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NASA Press Briefings - 9/4/97
Culbertson: “Good morning everybody. We’ve had an interesting few weeks here and folks have been working very hard on preparing for and training for this EVA. I think things have gone extremely well in getting ready to do this. Mike has had good preparation on orbit on top of all the experience he’s had beforehand, and even more important than that, we’ve had tremendous cooperation and working together between ourselves and our Russian counterparts. Led by the EVA Project Office and Greg Harbaugh, they spent a lot of time working on the plans for the EVA, what was needed to get Mike ready, as well as Solovyev and Vinogradov, and I believe that they’ve got an excellent plan in place. We had a very good review this morning. It was a joint videocon between ourselves and the Russian management where we discussed all the factors that are included in the EVA, including the crew training and preparation, safety hazards that we’ve identified and how they’re being controlled, what hardware is to be used, and how it’s to be used, and what the roles of the crewmembers and the objectives of the EVA itself are. At the conclusion of that review everyone in the rooms on both sides of the Atlantic was in agreement that we are ready to conduct this EVA with Anatoly Solovyev leading and Michael Foale as his flight engineer. They will go out of the hatch on Friday evening at 7:55 Houston time and conduct about a six- to six-and-a-half-hour EVA, with a maximum probably of about seven hours. I’ll ask Greg and Mike to go into the details of the EVA itself and what the specific objectives are and how it will be executed, but I do want to say that all concerned, the people in Russia and the people here in Houston, we’ve had people from both sides traveling back and forth, have done an excellent job pulling it all together, getting an understanding of what the requirements are, and making sure that we covered all the bases and that we understand the level of risk.
“My assessment of this EVA is that it is moderate risk from a programmatic perspective. I’ll let Greg address it from an EVA expert perspective, but I believe that, in relative terms, it’s not very complicated, but it has some very specific objectives and some hazards associated that we had to address and that I think people did a very good job of getting an understanding of. It’s good to see folks working together in this regard. It demonstrates the flexibility of both programs to accommodate different crewmembers and to respond to a specific situation such as what we have on the exterior of the Spektr now as a result of the collision. We don’t know yet, of course, what the holes look like and what repair procedures might be in the future, but this is the first step in trying to gain that understanding and if any future repair is going to take place we need to do this EVA to see what it looks like.
“As far as whether or not we would execute repairs, a lot of that depends on what we learn this weekend, and a lot depends on what it would take to complete such repairs. And again, even if we did do the repairs because they’re good experience for future operations, there is no guarantee that we would ever be able to recover the Spektr Module itself. But there is, of course, a lot to learn in this regard, and people are watching very closely how it might be done.
“At any rate, the situation on the Mir remains pretty much the same as it has been for the last couple of weeks, with the required systems operating. The crew is in good shape and well rested for the EVA. They’ve been through their medical tests and are certified to be ready to go and we are very confident that it’s going to occur on time and be very well executed. And without further ado I’d like to turn it over to Greg who will explain the details of it along with Mike and what the objectives are.”
Harbaugh: “Thanks Frank. I’m going to echo Frank’s comment off the top that the preparation that went into this EVA and the efforts on both sides of the ocean has been realy exceptional. Great cooperation. Mike Hess and the training folks here and Richard Fullerton, Gerry Miller over on the other side with their Russian counterparts have just done an exceptional job of working the details of this EVA to the extent that we’re all now adequately comfortable that this EVA is safe and can be executed in the time allocated with the given objectives.
