been debate in the engineering community as to whether or not the orientation system will work. What is the current thinking? Do they think they will be able to aim those guys or is that still a toss-up?”
Van Laak: “To be honest, I don’t really know what the current status of that is. I think they’re basically going to have to try it and see.”
Q: “Building on that last question, that 3 kilowatts of electricity, you said that was a conservative esimate? If they do get the pointing, how much more energy will they get out of there?”
Van Laak: “Well, the 3 kilowatts is a conservative estimate and, again, with the caveat that it’s very difficult to describe what you can get at any particular moment from a solar-based power system, it’s not unreasonable to say that that number might almost double if they had effective tracking of the Sun.”
Q: “It’s hard to imagine an American program sustaining these kind of problems and continuing on. If American crews were coming back from the shuttle and saying you’re not supporting us with enough parts that we need, things are breaking down continuously, would the shuttle be grounded or not?”
Van Laak: “There are a number of very interesting questions here today aren’t there? Let me say this. Any major system is going to have failures. Maintenance is a part of keeping a system operating. A few years ago I was responsible for the on-orbit maintenance planning for the Space Station Freedom, and at that time we were anticipating, we were planning for several hundred failures each and every year. Not at the end of life of the program, but early in the program because that’s the way failures typically happen. They’re random events. Some portion of them happen because components wear out, but in general, you’re talking primarily about random failures. So if you were to go and talk to American Airlines or some other operator of large aircraft, I’m sure they would tell you that it takes a significant number of hours in maintenance to keep the airplanes flying. Military airplanes frequently talk in tens of hours of maintenance per flying hour of the airplane. I assume similar numbers would apply to commercial aircraft. So I guarantee you that when the International Space Station begins to fly you will begin a regular timelined activity for maintenance and it will definitely impact other activities, but they will timeline around it intelligently and it will still permit the effective use of the station for science. What we have not gotten used to in this country--and NASA’s as guilty as anyone else--is having to sustain that vehicle on a continuing basis. A shuttle flies for 10 days or two weeks and it comes home and almost a million man hours of touch labor is applied to the orbiter and the associated solid rocket motors and so on to get it ready for the next flight. All the maintenance that will be done to the space station will be done by astronauts and cosmonauts, and you see it on the evening news, and we just need to get used to that.”
Q: “How many feet will Solovyev actually enter the Spektr module and how much light intensity will he have?”
Harbaugh: “Well, as I say, he’ll put about his whole body length in there, probably on the order of six feet, and he will have some lanterns, some EVA compatible lanterns that he and Vinogradov will prestage, and he also has helmet lights, so they should have plenty of light.”
Q: “What was the result of the water sample that was returned by the Mir-23 crew?”
Van Laak: “We expect to get the Russian results tomorrow morning and the Russian water samples will arrive in Houston tomorrow and we expect to have our analysis complete on Friday.”
Q: “Let’s say everything works out well and they close the hatch, hermaplate. Can you tell us what the procedure is for getting the power back from the solar arrays? Do they have to actually turn on a switch, or does it automatically come on, and when will you know how much power you’re getting through? Is it as easy as flipping a switch?”
Van Laak: “I haven’t seen the detailed plan, but I do know that they intend to do continuity checks and basically instrumentation checks of the terminals of the connections before they actually hook them up to loads, and I would assume that that will take place over a day or two following the conclusion of the EVA. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to tell you they’re going to connect all the cables and first thing Saturday morning we’ll see bright lights in every corner of the Mir, I think they'’ll be much more orderly than that and it'’ll probably be several days before they'’ll give us an assessment of its success.”
Q: “In those connectors that have to be done behind the hatch, those five or seven that you have to get five out of seven, in those, will Anatoly be able to see this happening or will he be doing this one arm around each hatch, playing blind-man’s bluff putting these together without seeing it? And if something punctures his suit, how much of a hole can you get and survive?”
Harbaugh: “He will see what he needs to see. He will be able to put his hands on both sides and have visibility into the worksite. And it’s four connectors behind the hatch. The Orlan is capable of sustaining puncture just like the EMU with a blowdown capability that will allow him to retreat and do an emergency repressurization. Essentially the Orlan is on the same order as the EMU. EMU can tolerate something like a 4-mm-diameter hole and still be able to go for 30 minutes, so it’s on that order.”
Q: “On the external EVA, would the spacewalkers be able to remove, is it feasible, do they have the tools to remove the damaged radiator if it turned out that the hole or the crack is underneath that?”
Harbaugh: “Removing the radiator is not an option we’ve talked about with them. As far as the external EVA on September 3, there is nothing in the planning that we have seen or talked about that would lead us to believe there is any intention to remove a radiator.”
Q: “Have you thought about the possibility that either a screw or a pin could have penetrated through the Spektr structure, pushed in by the Progress, and would have caused the decompression?”
Harbaugh: “Oh yeah, there are all kinds of theories about what might have caused the hole and that’s the essential intent of the September 3 or thereabouts external EVA, to go conduct a visual inspection and see if they can determine where the hole is and how to categorize it.”
Q: “How would you compare the difficulty of attaching these umbilical connectors with EVA gloves with, say, the SADE box on Hubble without the pigtails, which made them more EVA-friendly?”
Harbaugh: “I would say SADE, the SADE task that Story had to do is much more difficult than this.”
