Interview: Umberto Guidoni
STS-100 Crew Interviews with Umberto Guidoni, Mission Specialist.
First off, tell me: Why did you want to be an astronaut?
actually, that happens when I was already in my job in, technical
job. I mean, I am a physicist and I was working in a research
laboratory in Italy. And I was working in space science mostly.
And in the lab I was in, we were designing the experiments for
satellites to fly. And one of the satellites we were working on
was the tether satellite. And just when we were at the end of
our design process there was the news that the Italian government
and the U.S. government had signed an agreement to fly the first
Italian astronaut on that flight. And so I said, "Well, why
don't [I] try and see what happen?" And that was really the
dispute. I started this whole endeavor really. And at the beginning
we had the selection in Italy. And that was pretty much among
people that had held previous experience in that particular satellite.
So, I was in that, in a good position then. And at the end of
the process, there was four candidates left and I was one of them.
And so, at that point I start to think, "Well, it might happen
after all." And it happened. I was selected as [one of] the
two Italians that were sent here [to] Houston for training. And
the first flight of the tether satellite happened in '92, and
I was the backup on that flight. And then my chance really happened
in 1996 when we added the second flight of the tether satellite.
And so I flew as a Payload Specialist on that flight and I was
pretty much involved in all the science of the tether satellite.
After that I had so much fun in space that I decided to make a
career out [of it]. And since Italy was involved in the space
station as well as signed an agreement with NASA. And when the
possibility to enter the 1996 Mission Specialist class. So, I
asked to do that to the Italian Space Agency, and they sent me
here. Actually, I didn't move really. I was already here, so I
just started my new activity as a Mission Specialist candidate.
And then I graduate two years later, in 1998, with my class. And,
since then I've been here in Houston for training basically. And
I was very happy to be assigned to this mission. This is very,
very important mission. Very, very specific for me, too, because
we have an Italian module on our flight that, of course, is important
for my country. And that's pretty much my story; how I am here
and why I wanted to be an astronaut.
you thought about space at all when you were a child?
Yes I did
in fact. But, of course, being an Italian we saw the landing on
the moon. I remember; I was 15 years old when Neil Armstrong put
feet in the moon. And for me it was like seeing a movie. I mean
a science-fiction movie. He was, I mean, very, very interesting.
But, at the same time it was very far in the future. I couldn't
believe that 30 years later I was in the position to be an astronaut.
there any particular people along the way that were big influences
on you in getting you where you are?
I was a teenager, my uncle used to give me science book, and he
also gave me the first telescope. And I started to look at the
stars. And probably that made my, I mean, make up my idea to become
a scientist. Not to NASA because, as I said, at that time I didn't
dream of being at NASA. But to become a scientist and to start
study in particular the space, because that's what's really my
major interest. I was, I remember, I still remember when the first
time I pointed the telescope at the sky and I saw Saturn with
the rings. It was a beautiful image. And that really made my mind
to become a scientist. And that was the first step in order to
become an astronaut, of course.
here you are on this extremely important mission. Tell me what
the goals are of STS-100?
have two major goals. The most important one is to get the station
arm on board the station, because that's this really milestone
in the space station building since from now on they will be using
this arm to continue building the space station. There will be
tasks that cannot be accomplished with the shuttle arm. So, we
really need to have this bigger arm, as we call it, in order to
accomplish this task. And the second important payload that we
have is the MPLM, the Logistics Module, that was built in Italy.
That's why it is also very important for me in particular that
we use it to ferry goods to the station but also experiments and
materials, I mean, spare parts that are needed for the crew on
board the station.
is it so important that this flight be successful in the whole
assembly sequence of the space station?
immediately after us, on 7A they will install the airlock. And
it will be impossible to install without the station arm. So,
in order [for] 7A to succeed, they need to have this arm fully
working, fully tested and ready to work. So, that's why it is
important. Of course adding the airlock on board the station is
one key element to have the EVA capability on the station. And
that's really a must to have. I mean, in order for the crew to
be safe on board the station, to have the opportunity to go out
and repair…anything, I mean, can happen there.
you install this important equipment on board, you have to rendezvous
and dock with the International Space Station. Talk me through
that process, and tell me what are you doing while all that's
much I will be probably doing photo documentation during that
part. Because, of course, almost all of the rest of the crewmembers
will be pretty busy with this, with the activity of the rendezvous
and docking. And so, I will be probably, since I am not involved
in all the activity, I will have some spare time to devote to
document all this busy part of the flight.
after the docking takes place, what happens in those hours just
after then, after the two ships are, have come together?