“Let me just say a couple of words about what the intent of the EVA is. Essentially it’s a reconnaissance mission. It’s going out to inspect and assess and photodocument the damage from the collision. There are a couple of specific target areas, one in proximity to a radiator and one in proximity to a damaged solar array, and Mike [Hess] will talk about the details of that in a second, but both Anatoly and Mike [Foale] will be involved in assessing the damage with their own two eyes and doing photodocumentation, video and still camera documentation, for those folks on the ground to further analyze later on. Beyond that there is the intent to realign at least one of the fishtail arrays on the bottom end or the tail end of the Spektr to put it in a better, more optimum position for accumulating the sunlight and gaining electrical efficiency, and then retrieving a dosimeter, which is a very simple, easy task. It’s right outside the hatch and Mike [Hess] will go through all that . I also wanted to point out that we have looked very carefully at all aspects of this from a safety and a preparation standpoint and from the training dimension, we wanted to make sure that Mike [Foale] was comfortable being asked to do this, that he knew what was expected of him and he knew and was prepared for all aspects of the task, from executing in the Orlan to doing the specific tasks outside. And the Russians, our counterparts over there, have been very forthcoming in providing the time necessary and the briefings, information material, both written and video, up to the crew to ensure that they are adequately prepared. We know that they have gone through several dry runs and talked through the scenarios in their own minds and I can tell you first hand that that, taking the time to do that, is invaluable and needs to be done. So we are well satisfied that they are prepared to do this, that it’s a safe thing to do within our acceptable margins.
“I also want to point out a couple of other things with regard to the benefits to the U.S. program from this EVA, from Mike [Foale]'s participation. For the first time we get an American who has done an EVA in the American EMU to do a one-to-one comparison with the Russian Orlan, and that is going to be absolutely invaluable as we move forward into the International Space Station era because we’re at the moment, as we speak, evaluating all the assembly and maintenance tasks on the International Space Station, and trying to evaluate whether they’re properly to be done by one person in one of these kinds of space suits or the other. It plays very heavily into our planning and provisioning for each of the station assembly missions and the increment missions, as to what we can and cannot do in the Orlan versus the American EMU. So there is great tangible benefit by having Mike go do this. Also we get a second opinion. After Jerry Linenger’s experience, we wanted to follow up on that with somebody who had done EVA with regard to EVA or spacewalk on a space station as opposed to in the comforts of a shuttle payload bay. It turns out that there are some differences as perceived by Jerry. We want to follow up on those and come to a better understanding of what the real distinctions are and how we can better prepare people for the space station era from an EVA standpoint. Also the Russians have a slightly different tether protocol, safety tether process, that they use in terms of making sure that they are always securely attached to the station. We are going to get a second opinion on that tether protocol, and that’ll be valuable. Finally, we get our own perspective on the damage areas. Anatoly and Mike will, as I say, be there on site to do inspection and to document the problems or damage as they see it. It will be to our benefit to have Mike’s perspective because he’s so experienced, giving us his view of the damage areas and how we might assist in further efforts to recover Spektr if any are deemed necessary or useful. And Mike is coming back on STS-86, so we get that feedback more immediately.
“I’d like to turn it over to Mike Hess now who can fill you in on the detailed sequence of events for the EVA.”
Hess: “Thank you Greg. First of all I’d like to point out that the Russian timeline is set up with about seven and a half hours’ worth of activity, but they only plan on doing in the neighborhood of six hours’ worth of tasks. It will depend on what they find once they get out there. Greg mentioned this is a reconnaissance spacewalk and that’s specifically it. If they find something, they’re going to work in a specific area and not work in certain other areas, but if they don’t find anything in their first worksite, they’ll move along and go to the next one. So it’ll just depend on how the flow of things occurs with which tasks get accomplished on this spacewalk.
“Mike Foale will be the flight engineer and Anatoly Solovyev will be the commander. They’re going to depressurize the Kvant-2 airlock. The crew’s going to egress from that. Their primary worksites are going to be all the way on the other side of Mir on the damaged Spektr module. The first worksite is going to be down between some radiators [see Slide 5] and also along the damaged solar array, which is on the Priroda side.
“This slide shows again where the crew is coming out of. They’re going to be utilizing the Strella cargo boom to get from one side of the Mir to the next. The cargo boom is currently set up so that the crew can use it from getting out of the Kvant airlock. It will be swung over to the other side of Mir onto the Spektr Module where the crew can work off this cargo beam for their specific worksites.