Q: “In your slides, where you showed where each of the cosmonauts would be, you indicated that the Habitation Module would be pressurized during the EVA. The impression I got earlier was that it was going to be depressurized, so if necessary, Solovyev and Vinogradov could go in there. Obviously they can’t push the hatch open if it’s got a full pressure on the other side.”
Harbaugh: “My understanding is that the entire Soyuz is fully pressurized and in that case where they have to retreat into the Soyuz, they have the capability of equalizing the pressure across the hatch.”
Van Laak: “Let me just clarify that. One of the early discussions that we had made it sound as if that that was the plan, to have the orbital module depressurized, but air is precious and they really don’t see a need to do it. They can depressurize fairly rapidly if required, so that will not be the plan.”
Q: “Would you give me your impressions of Anatoly Solovyev’s abilities. It seems to me he’s had about three manual dockings since he’s been up there and pulled them off with ease apparently. Used the Soyuz to reorient the Mir after the computer went down. Is he a man of exceptional abilities, would you say?”
Harbaugh: “I flew with Anatoly on STS-71. I had the opportunity to meet him and train with him, work with him over a period a year and a half or so. I watched his performance throughout STS-71 and as we dropped he and Nikolai Vidarin off on their mission for Mir 19, and I will tell you that Anatoly would be a superlative astronaut as he is a superlative cosmonaut. He is a man of exceptional ability and demeanor. I respect him greatly, and there’s nobody I’d rather have up there dealing with these kinds of problems than Anatoly.”
Van Laak: “Let me just echo that. I obviously haven’t had the opportunity to fly with Anatoly, but he did spend about five months in Houston and we were in a number of meetings together and had some fairly good talks. He communicates, in fact exudes, competence from every pore. So we have great confidence in him.”
Q: “What is the purpose of those connectors behind the hatch? Do they deliver juice from the solar arrays.”
Harbaugh: “As specific as I can get is that we know that eight of the connectors provide power from the solar arrays, we know that one of them provides pointing capability, and that two others have TBD future application, but I can’t tell you specifically which connector performs which function. We don’t have that granularity in our understanding of the procedures.”
Q: “I’m not sure I understand the task just to inspect for the puncture. Will they actually remove some panels from the wall, or is that just an area of the wall where they don’t have to remove anything to possibly see a penetration.”
Harbaugh: “We were told this morning that they intend to look behind two panels and we believe we know which two panels they’re talking about. That should be a very straightforward thing to do. It’s not the kind of thing where they’re going to go remove 75 screws to do it or anything like that. They’re just going to be looking back behind there. And as I said before, they’re not on a seek-and-destroy mission here, they’re just trying to see what they can see as opportunity presents itself. These two panels are an area where they have strong suspicion that the leak might have occurred and they want to give it a close look.”
Q: “Do you have any better insight on what extra hardware or material the Russians may ask NASA to carry up on STS-86.”
Van Laak: “We have quite a suite of hardware that’s been requested and we’re trying to accommodate it right now. In all honesty, the majority of it fits without too much difficulty because its relatively small components, but there is this cover that they have asked us to look at carrying, which would be used to cover the solar array mounting place and would form a pressure seal should that be the source of the leak. It fits through the hatches, but it would be very difficult to get it through the Kvant-2 airlock for the Russians to take outside, so their preferred approach here is to have us bring it up on the shuttle and take it out during the STS-86 EVA and tether it to the Docking Module where the cosmonauts could come and retrieve it on a later EVA. Technically it looks entirely doable; the difficulty is the late date at which they’re identifying the hardware and we’re going to be reviewing this afternoon what, if any, schedule impact would be required in order to accommodate it. And to be honest it doesn’t look too good right now. The other things they’re talking about are sealants and various small pieces of hardware, that sort of thing.”
Q: “When you say that 3 more kilowatts will let you do the science program you had planned, what percentage is that of the original precrash science program? You won’t be doing science in Spektr. Will you be able to do 100% of science in the other modules?.”
Van Laak: “What our science team did was they went off, as soon as the accident occurred, and they looked at what they had for hardware that was on orbit still, not located in the Spektr, they looked at what they had for backup hardware that they could fly on STS-86, they looked at the power and crew time requirements and other logistics demands that those all would place on the system, and they put together a set of assumptions they used to tailor the program, and one of those assumptions was the set of power numbers I mentioned earlier. Those numbers are conservative, but not terribly below what we had planned previously. They just were more careful in the experiments they chose. We’re not, for example, running furnaces for long periods of time and things like that. The short answer to your question ends up being that we think we have 80-90% of our science manifest filled. In other words, the crew time and the number of objectives that we had in place is approximately 80-90% of what we would have accomplished on long-duration mission 6, had the accident not occurred. It’s just that the content was slightly adjusted from what it had been previously.”
Q: “You said Anatoly will a short list of optional things he could pick up once in Spektr. Could you give us an idea of some of the other items on the list other than the vacuum cleaner, and does that include Mike Foale’s laptop computer, which he had given some priority to?”
Harbaugh: “The items that I copied down were several personal items of Mike’s, some pieces of data, log books, film, tapes, disks, CDs, and greenhouse leaf bags are the things that I had noted. That’s a partial list.”.
Van Laak: “The problem that arises is the fact that a lot of the things like the laptop that he’d really like to have, I believe are stowed at the very far end of Spektr and probably are not going to be accessible. His living quarters were at the very far end of the module. So most of the things that stand a chance of being retrieved are data disks and things like that that were stowed close to the experiments that they were supporting close to the hatch.
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty