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Preflight Interview: James Kelly

The STS-102 Crew Interviews with James Kelly, Pilot.

Q: The STS-102 Crew Interviews with Jim Kelly, the Pilot of space shuttle Discovery on this mission to the International Space Station. Jim, tell me why it is that you wanted to become an astronaut?

A: Well, probably the major reason that, or the beginning reason was watching the moon landings on TV. I was about five years old when the first landing happened, and it was a pretty major event, and I come from a small town in Iowa, and of course, the whole town, like the whole country, was pretty excited about it. And, it was a big deal for my folks so, you know, like they'd always talk about [being] clustered around the TV, listening to what's going on with the different missions and things like that. So, really my earliest, some of my earliest memories go back to the times where we'd sit in front of the TV and watch the moon landings, what was going on, so, that was probably the first thing that piqued my interest at a real early age.

What was it about that that piqued your interest?

I think it was just…it was a combination of things. Obviously, you know, when you're five years old, you know, you're just starting to go to school and all that kind of stuff; just opening up your eyes to what's going on in the world and realizing that people can go places and do those things, and it just wasn't an everyday event, obviously, the whole town was excited about it, and probably the most striking memory I have is of going outside with my father, you know, and after we saw it, going out and just looking up at the moon and realizing there were people there. So, I think it was just, you know, I was getting to the age where you start really having imagination about those things and can remember it. So I think it just really fired the imagination more than anything that, you know, I hadn't seen much beyond my own street, you know, in my own hometown there, and then to think of people being that far away was a pretty neat idea.

With that neat idea in mind, tell us about how you got there-what path through education and career has led you to become an astronaut?

Well, I ended up going…there's, you know, several different routes to become an astronaut, and I went the one which I consider probably to be the most cookie-cutter, and that's becoming a shuttle Pilot. And, going through school I had determined that I wanted to go into science and engineering-that's what I was interested in-and as I was looking around places to go in the country, I happened to stumble upon a brochure for the United States Air Force Academy. And, from my town in Iowa we had never had anybody go there. We'd had people go to West Point and Annapolis, but…I didn't even know an Air Force Academy existed, and reading up on the literature on it I discovered they had the degree I was looking for, which was astronautical engineering. So that was really what got me headed the military route. There's no career military in my family-I've had several…my dad and several other folks served during the different wars-but it was always, you know, go in and fight during the war and then leave the military, so it wasn't a real strong family tie there. Well, anyway, that led me to the Air Force Academy. I got a chance to go there for my undergraduate degree and then got to go fly with the Air Force, and from there, I followed, like I said, the cookie-cutter to become a shuttle Pilot…I had a lot of jet time in fighter aircraft and ended up getting selected to go to Test Pilot School. [I] graduated from there, worked a couple of years as a test pilot, and then I turned in a package to come work for NASA as an astronaut and ended up getting selected out of my test pilot job at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You look back at those times and all the people that were involved - who are the ones that you consider to be…that were or are the most significant influences on your life?

I'd say the most significant influence on my life, obviously, it starts at home. It starts with my parents. My mom and dad were both very excited about education. It was kind of funny in my house. Neither one of my parents had completed a college degree…my mom had completed most of it and she worked as a schoolteacher for a while; my dad never got the opportunity. He served in the military and then came back to help out with family things and he never got the chance-but, in my house you never talked about whether or not you'd go to college or what you'd do. It was always, "after you're done with college," and so, it really starts at home, you know. There was always a big… education was a big deal, as were many other things-sports and all those kind of things-but really, they kind of started the whole ball rolling. And, they had many and varied interests in the same things: they loved the space program, they loved science, my dad did, and all those kind of things. And so, they were probably obviously the biggest influence on my life. A
nd then after that, you look back and there's a bunch of teachers and folks as I went through. I had some science and math teachers as I was going through school, and then also coaches. I look at it as you get the education side of it, but also your extracurricular activities, and I was big in sports and that kind of stuff. I had a bunch of coaches who taught me more about discipline and making sure you take care of what your business and what you have to do, and those kind of things. I had several of those going through high school as well. And then in college, I was an astronautical engineer and everybody was excited about the space program, and so there were a lot of folks there that did it, too. So, it the typical starts at home with your parents and then family, friends, teachers, things like that as you go through.

STS-102 is going to be your first mission as a member of the flight crew. What was it like to get the news that you'd gotten the assignment?

Well, it was pretty exciting! When I got the news I'd been here almost four years, and assignments kind of go not strictly by class, but pretty much by class. And I was in the class of '96, and we were just starting to get some people assigned to the flights. We have forty-four in our class. We're the Sardines, so we're the, the largest class of, U.S. astronauts ever picked, and so for our class, it's a long process. You don't get all forty-four assigned in the same year; there just aren't enough flight spots. And, so we'd start getting some folks assigned, and so you start getting excited every time someone from your class gets assigned. You feel great for them, but it's also one closer to you, hopefully, getting along the way to a flight assignment. And, I did not find out that I was going to get assigned until the night before they announced. So it was kind of funny, I Charlie Precourt, who's the Chief of the Astronaut Office, tried to get a hold of me that I guess. I was gone. I'd been working a bunch down at the Cape, and I think I'd just gotten back from there, working for one of the launches. I got the call, so I got home and called him from there and found out then. And then they made the announcement to the Office the next day. So, it was pretty exciting: It's something you work for a long time, I really wasn't sure when it was going to happen. So, it was a great feeling to finally get the call.

Let's talk about this mission. Start, if you will, by summarizing for me the goals of STS-102. What is this mission designed to do?

Well, we're a "dot" flight -- what they call for the space station flights, which means we weren't one of the originally-planned flights. And, part of what goes along with that is we instead of having, one big, huge, major goal like, for instance, Flight 5A -- their major goal is taking up the U.S. Lab -- we've got a whole bunch of major goals that go along with our flight. Probably the top priorities are exchanging crews. We're taking up the Expedition 2 crew -- Yury Usachev, the commander, and Sue Helms and Jim Voss. We're taking them up, and we're bringing home Bill Shepherd and his Expedition 1 crew -- Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. So, one of our major objectives is to do the first crew exchange for the International Space Station. We're also taking up the first, MPLM, mini pressurized logistics module, which carries a bunch of both hard racks and soft stowage racks to start outfitting the Lab. The Lab goes up the flight before ours on Flight 5A in January right now. They're scheduled for January 2001, and they have to take up the Lab relatively empty because it weighs too much. So, we're the first flight after theirs and we start the outfitting the Lab. So, we start filling all the empty spaces that are in the Lab with all the payload racks and systems racks and things like those. And then we've got two, possibly three EVAs, where we're going to be going outside. We're taking up five major pieces of gear that will get attached to the outside of the station that once again are outfitting the station for future missions. We've got two pieces that are essential to the flight that follows ours, and then we've got a couple of others that aren't essential to any flight but they're essential spares and critical spares -- if that piece goes wrong on the station, they want to have one up there so that the increment crewmembers can go outside and replace the bad part with the spare. And so that's some of the stuff we're doing; bringing up the first set of critical spares so we've got some good on-orbit capability for fixing major problems.

You mentioned you're delivering racks for installation inside the U.S. Laboratory Module. Could you explain, in general, what are racks, and then, particularly, what their functions are?

OK. The way the way the Lab is set up and actually the way most of the modules are set up in the International Space Station, they've got set holes. If you look at each module, it's like a soup can, and so, it's round. But, then if you look at the inside it's square, and the difference is that we build out from the round exterior. We'll build in with the different payload racks. And they're kind of like slices of a pie. And they're flat on the inside, which is the side that you see when you're inside the station, and then they'll be curved on the outside to actually match the mold line of the structure itself. And so, for instance, the Lab has twenty-four slots for racks. Every rack that gets sent up to the International Space Station, whether it's made by America or the European Space Agency or Canada or no matter who makes the rack, it's got to fit within the footprint, within the sizing constraints, of the bays. They're called rack bays that you put 'em into. Within that, we take up two different kinds of racks. There are systems racks, which don't involve a whole lot of crew interaction unless something goes wrong, and those are, for instance, racks that have electrical power that goes through them. We're taking up a few of those that will actually route the electrical power from the solar arrays through them. We've got some for the life support systems and the cooling systems. And they've got, for instance, low-temperature lines and medium-temperature cooling lines that'll flow through these racks, and we're taking up some of those, too. And these are called systems racks. You put them in. You plug them in. They've got power. Sometimes, they've got data feeds that go through 'em, they've got everything they need, but you kind of just let those run unless something goes wrong. The other type of rack are the payload racks, and those are the ones that will get traded out constantly throughout the life of the station. We may have a payload rack up there that's doing some kind of crystal growth. And then, we may take that one out, bring it back down to Earth and take up a different one that's doing combustibles, or another one that's doing plant growth, and so, those will get changed in and out a whole bunch. We're taking up some of each of those different kinds of racks, both payload and systems racks. And then the other stuff: Half of the stuff we're bringing up is all soft-stowed. You can also, in those rack bays, instead of putting a hard rack that's got payload or systems stuff in it, you can also put soft racks in there that have a lot of different payload and scientific gear and/or just spares that they need onboard. So, we're doing some of all that. Like I said, we're kind of one of the smattering flights -- we're doing a, a little bit of everything.

And the racks are riding to orbit inside the pressurized Logistics Module that you mentioned earlier on. Talk about what this "moving van" module is going to do. How it's going to be used to shuttle cargo back and forth?

OK. It, it's kind of a, a miniature version of the Lab in that it's designed the same way. It's got the same sizes of racks, obviously, in the Logistics Module that you've got in the Lab. So when they outfit this thing, they go in and they put in the racks in the mini pressurized Logistics Module, the MPLM, and then, they put the MPLM in the shuttle payload bay. We go up, we dock with the station, and then, we have to get the MPLM - we can't take stuff out of the MPLM until we dock -- actually berth it to the station. So we go to up to one of the open berthing bays on the station. We'll take the shuttle robotic arm, and we'll reach into the shuttle payload bay. We'll grab the mini pressurized Logistics Module, and we'll take it up and we'll bring it into one of the docking ports on the International Space Station, do the docking. And then the station crew that's inside, they'll pressurize, make sure that everything's all set to go, they open up the hatch, and then once the hatch is opened to the MPLM then they go in. They disassemble the racks inside the MPLM, which is a fairly simple process. It's, attached at all four corners, all four front corners, and it's got enough bracing to take the launch loads. They have to take away all the launch load constraints and all those kind of things. Then it's free. They rotate it out of the bay. They take it out of the MPLM. They take it through the station to the Lab, and then they reverse the process. And they affix it in place on the Lab - although that's an easier process because it doesn't need to take launch loads, obviously, once it's up in space. That's a pretty simple process of putting in, basically, four pins at the four corners so it'll maintain it's spot, and then hooking it up to power, data, gases -- anything it needs to run that rack. And so, basically, it's a moving van. So, we, we attach it. We take everything out that needs to come out, and then we do the reverse. There's going to be a bunch of stuff that comes back home. For us, we're not bringing any hard racks home; that'll happen as the station goes through its lifetime and it really starts working on payload and science activities. There'll be racks that actually get hard racks that get taken out of the Lab, get put back in the MPLM, and then we bring 'em home. That's one of the critical things that we can do with the International Space Station that, for instance, they couldn't do with Mir; is we have the capability to bring home large payloads and bring them back down to Earth, and keep them pressurized the whole way. They're not in the vacuum of space. You can keep 'em pressurized inside the module. We won't be doing that, but we will be bringing home a bunch of soft, trash, stowage, experiments, and clothing that's no longer needed because it was used for the Increment 1 crew. Change-out things: There is the Soyuz seat liners that the Expedition 1 crew needed for the Soyuz rescue vehicle, but they're fitted by the person. Those will come home in the MPLM. So, there's just a whole bunch of gear that we'll be bringing back down. And then we just reverse the process. You fill it up or put in whatever you want, you close the hatches -- the vestibule that's between -- you depressurize that back down to vacuum, we take it off with the shuttle robotic arm, berth it back into the shuttle payload bay, and bring it back home.

Now to do all of that that you've described, important, the first important step is to bring the shuttle and the station together on orbit, and on your mission, the shuttle will be approaching the station from the front of it rather than above or below. Talk us through the plan for the rendezvous and docking of the shuttle on this mission and point out what you will be doing during this whole process.

OK. The plan for the rendezvous is fairly typical of all the space station missions. You have to launch at a certain time from Earth based on where the space station is. And it's basically the space station will pass overhead, relatively close to the time that we launch. And then it's about a two-day rendezvous process where you're doing burns to basically catch up with the station ahead of you in orbit, and we're doing these burns to catch up with it -- kind of like catching a car from behind. And, what we do is we set up the rendezvous for many different parameters that go into it, but most of them have to do with timing of where they're going to be in their orbit, timing of where we're going to be on our orbit, where is the Sun going to be because at certain times you want to be able to see the station really well, things like that. So it's a pretty involved process, but the bottom line is that we're going to join up at a certain time based off many different factors to come to a successful docking. So, we come up from the R-bar from directly underneath the station, do about a quarter of a rev, and then we basically dock straight to the front end of the station as we travel together around the Earth in that fashion. I've got many different jobs as we come up and do this. Probably the best way to describe my primary job is I'm backing up the commander in everything he does. The two of us work as a team. He's doing the hand flying. As we get up and do the actual rendezvous and the docking process, he's at the aft station, looking out the overhead windows and doing the manual flying task. And my job as the pilot is to monitor all the systems, make sure he's got everything that he needs to be able to do that, as well as I'm his sounding board and also advice-giver on letting him know that things are going nominally: We've got all the sensors we need, we've got all the propulsion jets that will get us there, all the computers are working, things like that. And then my next primary job is, obviously, if any of that stuff goes wrong during those final phases of rendezvous, I'm the mechanic. I'm the guy that's going to fix any computer problems, and any of the jet problems that we can do from inside, obviously, of the shuttle. I'm not going outside, but for any problem that occurs, the Commander concentrates on doing the task in the aft station and getting the docking done, and I'm there to help him and fix anything that needs to get fixed to allow him to do the job. So, I'm really kind of the commander's backup, and if anything goes wrong, I'm the guy that in most cases is going to try to fix what went wrong.

The docking successfully completed, and the hatches between the shuttle and the station are open for only a few hours at this point, for all ten of you to be together, but that will be time enough to complete the first exchange of a second Expedition crewmember for one of the first. What is it that's involved in completing that exchange and I guess making it official that somebody has gone from being a shuttle crewmember to a station crewmember?

Well, probably the official part of it is done by the commander of the station crew, and he's the one that'll call the official crew changeover between him and the shuttle commander, Captain Wetherbee. They'll make the official announcement. But what really needs to happen, the nuts and bolts of it are, that we need to exchange enough gear so that the new crewmember… The first one that's going over is Yury Usachev, he's the commander of the second station crew. He's the one going over. We have to send over enough equipment so that he's got what he needs in case, when the hatches are closed, we have to undock and leave. And what that really comes down to is he needs all the Soyuz equipment that's particular to him. And there's a seat kit that goes with each individual crewmember on the Soyuz that's fitted to them. So, the major bulk of the gear that we need to get across during that initial hatch open time is to get what he needs to completely be self-sufficient from a get-on-the-Soyuz-go-home perspective before we close the hatches. Because once we close the hatches, if we're in a depress for an EVA the next day, which means that the pressure will be at a different setting in the station than it will be in the shuttle. So, we can't open the hatches, and if something were to happen during that time frame and we have to leave, he needs to have that stuff over there because he's going to be there for the next several months until the next exchange shuttle comes to change him out.

The first of the space walks on this mission is scheduled for the day after this, with Susan Helms and Jim Voss in the spacesuits doing the space walk. Tell me, in this first EVA, what is it that you'll be doing? What's your responsibility, and then, secondly, what tasks are Voss and Helms to be doing outside?

Well, my primary responsibility during EVA 1 is robotic operations. For our flight, Andy Thomas and I - Andy's our MS1 - are the two primary robotics arm operators, and it kind of breaks out you always have two people assigned. You've got one person who's operating the arm, and then you have another person. It's kind of like on rendezvous where I'm backing up the commander. You always have what's called R2, who's backing up the person that's actually driving the arm because it's a pretty complex task. There's a lot of changes that need to be made to the computer, and so you kind of split up - one person's doing the physical activities and the other one's doing the, monitoring and changing the parameters of the computer and watching for all the limits and those kind of things. So, during EVA 1, I'm doing most of the physical arm operations while Andy's doing the R2 stuff, and then for part of it we're trading off where I'm doing the R2 things. And, for all of our EVAs, the arm ops are pretty critical. We're moving a lot of big pieces of gear from out of the shuttle payload bay to various parts of the station. Some of them can be done by hand, some of them can't, some of them you have to have the arm to move them with. But for all of them, it's much easier to move the big pieces while using the arm. And so during EVA 1, there will be one crewmember -either Jim or Susan - who is on the arm pretty much the whole time. It starts out being Jim, and he does about the first half of the EVA on the arm, and then he and Susan swap out. Susan will ride the arm for the second half. Their primary thing that they're doing is their first, most critical task. There's a Pressurized Mating Adapter, Pressurized Mating Adapter No. 3, that's on the nadir port of Node 1, which is the one facing Earth. That's the one where we have to put the MPLM. So right now, we can't put the MPLM there because there's something in the way. So the first thing they're going to do when they go outside is disconnect all the umbilicals from PMA-3 that's connected to Node 1 because basically you have to disconnect everything because, at the end of EVA 1, at the end of that day, Andy's going to take the robotic arm up while I'm being R2. And we're going to take the PMA-3 off of the nadir port and we're going to move it around to the port which is the one on the left side of the station as you're facing into the velocity vector. And, so that's the first major move. But we can't do that until EVA crewmembers get out there and disconnect everything because we don't have the capability to do that robotically. So that's the first major task, and then the rest of it is moving some of those pieces that I mentioned earlier that we need to move over to the station. The first one that they're going to move is called the Lab Cradle Assembly, and it gets moved to the top side of the station and it actually connects to what was the keel fitting of the Lab when it was in the shuttle payload bay. We actually take advantage of this keel fitting and we put on what, the Lab Cradle Assembly, and it's going to serve two purposes. The most immediate one is on the very next flight, on 6A, when they bring up the station robotic arm. It comes on a pallet. They take the pallet out of the payload bay of the shuttle, and it attaches to this Lab Cradle Assembly, and from there they can unpack , initialize and start using the station robotic arm. Then, they take that pallet and go back home. The other major thing that it does is when the first, big truss structure goes up, the S0 truss, which is the center one, it actually attaches to this Lab Cradle Assembly and it becomes the building block for all the solar arrays that go out, including the P6 array which is already up there and eventually gets moved out to the end of the long truss structure. Well, the S0 truss gets attached to that. And so they'll be putting that on for that as well. And then, after that they do a Rigid Umbilical on the other side, which has a bunch of cabling that needs to go up, also having to do with the next flight, 6A , and then there's a bunch of little things that they need to do, both to help out EVA 2 on our flight and also to help out further flights later on.