“This slide depicts the Kvant-2 airlock where the crew will egress. Mike Foale will actually be the first crewmember out of the airlock. The hatch is on the distal portion of the module.
“The crew will then move to the Strella cargo beam. This graphic depicts the Strella. Mike and Anatoly will come out of the airlock with a large toolkit, cameras, tools, etc. They’ll move down this cargo crane, called Strella, to about the third segment from the base where they will drop off their toolkit. Mike will continue to the end of the Strella and work the controls at the base, there are handles for pitching and yawing the crane around. He’ll yaw the crane around to the other side of Mir and they’ll initially start work at the radiator worksite.
“The first worksite. There is a buckled radiator that’s on the Spektr Module. The crew’s going to first take a look and see how the radiator is. There is also a potential to open up some of the insulation using a special cutting tool. If they find something at that location, a hole, what have you, they’ll photograph it, they’ll take video. They also have the capability to install a number of handrails there for handholds. There aren’t a lot of good handholds and restraints in that location, so if they need to they can put some of those on. If they don’t find anything of particular note, they can move on to their next worksite.
“This graphic depicts the crew installing some of the handrails between the two radiators, and that’s in the water tank.
“The next worksite is just below the damaged array. What the crew wants to do, they have some measuring tools, sort of like spark plug gap measuring tools. There’s a gap that goes around the base of that array, and the crew wants to determine if the array that was run into, if it’s canted off center. If it’s canted off center, there’s a good chance there’s a leak below that area. If they find something that’s obvious, they’re going to take pictures of it, film the area. In addition, they have some handrails they can put in at that location too for some additional restraints. Once the crew has completed that task, this--we call it a fishtail array because if you look at the way Mir is flying, it sort of looks like a fish tail the way it’s canted off the back end--this array needs to be reoriented. At this time Mike will primarily be on the end of the cargo beam, Solovyev will work his way down on hand rails, and using a special tool kind of like a long hook, will orient this array and turn it about 90 or so degrees to orient it with the Sun. The areas that these arrays are pointing right now are not the most efficient and the crew’s not able to command those arrays on orbit to get them pointing the right way, so we at least need to get some additional power from that array. If the Russians are ahead of the timeline right now, if Mike and Anatoly are doing very well, they may continue and reorient some of the other arrays too, but right now there’s only a plan to do one, and as Greg mentioned, since this is a reconnaissance EVA, they may be really good on time, they may be a little late. It’ll just depend and it’ll be a call from the Russian Mission Control Center as to what their next activity ought to be.
“Following the completion, the crew will move the Strella cargo beam back to the airlock, translate back down the cargo beam to the base and if there’s time they’ll install this Vozduk cap. The Vozduk cap, in order to install it, there needs to be some additional insulation on the Mir Base Block Module that needs to be cut and there are some screws that are on the side that are just screwed into place. What they’re doing is they’re installing this cap because there’s a port that goes out to vacuum. They need to cap this in order to do some maintenance inside the vehicle and so that port needs to closed off to vacuum. A subsequent EVA, perhaps when Dave Wolf is on Mir, will need to be done to remove this cap after the repairs have been done inside.
“After the Vozduk has been retrieved, right at the airlock, just before they come inside, is the Benton Dosimeter. This is a small dosimeter that was put outside by Jerry Linenger on his Russian spacewalk back in April and if the crew can snag that on their way back in and bring it in that would be great. We’ve got it timelined, but again, we’ll see what happens in terms of time when the crew’s completed.
“That’s all for my slides. A lot of training has been completed, as Greg and Frank had mentioned, for the crew to get ready for this sequence of spacewalks. Before Mike went up on Mir, he was actually Jerry Linenger’s backup for the EVA training. The Russians typically have backups for different crews. About 148 hours of training was completed by Mike before he actually went up on Mir and then since it’s been determined that he will participate in this EVA, he’s completed an additional 44 hours of training on orbit and I’d like to show a quick video that was just downlinked this morning showing Mike doing a little bit of training.