we cannot open the airlock as soon as we are docking because we
have the first EVA just a few hours after that. So, we will be
depressing the, our cabin, the shuttle cabin, and in order to
have Chris and Scott ready to go on the EVA.
you finally do see the Expedition Two crew face-to-face, do you
have anything special for them?
have a surprise for them. I cannot tell what it is. But we are
right. Now, the day after docking, the shuttle's robot arm is
used to install the robot arm on the station and that first space
walk begins. Talk me through the steps of that day. What happens
on that space walk and, again, what will you be doing during that
be a pretty complicated space walk. And Chris and Scott will be
basically unfolding the arm and [connecting] the power to the
LCA, the cradle where the arm is located. And since this is a
difficult position to reach, we will be using the arm as a support
for one of the EVA crewmembers in order to reach this position.
Jeff Ashby will be flying the arm, and I will [be] supporting
him as a R2. Basically checking the, some of the spec on the computer
and also using the visual cue that we have in order to help him
in driving the arm.
that arm fully functional at the end of that space walk or is
there still more work to be done?
point, it will be in standby. And, it needs some other work in
order to be fully operational. But, what we need to get out of
the first EVA is to have the arm completely unfolded and powered
so that they can keep the temperature under control. That will
really the call of the first EVA.
that space walk the guys are also installing a UHF antenna. What
sort of communications are going to be possible once that's up
it's mainly a space-to-space communication. And I'm not sure about
the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, we've talked about that. It's
going to be lifted out of the shuttle's cargo bay and attached
to the space station. Tell me some more about the MPLM. What is
it and what is it bringing up on this particular flight?
MPLM is really the module we use to carry all the spare parts
and experiments on the space station and also back to Earth. So,
it will be our truck, space truck, that we will be using back
and forth from the ground to the space station and back. It is
inside them, they can be [configured] in different [ways] depending
on the kind of materials we are bringing on the station. In our
particular flight, we will be bringing two EXPRESS [racks] that
are pretty much the standard size rack that are used on board
the station. And, we will be also carrying some of the [experiments]
to put on these racks. Also we will be carrying food and clothes
for the Expedition Two crew. And as well as spare parts for the
EVA that will be conducted from the station in the following months.
And also some spare parts for the space station; like, for example,
DC-DC converters and computers and other things of this nature.
In particular, we will be bringing also a scale model of the SSRMS
for the crew to train. I mean, it's always very important to have
a physical representation of the arm. Because this station arm
is very complicated. It's really one generation, next generation
arm with respect to the arm we are flying on the shuttle. In particular,
this arm has 7 degrees-of-freedom that makes the overall motion
of the arm very complex so that, before you start driving the
arm, you should be very familiar with all the position it can
get. And, that's why we need a model on board the station. We
will be carrying that as well.
the process of getting this Logistics Module attached to the station?
How does that happen?
Logistics Module is [a] pretty big and heavy payload. It's half
of the size of the Destiny module that just went up on the last
shuttle mission. So we will be uncradling the MPLM from the shuttle
cargo bay with the shuttle robotic arm. And it will be pretty
much moved up, most of the motion will be up, until we get almost
at the, close to the Node 1 where it will be attached. Since we
don't have a good visibility of the Node and of the berthing mechanism
that will be used to attach the MPLM to the station, we will be
using a centerline camera in order to help…that is pointing
out from the Node and will be reflected on a mirror that is mounted
on the MPLM so that we get the image from the berthing axis. And
this will be a very delicate task because, of course, again we
are moving a very massive object and we are moving against this
station. So, that's really something you want to do very carefully.
And when we finally get close, on the order of a few inches, then
there is a latching mechanism that will attach momentarily the
MPLM. And then the system, I mean the bolting, automatic bolting
system of the CBM, the Common Berthing Mechanism, will take over
and will bolt the MPLM to the rest of the station so that it's
structurally sound. Because of course while we are doing all this
maneuver, the space station will be in free drift. And so in order
to be able to command the attitude again, we have to be sure that
the MPLM is sounded, I mean, is attached to the rest of the station.
another very important space walk, the second one that goes on,
on this flight. What happens during that space walk?
that space walk there will be some repositioning of the power
so that the arm can be fully controlled by the robotic station
that is in the Lab. When this space walk will be completed, then
the arm will be fully operational and ready for the next activity
that will be pretty much the testing, the first flight testing
of the space station arm.
does this testing work? What happens?