Moving all these things around, as the arm operator, from inside the shuttle, your view at the station is going to be obscured, to say the least, by the item that you're docked to. What tools will you and Andy Thomas have to help you see what's going on outside?

Well, they, they really fall into two broad categories. One, of course, is cameras. We've got all four of the payload bay cameras that are at each corner of the payload bay. We've also got a keel camera that's at the bottom of the payload bay that's really going to help us out with moving the mini pressurized Logistics Module, the MPLM, and then the robotic arm itself has two cameras. There's one at the end. It's on the end effecter. It's called the wrist camera - wherever the end effector's looking, it looks. And then back up on the elbow, there's another camera that we've got complete control of pan and tilt -- we can turn anywhere. So, those six cameras are our primary cameras for looking at things. But, we've also got other ones. We've got mini-cams from inside the orbiter that we can move around, and sometimes we're going to use them inside the station looking out, like the Lab window. We've got a bracket up there where you can stick it up in the Lab window and feed that picture back down to the shuttle. We can put it up on one of our monitors. We can also stick it in the front window of the shuttle, which is behind the person working, but it looks up at the top end of the station where like the P6 solar array is so we can get a good view of that. So primarily we're using a multitude of different cameras, to get pictures in to us. The other thing we have is we've got computer displays, and some of them have to deal with not looking at structure, but they look at the arm itself. It tells us how close we are to reach limits on the arm. For instance, the elbow can only basically go straight out; we want to know how close we are to straight out so we don't damage the arm or get too far. Every joint on the arm has different limits. But then, we also have what's called a robotics bird's-eye view, which is basically a computer simulation of the station, and in that we can put a camera anywhere we want, theoretically. It's got all the parameters of what the shuttle looks like and how big it is and what the station looks like and all the gear we've got on there. All that's programmed into there, and then if we need to see what's going on, it reads the information that tells it exactly how the arm's configured. And that gets fed into the computer program, and then, on this computer program, we can see the station and we can see where the arm is in relation to station, and then we can take the simulated camera and fly it anywhere.

The day, Flight Day 6 of your mission is when it's scheduled for the second space walk. Now, this time the roles played by the shuttle crewmembers are going to be pretty different than they were for the first space walk. Who's going to be doing what this time around, and, and what tasks are planned?

The second space walk is going to be done by, Andy Thomas and Paul Richards, who are, MS1 and MS2 of the shuttle crew, and it'll be the first space walk for both of them. Andy's a space veteran, obviously. He's been a part of three shuttle missions and was our last astronaut on Mir. So he's got a ton of space experience, but hasn't actually done an EVA. And then, Paul Richards is a classmate of mine. He's another Sardine, and he's going out. He's not only on his first flight, but he's going out for his first space walk. So, they'll be the two doing the outdoor activities. And then, because of that, we've kind of changed the inside activities. Whereas, up till now on flight, it's always been Andy and I doing all the arm stuff with the two of us. And we've been working with each other -- one of us doing the physical parts and the other one doing the computer and all the backup parts. Now, Captain Wetherbee, our commander, is going to be R2. I'm going to be doing the actual arm, the physical part of it, but Jim Wetherbee's going to be the one that's going to take over the R2 role and do all those kind of things and watch all the computers, put everything in all the different positions, and monitor everything to make sure that there aren't any mistakes made by me. And then, Sue Helms, who's our last Expedition 2 crewmember onboard the shuttle, is going to be the IVA, which is basically your third EVA crewmember; they just happen to be inside. We've got the Early Ammonia Servicer, which is a critical spare. Basically, it's just a piece of gear that's filled with ammonia in case we have a leak on a line up there -- one of the cooling systems -- We can go out, we can repair the line, and then we can fill it back up with ammonia. So, it's not specifically for any flight, but it's a critical spare that if we lose that capability and we don't have the Early Ammonia Servicer up there, then it may get us to a point where we have to bring the station crew home because we don't have enough capability. So, it's a critical spare. And then, we have an External Stowage Platform, which, basically, is just a holding place. It's just a metal structure that goes up and it goes onto one of the trunnions that was used to launch the Lab. It's one of the trunnions that holds it in place in the shuttle payload bay like we talked about earlier. The engineers came up with a great way of using that on orbit - we attach this, basically, metal plate to it, and then you can put critical spares on it. So, we're putting that on. And then we're taking up a pump flow control subassembly, which, once again, is not earmarked for any particular flight, but it's another critical spare. If the one that's up there fails, then they can take out the one that's up there and they can take this one off the External Stowage Platform, swap them one-for-one, and then they can send the bad one home on one of the later shuttle flights.