“The first video clip shows Mike actually donning his Orlan-M spacesuit. He’s wearing a blue liquid-cooling garment that has about 250 feet of plastic tubing running through it. Water runs through those tubes to keep him cool while he’s in his suit.
“One of the fundamental differences between the Orlan spacesuit and the U.S. EMU is that the crew enters from the backpack. The backpack actually opens up as a door and the crew shimmies inside and the backpack is then closed up and seals the crewmember in for the EVA. Some of Mike’s training that was done was to get him ready and get him familiar with using this Orlan-M spacesuit. The other part of the training that was done is task related. He and Anatoly practiced doing Vozduk cap tasks, practiced with some of the cutting tools, some of the other hardware that they’ll be bringing outside, just so that they’re familiar with using everything.
“The next video clip shows Mike in the space suit actually practicing installation of the Vozduk cap. The place that he’s putting it in is on a little mock-up that’s inside, but the cap is an actual Vozduk cap. The video shows Mike tightening up some of the bolts by hand. Those will eventually be tightened down by a wrench. It’s a pretty hand-intensive activity, but as Frank mentioned, this is probably about a moderate-level-of-complexity EVA because most of what the crew plans on doing is reconnaissance, taking a look, taking video, if there’s something obvious that they can do in terms of getting access to something they will, but there isn’t any plan on doing any repair on this specific EVA, just reconnaissance, and any additional tasks--the Vozduk and the Benton Dosimeter--are added at the end, in addition to the solar array slew.
Q: “When I looked at the video [tape of Mike Foale] earlier, there was something that looked essentially like a pair of hedge trimmers that he was using. Can you tell me what those are for and how those are used?”
Harbaugh: “That’s one of the possible cutting tools that they might use for trimming multilayer insulation or thermal blankets. They have several tools that are options. We think that the hedge trimmer-type device is probably not going to be the preferred tool. There is another tool that looks more like a serrated knife and that is probably going to be the one they use.”
Q: “I know there aren’t going to be any repairs done on this mission, it’s mostly just for reconnaissance. I’m not much of a handyman. Once you get around to making the repairs, do they get made from the outside or from the inside and are you going to make that determination based on what you see?”
Harbaugh: “I don’t think there’s an answer to that right now. Probably to do the job properly you’d want to do both, but that is yet to be determined. All kinds of effort are underway to assess repair options and, frankly, we’re in a position where we’re offering help to the Russians, but they are pretty much doing that determination themselves at this stage of the game. I would expect that most likely if you can isolate the puncture, you’d want to do something from the outside skin and you’d want to do something from the inside as well.”
Q: “You said you’ve addressed the relative risks of this spacewalk and found them moderate and acceptable for this mission. What are the most daunting for the two participants?”
Harbaugh: “Well, they’re going to an area where a big vehicle banged into the side of another big vehicle, so there’s bound to be some material, maybe some bent metal, some sharp edges, and that’s the kind of thing that we are very concerned about and we have worked very hard at assessing over the last couple of weeks. We think that given the experience level of these two gentlemen and the planned approach, that that is a situation that can be controlled. The whole idea of dealing with hazards is that you have to define all the hazards and then you have to figure out a way to control them. And if you cannot control them, you shouldn’t be doing the job. And so we think, going into this, we understand the hazards and that we have adequate controls. Anatoly and Mike are going to approach every work site, every potential damage area, very cautiously, very deliberately, and as they go they are going to inspect the integrity of the translation path, assure themselves that there’s nothing sticking out that’s a sharp edge that could catch on the suit and puncture it in any way. So it would be in proximity to the radiator and the damaged solar array, the two areas where there would be concern specifically about sharp edges.”
Q: “Considering the total translation from one end of Kvant-2 to the end of Spektr, about how far is that? And can you also discuss the use of the Strella boom maybe a little bit about how it operates so that we know how they use this tool to translate across this distance?”