brought the station arm in its cradle that is, was attached to
the Lab. When the arm is fully functional, we don't need that
cradle anymore. So, we will be bringing the cradle, the SLP, back
into the cargo bay. Originally we planned to do that with the
shuttle arm. But then there was this new idea to actually, to
test the station arm just by doing this, the first part of this
translation from the…so detach the pallet from the Lab and
bring it close to the shuttle cargo bay. At that point, there
will be the handover between the shuttle arm and the station arm
so that the shuttle arm will take the cradle and put it into the
cargo bay. This way it's a pretty complex operation. For the first
time we will be operating two arms at the same time, even though
it will be done sequentially. But, nevertheless, it needs, it
requires a lot of coordination between the two crews-the station
crew and the shuttle crew. So, that really will be a very interesting
phase of the flight.
also a scheduled tentative third space walk.
is there a tentative space walk?
know, space walk is always [a] very complex activity. And there
might be something we haven't planned. I mean, the actual flight
might be a little different from what we have rehearsed many times
in the pool. And so, in case we have contingencies and things
that we cannot accomplish within the duration of the space walk,
we have a buffer, I mean, in order to be able to complete the…what
we want to accomplish. Because that's, as we said at the beginning
of this: This is a very critical flight. And, we have to be sure
that everything we planned is completed during our mission.
if you do not need that third space walk, how will you use that
it will be mostly devoted to transfer of the cargo between the
space station and between the MPLM and the space station. This
is something that we will be doing together with the Expedition
crew. And so, if we have more free time, we can help them to do
it quicker. I also think that if we have this extra day available,
probably we will have just time to relax and to enjoy being on
you finish those transfers and hopefully have gotten to relax
a little bit you'll then move the MPLM back into the payload bay
of the shuttle.
does that happen?
be much pretty the reverse of the activity that we did on flight
day 4. And so, at this point, the MPLM will be closed from the
space station crew and the Common Berthing Mechanism will be restored
as it was originally when we latched it, when we put the MPLM
and the station together. And at that point, when we start to
unbolt the bolts and before we complete that process, the arm
will be grappling the MPLM and at a certain time, there will be
a, I mean, when the MPLM will be released, the arm will be used
to move the MPLM away from the station and back in the cargo bay.
So again it is another joint operation that we require a coordination
between the two crews.
all that work, you finally get to say goodbye to the Expedition
Two crew and undock from the station. Tell me what's happening
on that day. How does all that happen?
we have successfully undocked from the station, Jeff Ashby will
be flying the shuttle around the station. I am looking forward
for that because it will be probably some breathtaking moment
for us because, I mean, flying so close to the station, we will
probably see all details of this big structure in space. And so,
Jeff is very excited about that and so is the rest of the crew.
you mentioned, this is your second flight aboard the space shuttle,
and you're going to an International Space Station that's hosting
its second set of residents. As a member of the European Space
Agency, what are your thoughts about the growing international
presence in space and, in particular, the role of the Europeans?
think that one of the major [aspects] of this space station is
the international cooperation that is the base of the realization
of the station itself. I would say that for the first time in
the history all the major countries in the world are pushing together
to reach this goal. And in my opinion, this is in itself, is already
a good, a very important achievement. If we think that, I mean,
we've having all the, I mean, Russia, United States, Europe, Japan,
Canada, are all together on this endeavor, we think that for the
first time probably we are building something in space that is
really for all humankind. And not only that but the fact that,
eventually, when the station is completed, there will be an international
crew, I mean, made of astronauts coming from different cultural
experience speaking different languages, but working together
for a common goal in my opinion is really a good achievement.
In this respect Europe is playing an important role. Not only
Europe will provide a lab-one of the three major laboratories
that will be on the station for scientific and technological development-but
also Europe is involved in the logistic support of the station,
providing the so-called Automatic Transfer Vehicle that will be
[launched] with an Ariane-2 rocket and will provide automatic
docking capability to the station so that we can send basically
all kind of supplies to the station. We talked already of the
other logistics support that we are providing for the station.
That is the MPLM. That is an Italian endeavor but it's also part
of the European contribution. And, also Europe is involved in
the development of the crew rescue vehicle, the lifeboat of the
station, the next-generation lifeboat of the station. That will
be ready when the space station will be completed and will be
able to support seven [astronauts] in case of an emergency on
board the station. So, altogether I will say that the role of
Europe is very important. And also…I mean, Europe is kind
of changing, it's shifting its interest from what we had in the
past that was pretty much mostly in the scientific mission, unmanned
scientific mission, towards a manned operation. So, for that reason
Europe had created a new astronaut corps that was created by merging
the astronauts coming from different European countries. So that,
now we have a corps of 16, 17 European [astronauts]. That is really
our first attempt to have a super-national astronaut center. And
I believe that this is also due to the fact, to the involvement
of Europe, in the space station building basically.