After all the transfers, including those of the other two Expedition crewmembers that we didn't discuss specifically, the MPLM is returned to the payload bay and it's time for you guys to come home with three different people than you went up there with. Do you expect that we'll see any kind of farewell ceremony, or, what kind of mood do you think there'll be when it's time for…

You know, I haven't flown in space yet, so I don't have a lot of background experience on how those things go. Probably the best person to ask that question of will be Andy Thomas, who's actually done that. He's been left onboard Mir, and he's been picked up from Mir. And, I'm assuming that it will be a very happy time, both for the Expedition One and the Expedition Two crew. The Expedition One crew, they've been up there working hard and they've gone through a lot of changes on that station. They went up with a bare minimum capability to sustain life on the station, and they've seen it grow to almost twice the size. Actually, I think it has grown to twice the size they started with; with a lot of new equipment, four crews going up and back and seeing a lot of people, and getting everything up to speed, and it's changed almost on a daily basis for them. And I'm sure they're going to be wiped out from that because, obviously, it's a lot of hard work over four months time, with a lot of different things going on. And so I know they're going to be happy and ready to come back to Earth and see their families and all of their friends back here on Earth. At the same time, I know the Expedition Two crew is getting excited about getting up there and getting to work. And they're also going to be there at an exciting time, because they're also going to have four shuttle crews going up and back, and they're going to be the first ones to operate the station robotic arm, and they're doing a bunch of EVAs. While the shuttle is not there, they're doing a bunch of them up on station. So I think, it's going to be a real happy occasion. I think it's going to be a lot of fun, and I know there've been traditions that have been started with the station. I think it's going to be real special and unique to be there when they have the first actual change of command between one station commander, the first-ever station commander, Bill Shepherd, and the second one ever, Yury Usachev. So, I'm kind of looking forward to that. I'm sure it's going to be a real emotional time for everybody as well. And, goodbyes are always hard, especially, for the three guys that are leaving the station that was their home for four months, and they were the first ones up there, and all of the emotion that goes along with that. And then, for the Expedition Two crew, to close the door and know it's just the three of them and pressing on with the work that needs to be done, I think it's going to be pretty special, but I expect it'll be pretty emotional as well.

And once those doors are closed and you folks leave, you get the chance to get your hands on the controls of Discovery. Talk about what's going to happen, the undocking and flying around the station.

OK. The undocking is kind of like what we've been talking about with the MPLM: it's basically just the reverse of the docking. It's an orchestration between the different control systems -- the station control system that controls how it moves, the shuttle control system that controls how we move, and then, the docking system itself. And, obviously, there's a lot of steps you go through for, once again, closing the station hatch, closing the shuttle hatch, and then there's a vestibule in between that needs to be depressurized down to the vacuum of space. And then, the different latches that need to be run for the docking system and all those kind of things. And then, once we undock, once all those things are done and they get undocked, I'll be at the controls and it's kind of a reverse of what we did on rendezvous and docking. I'll be doing all the manual flying and Jim Wetherbee, the commander, will be doing all the backup tasks. He'll be monitoring all the computers, he'll be changing a bunch of stuff on the computers, helping me out with jets, and making sure I've got everything I need to do. Paul Richards is running all our computer systems for us -- the laptop computer systems to make sure all that stuff works, as he did on the rendezvous. And, once again, it's a team effort. The focus really is just shifted in that I'm doing the manual flying and Wex is doing all the backup things as opposed to it was the reverse coming up. The difference is that we talked about when we rendezvoused with station, we came up from the R-bar and we did the 90 degrees and we docked to the front. The difference being, now if this is the station, when we undock, we're undocking back out the front, but instead of coming back opposite the way we did before, we're actually going the other way and depending on how much fuel we have left, we're planning on doing basically a full loop all the way around the station, back up to the top, and then we're going to separate from there. So, it's a little bit different. The major reason we do the fly-around is basically to do an exterior survey of the station. The station's going to change throughout its years either from micrometeoroid debris hits or wear and tear or as EVAs happen. They're changing the outside of the station constantly. They're putting new gear on, moving things around, stuff like that. There's going to be some deterioration, things like that. So we want to get a good photographic record of all these things. So, we do the fly-around to basically take a photo survey of the outside of the station and see if anything has changed, and we take as many pictures as we can with different types of cameras.

We talked a lot about the "what" and the "how" of this mission. I want to ask you the "why". To you, what's the goal of the International Space Station?

The goal of the International Space Station: I look at it in a couple of different ways. Number one, one of its primary purposes is scientific operations. There's a lot of things that we can do on orbit that can't be done here on Earth, and I think that one of the primary focuses, if not the primary focus, of the station is, furthering science. And it does it, compared to the shuttle, certainly, a much, much better job of it because it's up there 365 days a year. And you can have payload operations go on for a lot longer time than you can with the short-term shuttle flights that we have. So, the primary focus is going to be that. Now, during our timeframe, it's not; during our timeframe, it's the assembly, and so there aren't a whole lot of payload and science operations going on. However, with the racks that we're starting to bring up for the Lab and the ones that are going to follow us, to come up and outfit the Lab -- really, from our flight on -- it starts making that transition from an operational let's-get-this-thing-put-together to the end game, which is not many operations. Operationally, adding pieces and doing all that kind of stuff, it ends up being a quiet operation where we're doing payload and scientific operations continually. I also think that another major focus of it, at least in my mind, is as a proving ground for technologies for us to continue to expand back to the moon and on to Mars. I think that it's the perfect place to prove technology that you're going to use. You don't want to prove technology on a six-month or a year-long trip going to Mars and find out it doesn't work. We'd much rather find that out on a space station where if it turned out that didn't work, it wasn't a good idea. Let's load it back into the shuttle and bring it home, come up with a better idea, and prove it once again on the station. So, I think a big part of it is doing those kind of things to get ready to make the next big step, which is further out within the solar system. And then, I think the third major part of it, which really is a lot of what's been done over the last several years, is the international aspect of it, having nothing to do with what you accomplish or what the payload activities are going to be or proving grounds or anything like that. It's just getting us to work together well with the other countries around the globe that are interested in science and space, and are interested in putting people in space. Because I think, from here on out, anything else we do to go further out in the solar system isn't going to be just America; it's going to be the whole world. And so, once again, this is a proving ground for our engineers to work with the Russian engineers and the Japanese engineers and the folks from Europe, and the astronauts being able to work together and, and meshing the huge systems we have on both sides -- meshing them together cleanly. And, frankly, that hasn't happened all the time in the International Space Station. There's been a lot of rough spots, but we're getting all those worked out, and it's kind of taking baby steps because when we take the step to Mars, that's not going to be a baby step, that's going to be a huge jump and we need to be jumping together. And so this, once again, is a proving ground, having nothing to do with all the wonderful science that's going to be done, just getting us to work together with other countries and speaking a common engineering language and safety aspects and all those kinds of things, and getting to mesh us as one organization.

Crew Interviews
Image: James Kelly.
Click on the image to hear Pilot James Kelly's greeting (WAV file 300 Kb).

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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