Hess: “The Strella can be extended out to about 40 or 50 feet in length. The Strella that they’re going to be using is located on the Base Block and extends all the way up to the airlock. There’s another Strella that’s on the other side. Mike Foale will crawl down and go to the base of Spektr, and there are two handles there, one that’s to yaw the Strella back and forth and one that’s to pitch it up and down, and he will be cranking these handles at a pretty slow rate. Anatoly Solovyev will be on the end of the Strella and the Strella will be swung out clear of these arrays and brought down to the worksite down at the base. The cargo beam can be extended and retracted, so when they move to the worksite on Spektr, Solovyev will need to retract two segments of it manually and bring it in about nine feet or so to be able to reach.”
Q: “I understand there are fuel tanks that are strapped to Spektr. How close are they going to be getting to them, and what kind of hazard do you think they pose?”
Hess: “Slide 5 shows the radiator location which some of these tanks are near. These tanks are located just underneath the radiators. These tanks aren’t used any more. When the crew gets over to that location, they’re going to take a look and see if there’s anything wrong with the tanks, if there’s any damage that’s been done, any debris, sharp edges, and if there is anything like that, they won’t go near the location.”
Harbaugh: “Let me say a couple of words about that. That’s an area that we were also very concerned about. We obviously don’t want to put anyone in proximity to propellant or something that could do damage. We’ve approached that from two different angles. One is, we actually did testing over the weekend on patches of the Orlan suit material to assess the impact to the suit of everything that we know to potentially be able to leak onto the suit in the course of this EVA and essentially that proved out what we expected, that the Orlan suit is very equivalent to the U.S. EMU and that with a minimal exposure there is no immediate safety concern; for prolonged exposure it would be something you’d worry about. We have agreement with the Russians that if for some reason the crew were to come in contact and have a patch of material on them, some unidentifiable fluid or ice, that we would terminate the EVA. But beyond that, let me also say that in our discussion in the readiness review this morning, we talked about this specifically and the Russians told us that they did their own safety assessment and determined that there was no likelihood that anything would be leaking or in proximity. Essentially, it’s been exposed to space. Anything that might have had a leak has been exposed and would have already sublimated out or leaked out. So we’re reasonably well satisfied that that concern has been dealt with.”
Culbertson: “And they also have no evidence that anything in that area has dropped in pressure or leaked. They have had some residual telemetry from the tanks shortly after the collision and had no indication that anything had ruptured or leaked out so they’re pretty confident that it’s still secure and, as Greg says, if the crew finds something that doesn't look right they'll just move away from that area.”
Q: “Much has been made of the fact that the Russian cosmonauts get bonuses. Do you know how much of a bonus the Russian cosmonaut is expected to get for doing a good job on this spacewalk and will Mike Foale also get a bonus from the Russians for the same spacewalk?”
Culbertson: “We don’t work under the bonus system, and I only know what I’ve read in the press about the Russian system.”
Q: “What is the power situation onboard right now and how much do you expect to gain if they are able to reorient one, two, or three of these solar arrays?”
Culbertson: “Right now they’ve regained about 150 Amps, so around 4 kilowatts of power. That’s at peak. If they can reorient the arrays, they can probably add another 25% on top of that, but that’s a pretty rough estimate and they won’t really know until they see how they do. One of the considerations for the reorientation is the upcoming docked mission. They’ve got both thermal and power concerns about the attitudes that they have to hold to generate power while the shuttle is there, in addition to when the shuttle is not, so they’re trying to balance all those considerations with each other and come up with an optimum attitude. Right now the arrays are pointed away from where you would like to have them while the shuttle is there to get maximum power and keep the thermal loads down, so turning at least one, if not more of them, around is a good idea if the crew can get to it and has time.”
Q: “The 25% is for reorienting three or just one? Is there any chance that the avionics or whatever you call the devices that orient the arrays will be recovered?”
Culbertson: “There is hope that that might help, but I’m not able to quite follow the logic that says that that’s what’s needed to gain that orientation. That’s still being discussed. And the 25% was just my rough estimate based on the calculations before and after the EVA that you might regain with all three of them recovered. That would be 25% of the 4 kilowatts, about another kilowatt or so.”
Q: “It’s my understanding that when they actually translate over to Spektr, Foale will be at the controls of the Strella and move Solovyev over there, but then for Foale to get down to Spektr, he’ll use that ring-type device to shimmy down the pole?”
Hess: “That’s correct. The ring device will be used to translate up and down the Strella cargo beam. And Mike will, in fact, be the one at the controls of Strella.”
Q: “Once they’re down at Spektr, aside from seeing obvious physical damage, such as dents or obvious punctures, will there be a situation where there are lights on Strella on so that when they’re on the dark side they could see perhaps a light shining through any puncture? And secondly, my understanding is that after Jerry Linenger did his EVA, he was somewhat critical or frank about how rough the outside of Mir is to the extent that there may have been some cuts or divots in his gloves. What things in that vein have you looked at as a result of his experience earlier?”
Culbertson: “Well, on the first part of the question, if there’s anybody inside Spektr shining lights around, we do want to know about it, but we don’t expect to be able to see anything emitting from inside Spektr. It’s pretty well powered off. As for the other questions, Greg and his group did address Jerry Linenger’s concerns specifically during all our reviews leading up to this.”
Harbaugh: “Let me just say we went through Jerry’s debrief point by point. As I said earlier, you have to identify the hazard and figure out how to control it. One of the things that Jerry noted was concern about protruding objects, potential catch-points and sharp edges in proximity to translation paths. This EVA is helped greatly, frankly, because Mike doesn’t have to go very far before he gets on the boom and the boom was made for EVA. And then most of the time that Mike spends outside will be at one end or the other of this boom, so we’re pretty comfortable. We have analyzed this in detail, virtually inch by inch, as Mike goes along, what the potential hazards are, and we think that they are well understood and well controlled and Mike is well briefed on those areas where there might be any potential to catch him. In essence, we think this is a pretty straightforward translation path, and we’re not concerned about it.”
Q: “Looking ahead to STS-86, could you offer a brief status or evaluation of Dave Wolf’s readiness following his crash courses the last month or so? And what decision-making points do you have prior to STS-86 launch to allow him to stay onboard? How many more decision-making points are there left?”
Culbertson: “Dave did go through an accelerated course or expanded course of training during August, where they added the EVA training. He accomplished about 80 hours of EVA training and went through it very well. Mike [Hess], and others, observed him in training and was impressed by his ability to understand the Russian and to understand the suit and the Russians spoke very highly of him also. So that training was very successful. He also continued his review of Mir and Soyuz systems, and has completed all that. He’s back in the States now and today has gone back into training for review for the shuttle as well as finishing up the science review, the research program review, and going soon into baseline data collection for his mission. He’ll be doing the dry countdown next week with his shuttle crew and proceeding through the normal process in preparation for the shuttle launch on September 25. As far as decision points for the readiness for that mission, both his increment and the joint-docked phase, this afternoon we have an internal review of all the people participating in Phase 1 on the U.S. side to ascertain our readiness to begin that increment and to conduct the shuttle mission, and then on September 9 we have a joint review with our Russian counterparts to assure that both sides are ready to begin and to also discuss in detail the readiness of the Mir itself and all the systems that support that. And then on September 12 is the space shuttle, STS-86, flight readiness review at Kennedy Space Center, where we will present to the Shuttle Program our readiness to participate in the docked phase and to carry all this Phase 1 shuttle-Mir hardware in the Spacehab in the payload bay. So September 12 is actually our final decision point prior to the mission, at which point we should have all the questions answered. If they are not, they will be flagged as open issues and will be worked prior to the launch. Of course, the last chance generally to discuss things is around two days prior to launch at the L-2 meeting. In general, things are coming together pretty well. We believe we’re getting good information from both our own working groups and the Russians and are answering the questions, and I believe that people will have a good understanding, outside the community as well as inside, once we have completed this process of how ready we are to continue and how safe it is and what the situation onboard the Mir is in regard to being able to continue the program, to conduct effective research, and to life safely and comfortably on the Mir.”
Q: “Could you give the latest list of repair items that you’ll be taking aboard Atlantis to the Mir?”
Culbertson: “That’s several hundred items. We could give you that once it’s finalized. I can’t recite them by memory. We’ve got 1900 kilograms of Russian hardware, about 500 kilograms of U.S. science hardware, and assorted other payloads, so it’s quite a bit.”
Q: “Any hole-plugging material for instance?”
Culbertson: “There’s a cap for the solar array cavity if they ever get around to using that, or ever decide that it’s needed, that we’ve incorporated into the middeck that will be transferred during the EVA by the EVA crewmembers Scott Parazynski and Vladimir Titov. It’ll be transferred in a bag and secured to the outside of the Docking Module. It’s a fairly large device that goes into a large bag, but we can handle it by EVA, and they’ll be trained for that. There’s also some sealing material, some tools, and other pieces of hardware that could be used, but again, the need for this we are not sure of yet because we don’t know what the holes look like. They’re trying to cover all bases by having material already up there in case they do determine that repairs can be effected.”
Q: “Can this decision on Mike Foale today be interpreted at all as a positive sign for Dave Wolf going up to do his mission? In other words, can we see this as your leaning a little bit more to giving Wolf the OK and toward following through with the full Phase 1 program?”
Culbertson: “I suppose you could feel that way, yes.”
Q: “Is there a best-case scenario for what you hope Solovyev and Foale might find when they do this EVA? What in your wildest dreams would be the best news you could get from this EVA?”
Culbertson: “For me as a program manager, the best news for me is that they are able to go out and execute the EVA as planned and return to the hatch and close it and are safe inside at the end of it. So we’re going to watch very carefully how they execute it. In terms of the results of the reconnaissance, I believe the best news would be if there’s only a single hole and it’s a simple puncture that can be repaired, then I think from the Russians’ standpoint that would be the best news for them rather than a complicated repair process. I’m also interested that they’re able to do the Vozduk cap installation because that will increase redundancy of CO2 removal onboard the station, allow them to build a second Vozduk unit, and of course we want to retrieve the science hardware, the Benton Dosimeter. So all those things I’d like to see done smoothly, without unexpected glitches or problems, and have the folks return inside safely.”
Q: “Looking at the possible cracks, holes, leaks, whatever, what are the easiest types of cracks, holes, leaks, whatever, to repair and find? In other words, is it better to find a tiny little circular hole or would a long crack be easier to repair but harder to find? Could you go down the lines of which is easier to repair and which is easier to find? And what kind of lighting tools are you bringing out to see these things?”
Harbaugh: “Well, it’s common sense. The better you can see the hole, the more likelihood you have that you can repair it. I think the scenario that would involve a leak under the damaged solar array where the stem bent and pulled away from the skin a little bit is the one that may have the most immediate potential for repair and recovery. That’s why we’re taking that solar array cap up on STS-86. If they, at some point, can jettison that solar array that’s damaged, or at least remove it and tie it down and put this cap in its place, if that area under there was the source of the leak, it’s possible that just bolting this cap in place could go a long way to effecting the repair. Anything beyond that in terms of split skin or punctured skin is something that is very difficult at best. We’ve looked a lot on this side, and I know the Russians continue to look, at methodologies for injecting material, resins for example, that would cure over reasonable amounts of time at vacuum, and create a sealed surface. The problem is exactly how you validate and verify that what you’ve done is going to withstand structural integrity questions for the long haul. How do you satisfy yourself once you’ve done a repair that it’s OK to send human beings back in there? And those are questions that people are asking and talking about, but we don’t have good answers for right now.”
Hess: “As far as lighting goes, I can answer that one real quick. Seven portable flash lights will be brought outside in addition to the lights that are already on the spacesuits.”
Q: “Can you do into a little depth about how the Vozduk cap. I was under the impression that this was to help put in the new Vozduk that was carried on a little while back, nothing to do with the old Vozduk, but you can’t do the new one until you put in this new Vozduk vent. But I guess if it’s a cap, is this basically for the old one and what’s happening with the new one then?”
Culbertson: “Actually, you may be confusing that with the new Elektron that we carried up, which generates oxygen. The Vozduk that they intend to put together will be built from parts that are already onboard the Mir. They have at least a complete systems worth of spare parts onboard. The Base Block was originally plumbed for a Vozduk, but when Kvant Module was added they put the Vozduk in that module and never actually installed the one in the Base Block. However, it does have the plumbing. The valve that is on this vacuum line that is required for operation of the Vozduk has not been operated in over 11 years, and there’s some concern by the engineers that the seals might not still be good, so rather than try to operate a valve that’s open to vacuum and test it, they did what I think is a conservative approach and decided to cap the line, remove the old valve, put a new one on that they know the seals are good in, and then begin building the Vozduk from there. So they had to cap the outside of this vacuum line in order to remove that valve. When they put the cap on the outside, they’ll take the valve off the inside, and then after the EVA remove or open the cap on the outside so that once they’ve built the new Vozduk from spare parts it’ll be able to operate normally. As I said, this was originally plumbed into the Base Block, and just never was installed, but now can be and it will allow them to have redundancy in the Vozduk system.”
Q: “Why was the decision made not to leave some lights on or put some lights in Spektr or a smoke bomb or some kind of a heat thing that could be detected with an infrared camera so you’d have a better chance of finding leak sources from the outside by looking for any of these devices and where they might be leaking out?”
Culbertson: “Putting a light in was not discussed, and I’m not sure whether you’d be able to ensure that the battery was still working at this time. But I’m pretty sure that any holes that are there are behind panels in the Spektr and not very visible. In fact, based on the survey they did internally they can say they’re not very visible if they’re there. They talked about the possibility of releasing some atmosphere into the Spektr to see if they could see it escaping; however, because of the depressurization and the fact that they have not been resupplied since this summer, they decided not to use gas for that purpose. That can be done at a later date after the shuttle and/or the Progress have been there and pumped the atmosphere back up. I think that’s a wiser choice at this point.”
Q: “I assume the propellant tanks are the tanks that were used originally by Spektr to get up there to Mir. What types of propellants are in them? Just standard hypergols and how much propellant would be remaining in the tanks?”
Culbertson: “They are the usual hypergolics and I don’t know off the top of my head how much is remaining. Not very much, I don’t believe.”
Q: “Can you bring us up to date on any changes to the spacewalk on STS-86. You mentioned the solar array cap. Is that a cap that would go over that solar array cavity after the array had been pulled off? What else might have changed from the original EVA plan for that mission?”
Hess: “I happen to be working crew training for STS-86, and the only task that’s been added is after the MEEP experiments have been retrieved by Parazynski and Titov, they will deploy this solar array cap. They’re going to bring it out of the shuttle tunnel adapter and put it on the bottom of the Docking Module and they’re just going to tether it off in place with a couple of Russian equipment tethers. It’ll be left there outside so that on a subsequent EVA, like you mentioned, if they determine that the array is the place where the leak is and after they have either taken the array down or jettisoned it, then they can put this cap over it and hopefully seal up that location.”
Q: “There seems to be a little bit of controversy in Russia over who is actually to blame for the cargo ship crash. What have you been told in terms of the findings of the various commissions that had been put in place?”
Culbertson: “You’re right. There is controversy in Russia over the findings. The findings, however, have not been officially released, and we’ve not been briefed on them. We have our own speculation, but that’s based on the limited data we have access to, and until the State Commission and the independent panels finish their review and present it to their government, we’re really not going to be able to speculate on anything beyond that.”
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty